Aricquel Payne MPA '18 is completing her International Professional Service Semester (IPSS) practicum at Six Square, Austin’s Black Cultural District, in Austin, Texas. Originally from Woodbridge, VA, she received a degree in International Relations with a minor in Spanish at Lynchburg College, Lynchburg, VA. Before attending the Middlebury Institute, Aricquel taught English to first graders in the Dominican Republic for one year.
What other opportunities have you had at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies?
While at the Institute, I have been able to consult with a blockchain company that provides access to the global economy for traditionally unbanked populations around the world through my participation with M-Force. I was also fortunate enough to conduct a research project on the social impact sector in Nicaragua during the summer of 2017 as a Social Impact Scholar through the Center for Social Impact Learning. I also participated in the Design, Partnering, Management, and Innovation (DPMI) program in January 2017.
How did you find Six Square? Why were you interested in working with them?
I am interested in the intersection of social justice, public policy, and economic development. These factors drove my search in finding an IPSS placement. I found Six Square by searching through different organizations on Idealist. I wanted my IPSS experience to be different than anything I have done before, and to me this meant looking for positions in the United States. Upon speaking with Six Square’s Executive Director, I learned that out of the top 10 fastest growing cities in the United States, Austin is the only one that is experiencing a decline in the African-American population. This statistic intrigued me and made me want to know what factors have contributed to this anomaly.
Why did you choose to stay in the U.S. versus an internship abroad?
I chose to stay in the U.S. because I have previously done development work overseas, but never really done much within the United States. The political state of the U.S. also influenced my decision to stay in the country and see how I could assist in mitigating the oppressive decisions being made across the country by the current administration.
What courses at the Middlebury Institute helped prepare you the most for your current position?
Program Evaluation for Social Change Organizations; DPMI Monterey; Intro to Conflict Resolution; Organizational Perspectives for Policy and Management Professionals
What has been an unexpected challenge you have faced while at Six Square?
One challenge that has presented itself during my time with Six Square has been settling on a project to pursue for my IPSS final deliverable. Six Square is very multifaceted and has a lot of “irons in the fire,” so to speak. I am very eager to attend every event and help with every project that I have found it difficult to decide on just one project to focus most of my time on.
What projects are you currently working on? How do they relate to your personal mission?
Currently, I am researching city policy and reports surrounding displacement and gentrification in communities of color in Austin, as well as other cities in the country where gentrification is prominent, in order to inform recommendations that will eventually be produced by the City of Austin Anti-Displacement Task Force. I am also working on conceptualizing a program evaluation system for Six Square to be able to gauge their impact in the community and use the feedback from its intended target audience to continue to improve its programming.
What have you learned “on the job?”
I have learned more about the importance of flexibility. Working at a nonprofit, it’s essential to be open about what you’ll end up doing every day. While working at Six Square, I have been able to participate in everything from fundraising and event planning all the way to being in a meeting with the Mayor of Austin. Being flexible and willing to try out anything can lead to some awesome opportunities!
What are your plans after you complete your practicum at Six Square?
I am not particularly sure about my plans after completing my practicum, but I know that the skills that I am cultivating now through my IPSS placement will contribute immensely to whatever positions I pursue.
The International Professional Service Semester program at MIIS is celebrating 10 years of providing immersive learning experiences to students.