By the end of 2002 I had resigned from my job at World Population Balance, and my work for Theodore was not enough to pay the bills. Defining my career as nonprofit management, I took a position as assistant volunteer coordinator for the Friends of the Minneapolis Public Library. It was a huge step down in responsibility from being general manager of Twin Cities Free-Net, but it was better than nothing.
In the summer of 2002, while I was working for World Population Balance part time, I moved with my friend Marisa into a larger apartment in the Seward neighborhood of Minneapolis. One of our neighbors in the building was Ted Pinegar, a man in his late 40s who was being treated for AIDS and cancer. He and Marisa bonded over stories of chronic illness and navigating the health care and insurance systems, while I helped them both by running errands as their able-bodied friend.
Soon after I resigned from Twin Cities Free-Net in early 2001, I approached World Population Balance about working for them. I'd attended some of their talks and remembered my mother saying that she thought population stabilization was the most important issue facing the world, so I thought I could help make a difference. A few months earlier, I had received an inheritance and used part of it to pay for the publication of an elementary-school curriculum by Zero Population Growth (now Population Balance).
After my summer internships at NPTN and GLFN, I was ready to go to work for a Free-Net after college. As it happened, Twin Cities Free-Net (TCFN) in Minneapolis was hiring a general manager, and I scored an interview early in 1998. I had heard great things about the Twin Cities, and I was over the moon about the opportunity.
For the research project of my 1996 internship, I had studied three of NPTN's member Free-Nets, and my favorite by far was Great Lakes Free-Net (GLFN) in Battle Creek, Michigan, so in the summer of 1997 I got another grant to intern at GLFN. Unfortunately the same faculty member was not available to supervise my research, so he recommended a prof from the sociology department.
The head of the Career Development Office at Grinnell encouraged me to apply for a summer Noyce/Intel grant that would allow me to intern anywhere I wanted, so I spent the summer between sophomore and junior years (1996) at the National Public Telecomputing Network (NPTN) in a suburb of Cleveland. NPTN was the parent organization of the Free-Net systems that allowed millions of people to go online before private Internet service providers were widely available.
Spring break of 1996, my sophomore year at Grinnell, I interned at the DC office of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, better known as ACORN. I had heard of ACORN somehow or other, but most people didn't hear about it until 2009 when there was a manufactured political scandal. This was long before that. Here are some things I learned:
The summer after my freshman year at Grinnell, 1995, my dad got me an internship at the National Institute for Petroleum and Energy Research, commonly called NIPER, in my hometown of Bartlesville, OK. I was helping out the IT staff. Here are some of the things I learned from the experience.
Spring break of my freshman year in 2005, I did a 2-week internship at a little nonprofit in Chicago called the Neighborhood Capital Budget Group, where a recent alum was one of four staff members. NCBG's mission was to get local neighborhood groups a voice in city infrastructure projects, and at the time they were focused on the renovation of the L's Red Line.
When I arrived at Grinnell College in 1994, it was quickly apparent to me what campus job I should apply for. At that time the college discouraged students from bringing their own computers to campus, in favor of communal computer labs. Not only did this help level the playing field between rich and poor students, but it helped keep the campus network relatively free of malware and limited the possible combinations of hardware that needed to be supported. The students who worked in the computer labs, providing tech support to the students, were called the User Consultants or UCs.