BAUP 2013 minor Business; MUP 2014 (4+1)
What is your current job and how did your planning degree prepare you for it?
I am a Development Coordinator at Gorman & Company, a real estate development company that specializes in affordable housing. My work at Gorman involves identifying development opportunities, completing tax credit applications, understanding creative financing packages, and coordinating planning efforts with local housing authorities and communities. I work closely with the company's Illinois Market President to acquire and rehabilitate existing public housing developments, as well as help with the adaptive reuse of existing properties into affordable housing projects. Gorman is very community development-oriented, and I have the opportunity to interact directly with community stakeholders while we are in the predevelopment stages of a project. This job is especially rewarding as my work focuses almost exclusively within the State of Illinois! My urban planning education at the University of Illinois prepared me in numerous ways for working for a developer. While pursuing my bachelor's degree, I learned so much about the various forces that comprised the complex housing market, and got an excellent introduction on housing policy from Professor Greenlee. After taking his course, I became incredibly passionate about affordable housing, and completed my Master's Capstone report on the topic of affordable housing and neighborhood stability in Baltimore, Maryland.
Prior to my job with Gorman & Company, I was a real estate consultant with RCLCO, where I performed detailed market analyses throughout the east coast and southern United States. While a student at the University of Illinois, I interned for the Cities of Norfolk, Virginia Beach, and Chesapeake in southeastern Virginia, as well as at Harbor Group International, a real estate investment company headquartered in Norfolk. In addition to my internships, I was a consultant and project manager at Illinois Business Consulting, the largest student-run consulting organization in the United States.
Why did you choose to study urban planning?
I have been fascinated with cities and urban development since I was 10 years old, when my family moved from Arkansas to Virginia Beach. At the time new developments such as light rail were just beginning to gain traction in the region, and the City was starting to develop a downtown amid the urban sprawl that characterizes most of Virginia Beach. When I began looking at colleges and different majors to pursue, I learned that urban planning was not simply an odd interest of mine; it was, in fact, a career path! Although my specific interests within urban planning were redefined during my college career, my passion for cities never wavered.
What advice would you share with someone who is considering a career in urban planning?
Never be afraid to learn or do something new. When I first began my urban planning coursework, I was sure that I wanted to focus on comprehensive (long-term) planning and have a career in the public sector. Through my various internships and countless hours in the classroom, my interests in urban planning changed to my current passion of affordable housing. The professors you will meet and the experiences you have both in and out of the classroom will teach you new perspectives, and potentially even light a fire within you to solve a problem you may have never previously considered.