Dan Knickelbein ‘14 cleared one hurdle when he landed a paid summer Federal Transportation Agency (FTA) internship. Once he arrived in Washington, D.C., the political science major discovered his next challenge: collecting and helping organize five decades of FTA history.

Knickelbein (Oak Park, Ill.) took the lead on the project, part of an agency-wide effort to prepare for its 50th anniversary celebration next year. He talked with staff, collected documents, and entered them into a catalog. (The documents will be digitized and eventually made available to staff and, in some cases, the general public.)

The project provided him with a new perspective on transportation policy. “I’ve been interested in transportation for a couple of years, so I wanted to go out and get experience,” Knickelbein says. With support from Macalester advisor Julie Dolan he applied for the competitive Department of Transportation’s Summer Transportation Internship Program for Diverse Groups (STIPDG) and was selected for a paid 10-week internship at the Federal Transportation Agency.

Knickelbein’s work gave him an in-depth look at the agency’s history. In addition to setting safety and policy rules, the FTA has a long history of distributing transportation grants, so many of the documents he uncovered were bulletins announcing grants in cities around the United States. His favorite finds: funding announcements for transportation systems that are now up and running.

The program also provided housing, with all the DOT interns living in the same apartment complex. In his free time, Knickelbein explored Washington, D.C., took in the city’s sporting and cultural events, and toured the capitol. Thanks to Dolan, he also met  Mac alum Sarah Puro ‘98, who works in transportation policy.

Back in St. Paul for his senior year, Knickelbein is applying his passion for cities by working for the Neighborhood Development Alliance to reestablish a business association and promote economic vitality in St. Paul’s West Side. After graduation, he’ll seek full-time work in a related field. “The internship reaffirmed my interest in the whole realm of urban studies, transportation, and urban development,” Knickelbein says. “They’re fascinating to me—and really connected.”

January 13 2014

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