Meaningful Partnerships

During the Cochrane Summer Economic Institute, rising Seniors in the Richmond area come to Collegiate to grow as inquisitive thinkers and future business professionals. 
Mia Jackson ’17 is speaking over Zoom, from her apartment in London, to a group of rising Seniors gathered in Collegiate School’s Sharp Academic Commons. They’re talking about geographical data and urban studies, and how ArcGIS, a data visualization program, can be used to tell the intricate story of a community. The students — 17 in all, from seven area high schools — are engaged, asking Jackson questions with an enthusiasm that rises only from the energy of making discoveries. 

Their collaboration is part of the Cochrane Summer Economic Institute (CSEI), a monthlong program for rising high school Seniors in the Richmond area that elevates students’ understanding of economics by enabling them to collaborate directly with business professionals. It’s the same program that Jackson, a current master’s student at the University College London, participated in when she was a student at Collegiate. “I’ve always been interested in adding more layers of passion to all the things I’m interested in,” she tells the students. “And programs like this really helped me do that.”

This is, at its core, the foundational goal of CSEI: to nurture students’ passions with the guidance of experienced professionals. 

Beginning in early July, the participating students came to Collegiate to take part in the program, which is administered by the School’s Powell Institute for Responsible Citizenship. Enthusiasm abounds as students begin making connections between what they have learned in the classroom to the larger professional world. “We’re making discoveries that go beyond what we sometimes get from classroom lectures,” says Miranda Lutchman, who attends The Center for Leadership, Government and Global Economics at Douglas S. Freeman High School. “Everything we’re learning here is preparing us for the future.”   

At the start of the program, students are grouped in teams and assigned a company partner. The CSEI 2022 partners — Henrico County Entertainment & Sports Authority, Richmond Flying Squirrels and the Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU — mentor the students, giving teams a unique look into the professional world. “Collegiate’s CSEI program challenges students to ask and answer real-world questions,” says David Lanning P ’24 ’26, co-surgeon-in-chief at Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU and a partner for this year’s program. “I was impressed with the students’ effort, energy and creativity in their work towards finding solutions to these problems. It was a very rewarding experience for the students as well as the partnering organizational leaders that participated.”

The students’ challenge: after learning the intricacies of their selected company, discover new ways their partner companies can contribute to a thriving city while delivering on the partner’s mission, vision and values.  

"I'm really appreciative of the resources that Collegiate has provided, particularly with regard to the company partners we got to work with,” says Carson Wang, a student at Maggie L. Walker Governor’s School whose group worked with the Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU. “Having Collegiate — and all the teachers involved in CSEI — give us all these professional connections has been really helpful. Because we got to work downtown where the Children’s Hospital is, and because of our research — whether that was online research or interviews with employees — we developed a deeper understanding of how a hospital operates. CSEI has changed my way of thinking.”

Through research that in involves community interviews and workplace observation, students propose ideas that could contribute to alleviating challenges faced by their company partners. For example, the group that collaborated with the Richmond Flying Squirrels conducted interviews with Richmond residents to learn about what they felt were the priorities the Flying Squirrels should pursue. “My favorite part of the program has been walking around the city and interviewing more than 60 people about the Richmond experience and the Flying Squirrels,” says Graham Bor ’23, a Collegiate student. “It was a really good experience to hear firsthand from people about what they valued in our partner company. I think it definitely put us back in touch with the community.”

The work the students complete during the CSEI program often has a direct effect on the community. Students working with the Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU identified that, since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, hospitals that have incorporated telemedicine into their practice have had more success providing care and support to their patients. Following this discovery, the students created an ArcGIS StoryMap that helped visualize where CHoR telemedicine services, based on access to public school services and broadband access, could have potential immediate and high positive impact. The students’ StoryMap helped inform a due diligence process and the ultimate adoption of CHoR telehealth services by the Parent Child Development Corporation (PCDC), which provides a variety of educational and family support services to children and families in rural counties around Richmond.

During the course of the program, students work with a mentor from their partner company, a connection that gives them the chance to establish themselves in a business setting. Students also collaborate with and learn from guest speakers such as Jackson — all of whom add unique perspectives to the possibilities of the professional world. “Listening to the guest speakers has really taught me a lot,” says Collegiate student Anne Pearson Gremer ’23. “They have really helped me strengthen important skills like public speaking and ArcGIS use.”  

CSEI also gives students the opportunity to meet peers from different communities, allowing them to foster valuable connections. Aaleya Fowler ’23, a Collegiate student, says that working with peers who bring such passion to group projects encouraged her to discover new methods of collaboration. “These past four weeks of working with everyone here has definitely taught me different ways of how to be a leader,” Aaleya explains. “This group work has been invaluable, and working with them has given me the chance to meet more people in the community.” 

At the conclusion of this year’s program, the three groups presented their research to a large audience of family, friends and the community partners, with each presentation illustrating their findings with the help of ArcGIS technology. The culminating presentations demonstrated the advancements the young professionals made over the summer. They expanded their passions and broadened their future possibilities. “I’ve really enjoyed my experience here,” says Zamiyah Burton, a student from Steward School. “It has been great working with a diverse group of people from different schools and different backgrounds and then all coming together to achieve a common goal. CSEI has definitely improved my way of thinking, and I’m really excited for what the future holds.”
The 2022 participating schools were: Collegiate School; Douglas S. Freeman High School Center for Leadership, Government and Global Economics; Maggie L. Walker Governor’s School for Government and International Studies; Saint Christopher’s School; The Steward School; Trinity Episcopal School; and Veritas School. To view each team’s ArcGIS project, please follow the following links:Children's Hospital of Richmond; Henrico Sports and Entertainment Authority (HSEA); The Richmond Flying Squirrels.

Applications for current high school Juniors interested in CSEI’s July 2023 program will open Thursday, Dec. 1, 2022. For more information, please contact Trina Clemans, CSEI’s Program Director, at: