Internship Brings ‘Full Circle’ Moment
Student Connor Muldoon watched the opening arguments in the
trial of George Floyd’s convicted killer, former Minneapolis police officer
Derek Chauvin, on a television in the Syracuse Police Department.
His viewing companions—three police officers.
A year earlier, in the days following Floyd’s death, Muldoon
joined a memorial gathering in his suburban New Jersey hometown. “I consider
myself a strong ally to the Black Lives Matter movement,” says Muldoon, a
junior majoring in policy studies at the Maxwell School and the College of Arts
and Sciences and public relations at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public
Communications. “A year ago, I never would have thought of watching the trial
with police officers. It was a full circle moment for me.”
It was a moment provided by an educational opportunity;
Muldoon was hired to intern in the police department in the spring semester.
The opportunity was made possible by a gift from Syracuse University alumnus
and Maxwell Advisory Board member David Kelso ’68.
Kelso hoped not only to provide experiential learning, but
also broaden the perspectives of both students and police. “It is important to
engage students with the Syracuse community,” says Kelso, who grew up on the
city’s southside and attended the University with the help of a scholarship.
Now the retired vice chairman for private banking at J.P. Morgan Chase, he has
been generous in his support of Maxwell.
Muldoon felt the internship would fit with his degree
programs and offer a unique perspective of police in a time when the vocation
is under intense scrutiny. “I thought it would give me a frame of reference so
I could speak better on the issues,” he says. “To go into the police department
and be able to have these conversations with the officers has been a really
positive experience for me, and I think the officers feel the same way.”
Syracuse officers, for instance, spoke with Muldoon as they
watched the opening statements in the Chauvin trial. “We discussed the
different ways that they are trained to deal with these situations,” says
Muldoon, “and the officers shared with me how Chauvin’s actions were not
aligned with that training.”
Sgt. Matthew Malinowski, the department’s public information
officer, immersed Muldoon and a second student intern in his work. “It is the
gravity of the messaging that I wanted them to understand and how that affects
public perception. It is also the image of law enforcement, from the positive
interactions and the human side of our officers, to the times when they need to
Malinowski adds, “Having this extra help has been
tremendous,” enabling the department to triple the number of press releases,
photographs, social media posts and other content to inform and engage the
The internship has also broken down some officers’ notions
about university students, who Malinowski admits have sometimes been regarded
as disconnected from the city. “The officers appreciated and respected their
work and came to trust them, almost as one of their own,” he says.
Malinowski is grateful to the students and Kelso.
“I don’t even know if he truly understands the impact he has
had by creating these internships,” Malinowski says. “These students have been
invaluable in helping us as a police
department better engage with the community.”
— Jessica Youngman with reporting by Christine Weber