Kelsey DeGagné: "Now is the best time to live in South Bend"

Author: Harriet Fink

I met Kelsey in our Intro to Italian class sophomore year, and for as long as I've known her, she's been one of South Bend's biggest proponents. I also know that she interned for the local non-profit, Downtown South Bend, in Fall 2017, so I thought she would be a great person to interview (as she finishes her senior year) on why now is the greatest time to live in South Bend. 

The Notre Dame Introduction:

Hi! I’m a senior from London, Ontario studying poli-sci with a minor in European studies. Last spring, I studied abroad in Angers, France. On campus, I am an International Ambassador, French tutor and work in the library. I also play on the Women’s club hockey team and used to be a late-night radio DJ. I currently live off campus but I used to live in PE.

On interning at the non-profit Downtown South Bend (DTSB):

How did you get your internship?

I applied through the political science department and interviewed directly with the non-profit. Each year, the poly-sci department sponsors a bunch of community internships.

What did you do?

I was a business development intern and my main task consisted of planning Small Business Saturday for South Bend. All across the country, the day after Black Friday is an annual event aimed at refocusing consumers on small businesses. In a more concrete sense, my job consisted of meeting with business owners in the area and helping facilitate conversations between them, brainstorming ways to promote their events and thinking of promotions and deals they could offer. Basically, my job was to turn Small Business Saturday into an event for the whole community.

What did you take from your internship experience?

Getting the chance to build relationships with the business owners themselves and make an event that had died in previous years, really flourish was something really special. I loved witnessing all of the collaboration between business owners and the community. Because DTSB is a non-profit supporting the community, the day wasn’t about us making money; it was really about helping the business make it happen for them. The event was a huge success and it was so great to see everyone so excited!

As a poli-sci major, it’s one of my goals to affect policy and make a difference in the community. While this internship wasn’t directly related to policy work, it did make a difference in the community, and that’s powerful! Overall it was a great experience with all the liaising between media, community members and business owners, which is a skill that has already helped me in subsequent internships. It has also shaped the focus of jobs I’m applying for.

On South Bend:

Did interning in the city change the way you look at South Bend?

Spending more time downtown and connecting with new restaurants and cafes and other cool spots in town really helped me get to know the city beyond the typical spots. I also loved getting familiar with the community behind these cool places through meeting with business owners and other community partners. South Bend is a city being reborn from its auto boom days. This is the best time to live in South Bend- the people have heart and everyone is working towards a better south Bend, and there is tangible change happening.

Favorite activity?

Roller skating.

Go to restaurant?

Flamingo’s tacos.

Best study spot?

The General café.

Any cool things happening downtown?

So many! There are plans in the making to put in vertical gardens which will be really neat and then I guess something that’s actually happening right now is that the Old Studebaker warehouses have been transformed into everything from a church, to a bar, and a factory that makes sustainable cups!


(all responses are edited to fit the scope of this article)