Laurel Murray

International Experience Country:
Cohort Year:
Home Institution:

Robert Morris University

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

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 Summary:

CEE Title: Road to Moon: Bringing Transportation To and From Downtown Pittsburgh to RMU

During my time in Germany I had incredible public transportation which even further sparked my interest into how I could incorporate the Berlin Method of public transit in relation to the Pittsburgh area. My fellow cohort Alexis, who studied in Morocco, dealt with overcrowded, unreliable, and unsafe busses that never came on time. While I experienced meeting people from multiple ethnic and economic backgrounds on public transit, Alexis spoke about the vast gap in the class system in Meknes, so only extremely low income people utilized buses, while wealthier people had their own means of transportation.

 Together we compared the good and the bad to uncover what we needed to research for our CEE. I put our ideas into a PowerPoint and presented it to over 75 individuals. This audience consisted of students, faculty, and Moon Township residents. At the presentation, we shared our experiences abroad with public transit and addressed Moon Township’s socioeconomic need to upgrade its public transit. In addition, we introduced case studies about other cities that implemented last mile programs that were successful and tech-forward. We contributed Robert Morris student body opinions through video 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 which 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. 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 Port Authority buses into Pittsburgh. Overall, Alexis and I were extremely happy with how our CEE went; I would like to thank the Vira I. Heinz program for seeing potential in me that I did not see within myself, in addition to guiding me to discovering my passion for economic development.