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University of Connecticut graduate student and Connecticut cheerleader Kevin Fitzgerald is sharing his career journey. He recently spoke with MetroHartford Alliance Content Manager Nan Price about his summer internship experience at the Connecticut Economic Development Association (CEDAS) and how he’s leveraging networking to build an inventory of mentors and support resources throughout Connecticut.

NAN PRICE: How and why did you become involved with CEDAS?

KEVIN FITZGERALD: Laura Brown, who is a professor at UConn Extension, reached out to the Connecticut Planners Association and shared the internship opportunity with planners across the state.

At the time, I was working with Jason Vincent, Director of Planning in Stonington. He became a mentor and has helped coach me through developing in the economic development field, learning terms and  learning how to present ideas. Jason told me the CEDAS internship would be an excellent opportunity to meet the people I hope to build my career around, especially as I was building connections in Hartford.

NAN: How will the internship experience help to further your career?

KEVIN: It’s funny you asked that because Laura recently asked me to write a paper about the exact same question! The CEDAS board has been extremely welcoming. They give me real-world professional advice and have let me job shadow, visit different sites, and learn about ongoing projects. It’s been a very beneficial to have more mentors on board to guide me provide introductions to people in different sectors. The ability to be on a first-name basis with game changers in Connecticut’s economic development community has elevated my confidence as a professional. I feel like I’ve gained my own personal board of directors for my career.

NAN: You recently began your graduate program at UConn Department of Public Policy.

KEVIN: Yes, classes began the last week of August. I’m also doing an internship in Berlin that’s helping me understand how to build successful Main Street downtowns and the value of mixed-use and transit-oriented developments. We’re working with the Connecticut Main Street Program to communicate with business owners in the community and encourage people looking to open new businesses in properties around the train station.”  We’re working with their economic development teams to communicate with business owners in the community and encourage people looking to open new businesses in properties around the train station.

NAN: What do you plan to do post-graduation?

KEVIN: I intend to go to law school after graduation so I can become an economic development attorney. I want to focus on the bond and public financing side.

NAN: How can the resources here in Connecticut help you on your career path?

KEVIN: The connections are invaluable. Not just those I’ve made through CEDAS, but also across the university. I’m able to access parts of the UConn Law School and really tailor my degree to my career interests.

What’s great about Connecticut is, we’re small enough that you can connect to people across the state. We have such a strong community because of that. People know and care about each other and they’re committed to building meaningful relationships and connecting one another.

NAN: Tell us more about why you’ve chosen to build your career here in Connecticut.

KEVIN: I have a strong affinity for Connecticut. I grew up in Southeastern Connecticut and now I’m going to school in downtown Hartford. UConn plays an important role in my decision to stay in Connecticut. The school does a great job shaping people to develop their careers.

My internship experiences have also enabled me to see other parts of Connecticut and build personal and professional relationships throughout the state. So, I’ve been able to meet people from all over Connecticut and, many times, make personal connections.

Connecting with people builds to your personality, and part of my personality is that I’m a “Connecticut guy.” That’s part of my story. This is where I got my start and where I am building my career. And hopefully, as I go along, I can keep building.

Connecticut is where I want to be. I want to start my career here—I want to plant something and see what grows from there. And I think Connecticut provides many opportunities for me to decide I want to do here.

I’m grateful for the investment Connecticut has put in me and the time so many people have spent sitting down with me—attorneys, planners, and people who run nonprofits. The UConn Department of Public Policy and CEDAS have also given me many great opportunities to start my career here in Hartford. I have to give shout outs to:

  • Kelly Buck, Director of Business Development at STV|DPM
  • Chris Edge, Economic Development Director for the Town of Berlin
  • Erin Howard, Director of Economic Development for the City of Hartford
  • David Lehman, Commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community
  • Patrick McMahon; CEO of Connecticut Main Street Center
  • Rebecca Nolan, Vice President, Global Business Investment at the MetroHartford Alliance
  • Garrett Sheehan, President of the Greater New Haven Chamber of Commerce

I plan to pay forward the help and advice I’ve received from my mentors and also plan to share my story and hype up our state as a “Connecticut guy.”