GMU Researchship Explores Sector Development

The concept of the researchship that I participated in at George Mason University (GMU) Business School was created during the coronavirus pandemic as an opportunity for students to experience a research focused internship due to pandemic restrictions. Since this was the first class to have the researchship opportunity, there was a lot to learn and reflect on. This opportunity allowed me to combine the knowledge I had gained during my Master's in Management (MSM) program at GMU with a virtual professional opportunity, which I had at Arlington Economic Development (AED).

The focus of my researchship was to develop a project scope through research and collaboration that would benefit Arlington and help the County pursue innovative urban agriculture opportunities that could lead to a planning grant application with the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (VDACS). Collaboration was a large part of my researchship, and it gave me a chance to talk to really interesting people who helped me gain a better understanding of urban agriculture, economic development, the process of starting a business, and of Arlington in general (since I am not from here).

Throughout the researchship there were urban agriculture barriers, opportunities and ideas that were identified within Arlington. The barriers are retail and land space, funding, business support and a sometimes confusing business process. The opportunities would be improvements in equity and access to food, education, training and job opportunities. The idea that I saw as possible is the use of street level retail space, where there is currently high vacancy.

There are many benefits to urban agriculture that fit well in Arlington and add value to the community. Urban agriculture is a bridge between businesses, consumers, schools and the community. It is also an investment within a community and a sustainable way for food production in urban areas. Urban agriculture resilience helps communities maintain continuity during crises (like a pandemic) through positive adaptation and sustainability.

The uniqueness of the researchship helped me have opportunities that I never thought I would have. The research that I came across gave me a unique perspective in terms of how I apply what I know but also how I envision the future. Completing my researchship at AED, including collaboration with the Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR), was awesome and I hope that the connection between GMU, AED and Arlington County continues to grow. I also see a very bright future for innovative and sustainable urban agriculture in Arlington as the County continues to change and grow!


Guest blog post by George Mason University Business School graduate student Clare Sullivan.

Topic: Creative Economy
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