Meet Our Interns: Riley Keenan

The National Low Income Housing Coalition is fortunate to have great interns every semester and summer. Our summer interns have been sharing their experiences at the Coalition with you over the last few weeks. This is the last of their posts before our fall interns begin. Think interning with the Coalition might be for you? Learn more here! We’re still accepting applications for both communications and research interns.

I began my research internship with the National Low Income Housing Coalition with a somewhat

riley marcus becca chelsea

Riley Keenan with fellow summer interns Marcus Mello, Becca Larew and Chelsea Dalziel

daunting task: calculating the number of housing units available to low income households in each county in each state in the United States. Although not all of my responsibilities were this complex, I think this example illustrates an important point about the research internship at NLIHC. The research department is the engine room of a data-driven advocacy machine, and as a result, there are times when research interns will feel like they are drowning in numbers. One of the most valuable aspects of the internship, however, is the opportunity to discover the many ways in which those numbers can directly impact the success of NLIHC’s advocacy mission.

Rights issues for low income individuals have been important to me since my first foray into the professional world in 2010. That summer, I interned with Reston Interfaith, an outstanding organization that runs a homeless shelter, food bank and subsidized childcare center in my hometown of Reston, VA. This experience encouraged me to get more involved with low income rights issues when I returned to school at the University of Virginia in the fall. I began volunteering with the Legal Aid Justice Center, a clinic that provides subsidized legal services to low income individuals in the Charlottesville area. When it finally came time to look for work after graduation, these experiences led me to consider opportunities in low income rights advocacy, and this position at NLIHC stood out to me as an excellent fit.

My degree from UVA is in American Studies and History, so my coworkers are often surprised to learn that data analysis is a type of work that I very much enjoy. My quantitative skills came in handy this summer with a variety of projects, including the Congressional District Housing Profiles and data analyses for our state-level partner organizations. I also found that the writing skills I developed in college were useful in my internship, as I was tasked with drafting articles on new housing research for our membership newsletter, Memo to Members. On the other hand, many of the tasks I encountered at NLIHC were new and challenged me to grow as a professional. For example, as part of a research project on state-funded rental assistance programs, I was asked to reach out via email and phone to government officials and to director-level staff at our state partner organizations. This helped me to expand my professional communication and interpersonal skills.

I chose to intern with the National Low Income Housing Coalition this summer for a simple reason: affordable housing issues affect everybody. If you are committed to working for change, are looking to gain experience with a mission-driven team and don’t mind getting your hands a little dirty in Excel, then I highly recommend this internship experience to you.

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