University grad appointed new SECIA director

Cody Olson began work in his new Southeast Como position this week.

by Olivia Johnson

Cody Olson’s face lit up as he laid out plans for gardening days and cook-outs as the new director of the Southeast Como Improvement Association.
A 2015 University of Minnesota history and urban studies graduate, Olson took over as SECIA director on March 1. He previously interned for the association and currently serves on the Lind-Bohanon Neighborhood association in North Minneapolis. 
The Milwaukee, Wis., native said he wants to focus on connecting University students living in Como and hopes to recruit more university students as volunteers for the organization.
He began working with SECIA as a sophomore through a service learning component of a class. Afterwards, SECIA asked him to stay on as an intern, a position he held for about two years until becoming director. 
“One of [SECIA’s] focuses was urban planning and sustainable urban planning,” he said. “I realized it was a really cool organization, a really cool culture, and I wanted to stick around.”
In college, Olson worked as the treasurer for the Minnesota Urban Studies Student Association, where he planned events, handled finances and wrote a grant. 
“I guess the biggest thing overall [about Olson] is just how committed he’s been to getting as much experience as possible,” said Olson’s roommate, Paul Glembocki, a University English senior. 
The two became friends in third grade and have roomed together throughout their time at the University. 
“We both came in as shy college kids,” Glembocki said. “It’s been really cool seeing him start getting more involved in the communities around him.” 
At SECIA, Olson helped push to complete the Grand Rounds bikeway, a pedestrian and bicycle trail that goes through much of Minneapolis. 
“One of the things that I think that’s really been cool for Cody is that he’s really fallen in love with Minneapolis,” said Johnny Zagrodnik, one of Olson’s close friends from Milwaukee, Wis. “Ever since I’ve known him, he’s loved cities. He’s wanted to be a city planner and go into urban development as long as I’ve known him.”
Olson’s transition into his new job as SECIA’s director comes at a time where the association is adjusting its plans in light of reduced funding. 
The association is reducing hours for full-time staff and looking for more volunteers as funds decrease, said Thomas Hertzog, a University psychology senior and SECIA communications intern. 
Olson said he plans to recruit student interns for the new volunteer positions.
“Our internship program allows us to kind of keep a pulse on what students are doing in the neighborhood,” he said. “We’re able to learn that through our interns.” 
In order to help the new interns network, Olson said he wants to connect interns with former SECIA members. 
He said that to help new interns, he plans to build a network of SECIA members past and present. 
“[Olson’s] really good at bringing people together and getting people involved in listening to different opinions,” Zagrodnik said.