Laurel Murray

Bio Summary
Cohort Year: 
Home Institution: 
Robert Morris University
Heinz Programming Area: 
Economic Opportunity
Study Abroad Country: 
International Experience

Laurel Murray spent 8 weeks in Berlin, Germany interning at AtomLeap, a company focused on Startup Business Intelligence and Startup Acceleration specifically for high tech startups looking to build a more sustainable future. While interning, she worked on the financial side of helping startups apply for funding, find investors, and working directly with the founders in regard to helping them fully understand how to financially run their business. Laurel was immersed in a German city unlike any other; Berlin’s beautiful diversity and political hub exposed her to more cultures than she ever could have imagined, along with learning how the German government works in contrast to America’s. In her free time, Laurel volunteered at refugee camps and enjoyed exploring all of the incredibly diverse neighborhoods in Berlin. On the weekends, she enjoyed traveling to Poland, Switzerland, Netherlands, and various areas all over Germany. One of her goals while traveling was to observe and experience the kind of pressures Berlin women feel in the workplace in contrast to women in America. Thanks to working directly in a company, and having a wonderful women boss, Laurel was able to accomplish her goal. Upon her return, she looks forward to giving back to the Vira I. Heinz Program, doing her part in helping women to feel comfortable, accepted, and heard in the workplace, and applying her new-found knowledge of economic development to her studies and future adventures. 

Community Engagement Experience
CEE Title: 
Road To Moon: Bringing Quality Public Transportation from Moon to Pittsburgh

     Before even beginning my collegiate career at Robert Morris University, I was worried about how I was going to get around, whether it was just to go home or grab dinner with my friends. For my first 2 years at school, I would overhear conversations about “I feel so stuck here” and “I wish we had buses that were actually reliable and came more often” and I couldn’t agree more even though by the time my sophomore year rolled around, I had a car.
     After the first retreat from the Vira Heinz Program and my international experience, I was extremely interested and passionate about economic development and I began to reach out into the community and ask questions about how Moon Township residents felt about Public Transportation. From my own independent research and public documents, I found a great need for not only an upgrade for Public Transit, but a high need for a quality and reliable last-mile service. From my time in Germany, I had incredible public transportation which even further sparked my interest into how I could incorporate how Berlin was structured for public transit and bring it to Pittsburgh and the surrounding neighborhoods. While I had incredible public transit, my fellow cohort Alexis, who studied in Morocco, dealt with overcrowded, unreliable, and unsafe busses that never came on time, and together we compared the good and the bad to figure out what we needed to research for our CEE. Alexis and I put our ideas into a PowerPoint and gave a presentation to over 75 students, faculty, and Moon Township residents on our experiences abroad with public transit, Moon Township’s socioeconomic need for upgraded public transit, and introduced case studies about other cities that implemented last mile programs that were successful and tech-forward, as well as instances when they were unsuccessful and how we could begin to apply these case studies towards developing a last-mile program for Moon Township. Throughout the presentation, we also had videos of student testimonies about how they feel public transit would affect them personally and the community around us, as well as a professor at Robert Morris University. Also, because of Pittsburgh being called the next “tech hub”, I discussed how my work in Germany included researching autonomous mass transit, and how that could potentially play a role in the Pittsburgh area’s public transit upgrade.
     We then had a panel discussion with representatives from the Moon Township Transportation Association, the Port Authority, and ACTA who is a non-profit last mile service in Robinson that connects people from the IKEA Port Authority Super Stop to jobs in the Moon Township area. At the end of our CEE, we had a call to action from the Port Authority representative to go onto their website and fill out a form stating that we wanted more stops in Moon Township, as well as discussing the on-going plan of adding bike lanes in the Moon Township area. For myself personally, I have decided to continue my independent research as an “Independent Study” class through my senior year to make a positive impact on public transit for the Robert Morris University campus, as well as the Moon Township community through improvement of last-mile programs, bike lanes, and weekend times to take the bus into Pittsburgh. Overall, Alexis and I were extremely happy with how our CEE went; and I would like to thank the Vira I. Heinz program for seeing potential in me that I did not see within myself, as long as guiding me to discovering my passion for economic development.

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