Skandalaris Center

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Above All, Relationships: My Summer Internship with Good Developments Group

Bram Hoffman (LA '26)
August 31, 2023

Everyone has one topic they could ramble on and on about. For me, it’s the history of city planning and urban design in the United States and the many mistakes we’ve made as a nation. Decisions made generations ago still contribute to national shortfalls in the quality of critical issues like the environment, transportation, and housing for everyday Americans. In the future, I want to work on rectifying these past mistakes to make the US a more inclusive and livable country.

When Skandalaris put me in contact with Chauncey Nelson and the Good Developments Group, I was beyond excited. Their Gateway South project aligns with everything I’m interested in; community impact, economic development, and urban planning. From reading about Chauncey, I learned he has been doing great work in these fields for almost a decade since receiving his MSW from the Brown School. His go-to mantra, repeated to me many times over the summer, is “Impact over Income.” Under Chauncey’s supervision, I’ve gotten a taste of the technical and human sides of community development.

I had a wide variety of assigned projects over the summer: writing a communication plan, grant research, community outreach, and more. But the unifying theme that tied them all together was the need to meet people on their level, listen to them, and make them feel heard. Gateway South is a massive project that will take ten years to fully implement, and will positively impact the lives of thousands of people, especially within St. Louis city limits. Before any foundations are dug, however, figuring out exactly what local residents need through community engagement is paramount to making sure Gateway South succeeds. Quality relationships and mutual goodwill are more valuable than any currency. I would say this is the greatest lesson I’ve taken away from my internship, and someday when I myself have this responsibility, actively listening to locals will be a core part of my work. 

Chauncey and Bram

Also important is the ability to connect with current and potential business partners. For a week in June, the entire team flew in from across the country, to work on logistics and introduce newer team members to one another. I noticed that a sense of togetherness does not come from sitting in the office, talking about work all day; it’s what happens outside the office, at restaurants, and at baseball games, that provides the glue for a team to stick together.

It felt energizing to be a part of such an ambitious team. Around me, I saw young, hungry businesspeople and community leaders working to make an impact in a city that’s had a rough go of it. Many of them were WashU grads, but many were not. Those involved in Gateway South had been friends for years before the project was conceived. I hope to see my friends and peers at WashU in a similar situation when our time comes to take the lead.