Summer Centered: Jessica Lopez ’21 Strives for Positive Social Impact
Anthropology major Jessica Lopez ’21 is doing her Whitehead Internship with real estate group Shift Capital to learn how a for-profit real estate group can emphasize positive social impact.
Anthropology major Jessica Lopez ’21 is spending her summer helping a for-profit real estate group foreground community success. As a Whitehead intern with funding from the Center for Career and Professional Advising (CCPA), she is working with the real estate investment company Shift Capital to undertake real estate projects that have positive social impacts in the Kensington and Harrowgate neighborhoods of Philadelphia.
The economics and health studies minor has been ushered into this work by fellow Ford Stuart Hean ’14, who works on the leasing and marketing teams at Shift. Hean has become somewhat of a mentor to Lopez during her internship—a relationship built “on the basis of respect and mutual understanding” that she said both she and Hean learned in the Haverford community.
Lopez works with Hean on Shift’s marketing team, but is also spending time on the property management and social impact teams. Naturally, then, her responsibilities vary from department to department.
“In terms of marketing, I focus on social analysis—reviewing our various media platforms, analytics, and the software we use to govern them, and implementing some vehicles for data storage and metric upkeep,” she said. Her responsibilities on the marketing team also involve various social media-related duties as well as strategizing for future marketing initiatives.
It’s the social impact department, however, where Lopez really feels empowered to oppose gentrification. This is due to a suite of tools Shift has created to evaluate the social impact of real estate projects. One of Lopez’s many responsibilities on the social impact team is helping to implement this program in upcoming projects.
“Shift’s creation of the Impact Appraisal for selected Shift and partner projects will help to evaluate the relative social impact of projects and is the first of its kind,” said Lopez. “I am so lucky to be involved with rolling the appraisal out.”
As an intern for Shift, Lopez has gotten to known Kensington, a neighborhood in North Philadelphia. Kensington has a reputation as the epicenter of the opioid epidemic in Philadelphia—Lopez notes that the New York Times called Kensington “The ‘Walmart’ of Heroin”—but through Shift, she has developed an entirely different perspective on the neighborhood.
Through both her Whitehead Internship and her coursework at Haverford, Lopez has developed an understanding of the many structural and systemic ways that Kensington has been oppressed. She’s also learned the importance of bringing nuance and hope to the narratives that describe Kensington.
“One thing is for sure: all generalizations are inherently wrong,” she said. “During my short time working in Kensington so far, I have met coworkers, neighbors, students, parents, and business owners who are Kensington neighbors, whose stories paint Kensington in a different, multi-dimensional light.”
It makes sense that working at Shift has helped her to understand Kensington as a complex, resilient place; as so much of her work shows, Shift’s investment in its community is deep and multi-faceted. As a socially-minded real estate group, Shift brings a native hopefulness to the way it emphasizes social impact ahead of profit.
“Luckily, Shift Capital has taught me that a for-profit business directly involved in people’s livelihoods can still be socially conscious and help marginalized folks find tools to fight the larger power structures that trap them,” said Lopez. “I have learned to be picky about where I work, and who I work for, and to not settle for anything less than something that will satisfy my soul.”
Read more about Lopez’s internship from her perspective on the CCPA’s blog.
“Summer Centered” is a series exploring our students’ Center-funded summer work.