Noelle Broughton chooses her own adventure as the Peterson fellow in the Indianapolis mayor's office

Noelle Broughton sits on a table and poses for a photo in a conference room in the mayor's office.View print quality image
Noelle Broughton is a first-generation student working toward her master's degree in public affairs at IUPUI. Photo by Liz Kaye, Indiana University

The Choose Your Own Adventure books were one of the most popular children's series during the 1980s and '90s. As a reader, you assumed the role of the protagonist and chose your own actions and outcomes.

What if you had the chance at a Choose Your Own Adventure internship, but there was no map or prewritten adventures for you to contemplate. Would you take it?

Noelle Broughton did, and she's enjoyed every twist and turn.

Broughton is the Peterson fellow in the Indianapolis mayor's office, an opportunity she learned about when applying for scholarships through IUPUI and the Paul H. O'Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs.

"It's a really unique program because it's very self-directed," said Broughton, who is enrolled in the Master of Public Affairs program in the O'Neill School, concentrating in policy analysis. "I have been able to determine my own path and experience based on my interests and the city's needs."

With interests in community and economic development and tax policy, she has found plenty of projects to work on. Broughton is currently evaluating the Lift Indy program to see how it has impacted the 16th Street and Monon Trail neighborhood.

"There are concerns about gentrification impacting the neighborhoods economically and demographically, and we want to ensure that the longtime residents in that neighborhood are thriving and benefiting from Lift Indy," she explained.

Through her interest in tax policy, Broughton found herself another project to work on: developer-backed bonds. A more efficient approach and process was needed to maintain consistency, and Broughton found a solution. She is working with the Department of Metropolitan Development to create a welcome packet and a standardized contract for developers to receive tax incentives.

"This benefits the city because when a developer receives tax incentives, they need to contribute a certain percentage to public art, and sometimes that gets forgotten or left out of the contract," Broughton said.

With Broughton's help, contributions to public art are standardized in every contract. The tax-incentive process is outlined from start to finish, gives timelines and deadlines, and sets the expectation for how long each step in the process might take.

Increasing and enhancing relationships with Indianapolis and developers? Broughton can check that one off the list.

While working on this project, a similar one popped up. Broughton is working on creating a pipeline for developers to use when they apply for low-income housing tax credits from the state. Though the credits are coming from the state, developers need a lot of information from the city in order to apply for them. Broughton is setting expectations up front and gathering resources so developers know who to contact for each piece of information they need.

"There's always this mad rush to get information to developers when they request it, and this new process will make it easier for developers and for the city," she said.

Prior to these projects, Broughton worked with constituent services to create proclamations and greetings for big, citywide events. The greeting for the 2019 Indianapolis Monumental Marathon was written by Broughton on behalf of Mayor Joe Hogsett.

The best part of her internship, she said, is seeing her classroom experience come to life.

"I'm currently taking a statistics class, and I've been able to directly apply the quantitative analysis to the research I'm doing with Lift Indy," she said. "I had no idea this internship would prepare me for exactly what I want to do."

After a short career in fundraising that she didn't fully connect with, Broughton chose a new adventure and enrolled in graduate school. This internship, paired with her classes, has solidified her interest in public service, specifically working in government. And it's opened up other possibilities, like law school, and has helped her build an important network. As a first-generation college student, she now sees ideas that once seemed out of reach becoming her reality.

Broughton has only been in her internship since August, and she looks forward to choosing what she'll work on next.

"There are a lot of areas I'd like to learn more about and get experience in," she said. "I'd like to explore public finance-type projects, and I hope to work on a project soon that analyzes charter school finances."

Whatever she chooses, she's excited for the adventure.