Sharing his enthusiasm for running and fitness with others is something Paul Knepple, ’20, loves to do. His Jepson internship with the New York Road Runners (NYRR) this summer gave him the perfect opportunity.

“I love running and the positive impact it has on others,” said the 6’3” cross country runner from Point Pleasant, N.J., who is double majoring in leadership studies and Italian studies. “I wanted to use my internship to see if I’d like to do something career-related with running after graduation.”

Last fall, Knepple started reaching out regularly to the NYRR, the organization that coordinates the New York City Marathon and whose mission it is to help and inspire people through running. His persistence paid off. The NYRR offered him a paid summer internship with Striders, its program for engaging seniors from all five New York City boroughs in weekly walking sessions.

Through his Jepson internship with NYRR, Knepple was able to observe academic theories about group dynamics and leadership styles play out in a professional setting and compare them to what he had experienced as a member of the University of Richmond Men’s Cross Country Team

“A sports team is a perfect example of a group where leaders and followers emerge and form relationships,” said Knepple, who has been a leader for his team in his junior and senior years. “I lead best when I interact as a teammate. It’s more a relationship—we’re in this together.”

This same principle applied to his NYRR internship, Knepple said.

“The leadership styles of the organization and my supervisor were very collaborative,” he said. “I was extremely lucky to have a supervisor, Wesley Davis, who treated me as an equal. We were always working together and trading ideas as we tried to grow the outreach of our program.”

He honed his communications during his internship, Knepple said, as he interacted with NYRR staff, staff at various senior centers, and seniors themselves. He also developed his organizational skills through planning and leading walks for seniors throughout the city. He especially enjoyed coordinating a walk through East Harlem to see the murals that depict the history of the neighborhood.

“Running is a sport where you’re enduring pain with your teammates,” said Knepple. “I am so used to the super competitive side of running. This summer I had the chance to see fitness in a different light. I loved seeing the positive effect exercise can have on seniors, how it brings joy into people’s lives.”

When not working at his internship, Knepple enjoyed training in Central Park and living in the Big Apple. After returning to campus, he is back to training 20 hours a week with the Men’s Cross Country Team. Nevertheless, he has made time to serve as the vice president of finance for the Jepson Student Government Association.

“I am very grateful for the opportunities the Jepson School of Leadership Studies has provided me,” he said. “I want to play a role in continuing to make Jepson a great place.”

Knepple plans to return to Richmond in fall 2020 to run with the Men’s Cross Country Team during his final semester. Then he will decide whether to enroll in graduate school immediately or work for several years. Thanks to his Jepson internship, he knows what kind of work he wants to pursue.

“I’d like to work with NYRR again,” Knepple said. “My internship combined everything I love—running, making a positive impact on the community, and meeting a lot of great people inside and outside the organization.”