What is your current job and how did your planning degree prepare you for it?
I am currently working as the Director of Transportation Equity at the Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT) in Chicago. In my role, I implement the agency’s work on transportation with a multidisciplinary and equitable focus. Some of the projects I’m involved with include partnering with TransitCenter to develop best practices to evaluate the equity impacts of transit projects, working with Active Transportation Alliance, Equiticity, and community-based organizations to start-up a nonprofit coalition that focuses on transportation equity in the Chicago region, as well as contributing to transportation consulting work in cities across the country.
My education at Illinois prepared me by providing me with the tools and knowledge needed to work on a variety of plans and projects, while ensuring they were produced for the benefit of the public. Having such a strong and knowledgeable cohort of professors and students challenged me to view community challenges and opportunities through a more comprehensive lens.
Before joining CNT, I worked as an Associate Planner at Teska Associates, Inc., a Community Planner at the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP), and as a consultant for the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) on the Red and Purple Modernization Program (RPM).
Why did you choose to study urban planning?
I chose to study urban planning because of my interest in strengthening my own community. Being aware of the disparities low-income communities face from a young age, I was compelled to pursue a career where I could improve our quality of life. . I was committed to working directly with the residents, uplifting their voices in traditional planning processes, communicating their needs, and incorporating their ideas to produce a truly community-led plan.
What advice would you share with someone who is considering a career in urban planning?
I would advise new students to continue developing their communication skills, particularly listening. Great plans are born from truly understanding the community you are serving and all of its complexities.