The David Mathews Center for Civic Life is a non-profit and non-partisan organization that seeks to promote effective civic engagement, active citizenship, and community collaboration.

During the early summer of 2018, The David Mathews Center invited institutions of higher education across the state of Alabama to send in applications for the Jean O’Connor-Snyder Internship Program (JOIP). The David Mathews Center’s longest running program, lovingly named in honor of Mrs. Jean O’Connor – Snyder, provides experiential learning opportunities for Alabama undergraduates. Through JOIP, the Mathews Center seeks to give college students the opportunity to connect with community, build personal civic skills, and to discover Alabama outside of their collegiate walls.

Through JOIP, the David Mathews Center seeks to provide immersive learning opportunities for college students to build civic skills, develop civic dispositions, strengthen their civic efficacy, practice professionalism, and implement asset-based, capacity-building projects in Alabama communities.


The David Mathews Center is excited to work with eight programs for the 2018-2019 funding year. These internship experiences are the product of the relationships between an Alabama institution of higher education and one or more community partners. Every college or university has a unique JOIP proposal, all encouraging students to participate in community with an asset based approach. During this program year, 32 students, pursuing higher education at seven different Alabama universities and colleges, will have the opportunity to work in thirteen Alabama counties as JOIP interns.

32 students, 7 institutions of higher education, 13 Alabama counties


In September, the faculty coordinators for the eight JOIP experiences gathered at The David Mathews Center office to officially kick off the beginning of this new cohort. These university administrators and professors will serve as advisors for their institutions’ JOIP interns, teaching asset-based community development and public deliberation. This program not only connects students with communities, but also faculty with faculty from other institutions, and students with students across the state. At the beginning of 2019, the David Mathews Center looks forward to hosting the 2018- 2019 JOIP cohort retreat. This event will allow civically-minded students and internship coordinators to engage with one another, brainstorm together, and learn alongside each other.

The David Mathews Center for Civic Life is proud to announce the 2018- 2019 Jean O’Connor – Snyder Internship Program.


Southern Union State Community College embarks on their first year of a Living Democracy program, coordinated by the Valley Campus Director, Robin Brown, and the Wadley Campus English Professor, Dr. Pam Horn. JOIP students from SUSCC will enroll in two courses, Directed Studies in Leadership and Writing for Mass Media to prepare for a year long immersive civic engagement experience in Chambers and Clay counties. In Chambers county, under the guidance of Brown, JOIP students will work to discover the narrative of the county’s youth population through conversations with key stakeholders in the education and youth development system. Horn will introduce students to local conveners in Clay county who are working to develop innovative spaces for community building. Brown and Horn’s goal for these students are that they “listen and observe the development of understanding and reciprocity in the civic life of the county and to develop a project which will promote collaboration across the county”.

Under the leadership of Monica Clarke, Coordinator of Service Learning, Alabama Agricultural & Mechanical University (AAMU) continues their program, Bridging the Gap Through Economic Development. Three JOIP students from the 2017-2018 school year will continue relationships built during the first year of the program in the Edmonton Heights Community. The interns work to “bring a voice to neighborhood members” by facilitating community round table discussions. This Fall, the JOIP interns will begin teaching a curriculum focused on the history of Edmonton Heights, as gathered through conversations with local matriarchs and community research in preparation for this experience, to the community’s elementary students. Clarke listed “understanding how historical events can shape as community’s culture” as one of the four main objectives for this internship. The goal is to offer avenues for the community to define their challenges, identify possible solutions, and act in response to these conversations themselves.

Spring Hill College’s Fellowship in Civic Leadership, in its second year, will recruit a 2018-2019 cohort of 10 students to engage with the community of Alabama Village, in the municipality of Prichard. Dr. Erik Goldschmidt, Director of The Foley Community Service Center, will lead the JOIP interns as they participate in asset-based community development instruction, deliberative dialogue moderator training, and the appreciative inquiry method in preparation for the immersive experience. Under the guidance of Goldschmidt and community partner, Mr. John Eads, Executive Director of Light of the Village, Spring Hill College students will host deliberative community forums and participate in follow-up conversations to “examine the complex challenges of a local impoverished neighborhood”. Students, faculty, and community members will travel together to present their collaborative experience at the Gulf-South Summit for Service Learning and Civic Engagement in April of 2019.

The Perry County Internship Experience, facilitated by The University of Alabama Honors College, builds upon the 57 Miles Partnership by providing an 8 week immersive experience to four honors students in the heart of Alabama’s Black Belt. As per community partner and Main Street Marion Executive Director, Chris Joiner, students are “encouraged to put their education into action by discovering the place where passion meets purpose”. Amanda McRae, Community Relations Coordinator, works with Perry County nonprofits to place students in local internships related to their diverse areas of study and interest. Now in the third year of the program, the internship experience will continue to place one JOIP intern to work with the Perry County School System’s Summer Learning Program and one intern to work for Main Street Marion, based in the downtown commercial district. The other two internships will be determined based on the community’s needs and the students’ interests.

Troy University’s Real Talk on Race project “seeks to build community capital through immersive civic learning around the issue of race” in response to “issues involving race relations in both the cities of Troy and Montgomery”. Jonathan Cellon, Associate Dean of the Center for Student Success, and Lauren Cochran, Coordinator of Civic Engagement at Troy, will work with two student interns, one from Troy University and other from Troy University’s Montgomery campus to “focus on how communities and institutions can address these issues through community outreach and education that leads to civic learning and deliberative dialogue”. These two interns will attend and convene community meetings of students, local government, and citizens in order to listen to and facilitate conversations on race. The Troy JOIP interns will assist with the annual Leadership Conference and the Architects of Change – Summer Day Camp at the Rosa Parks Museum as two culminating internship projects.

University of Montevallo professor and Montevallo Mayor, Dr. Hollie Cost, serves as the program coordinator of year six of the Students’ Institute, which Mayor Cost defines as, “a public deliberation and civic engagement program in which university students engage local elementary, middle and high school students in citizenship education under the guidance of local community leaders”. The JOIP intern from the University of Montevallo will work to implement programming for the Montevallo Junior City Council by providing a educational leadership curriculum and assisting in project implementation from the council. This year, the intern will work to include a more diverse group of students from the Montevallo Public School System by intentionally providing programming within the city’s schools. The JOIP intern will enroll in a Fall semester course at the University of Montevallo focusing on promoting civic engagement in youth.

Since 2011, The University of Alabama’s New College facilitated the Walker County Internship Program, an immersive experience where UA students from across academic disciplines live and work in Walker County for eight weeks over the summer in order to address one of the three specific areas identified by the Walker Area Community Foundation Strategic Plan: health, education, or community development. John Miller, the Assistant Director of New College, works to prepare these students during the Spring semester for an internship placement by the Walker Area Community Foundation based on students’ interests and the community’s needs. In Miller’s words, this program was “designed to connect students with community leaders, organizations, and institutions to share civic practices and engage local issues in hopes of contributing to leadership skills of future generations”.

Auburn University’s Living Democracy Program will place four university students in four separate communities for a ten week summer immersion experience. Dr. Mark Wilson, Director of Civic Learning Initiatives in the College of Liberal Arts, Professor Nan Fairley, Associate Professor of Journalism, and Ms. Rachel Naftel, The Center for Arts and Humanities Graduate Assistant recruit lead student interns who, by the end of the experience, will understand democratic practices in a community, develop collaborative skills, identify community assets, and develop writing skills “as a tool for community development”. Each week, Auburn’s Living Democracy students submit a community journalism piece to be posted on the Living Democracy blog, encouraging reflection and intentional conversations while living in community.

To learn more about the experiences of former JOIP interns, visit the Mathews Center blog.


By Kate Mauldin, 2016-17 JOIP Perry County intern and 2018-19 Civic Fellow