ECU intern planning Uptown’s future

Pitt County residents love the amenities Uptown Greenville has to offer.

From dining at a local restaurant or walking through the weekly Umbrella Market in the summer, there’s plenty to do in the growing business district.

What visitors love a little less? A lack of parking.

East Carolina University rising senior William Stanton is trying to alleviate that pain point, among others, during his internship with Uptown Greenville. Stanton’s internship is part of ECU’s Office of Community Engagement and Research’s SECU Public Service Fellows internship program.

The program, now in its third year, joins the university with regional communities through projects that address community-identified priorities. Undergraduate student placements provide opportunities for fellows to develop leadership, analytical, problem solving, communication and project management skills, as well as allowing them to network in professional settings.

Intern William Stanton


“Last year was my first year in Greenville and I got the opportunity to see all of the things that go on in Uptown,” Stanton said. “I was inspired by all the activities and growth. It made me feel like I wanted to be here. I wanted to be a part of this.

“When Uptown Greenville President and CEO Bianca Shoneman visited one of my classes I remember thinking, ‘I want to be just like Bianca,’” he said. “I did everything I could to put myself into this position to where I could help Uptown Greenville develop.”

The urban and regional planning major now has the opportunity he wanted so badly and he’s not letting it go to waste.

Using his mapping skills and GIS – geographic information system mapping technology – Stanton pinpointed areas where Uptown could add extra parking spaces. In a city where traffic congestion is often pushing the limits of what the area can hold, finding extra parking spaces is seen as a blessing.

“Trying to find new parking spots was difficult,” Stanton said. “It was a real challenge. I learned a lot about GIS and using it effectively in urban planning. It really challenged my skill set.”

Shoneman said that Stanton’s talents offer Uptown a chance to tackle projects they typically wouldn’t be able to take on.

“He brings to the table this crucial skill set that every downtown organization needs, but might not have the capacity to employ financially,” Shoneman said. “He’s really plugged the gap for us. He comes to the table with a modern expertise in urban planning.
“He’s advanced some agendas that have been long-standing goals of Uptown, including increasing parking, creating a better understanding of local assets and updating parking maps in real time,” she said. “Those are important things for a downtown development organization to understand and publicly communicate.”

Stanton said that interning with Uptown Greenville has provided an opportunity to see what goes on behind the scenes during event planning.

“I wanted a better understanding of the work and effort that goes in behind the events before they reach their final goal,” he said. “I needed to see that in action and learn from it. There is a lot of work that is put in to get to the final product, but seeing the smiles on people’s faces at an event makes it all worth it.”

Shoneman added that Stanton is helping foster a sense of community in Greenville with his work.

“Greenville is a community that’s experiencing one of the most historic comebacks in its history,” Shoneman said. “ There is real opportunity here to be a participant in that change and William is helping us push that agenda.

“Whether you’re an entrepreneur, influencer or policy creator, you can come here and create opportunities for yourself and others,” she said. “Our environment is thirsty for such endeavors and risk takers. ECU and the PSF internship program are helping us quench that thirst with the great interns they’ve sent our way over the years.”

Stanton said the PSF program has been invaluable to his professional growth.

“I think I’ve learned more here than in any class I’ve taken,” he said. “I’ve built up knowledge I could never have learned just in the classroom and I’m helping the community in ways that I couldn’t before.”

The SECU Public Service Fellows internship program is hosted by ECU’s Office of Community Engagement and Research. Visit the office online to learn more about the program. Uptown Greenville’s offices are located at 408 South Evans St., Suite 102, in Greenville.