What is your current job and how did your planning degree prepare you for it?
I am currently an Associate Planner at the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) in the Local Technical Assistance (LTA) program. The LTA provides assistance to communities across the Chicago metropolitan region to undertake planning projects that advance the principles of the GO TO 2040 regional plan. My role is to manage and compose plans in different communities throughout northeastern Illinois, such as the Des Plaines Comprehensive Plan, Brookfield Comprehensive Plan, Albany Park Neighborhood Plan (Chicago), Sugar Run Creek Area Plan (Will County), and Lisle Downtown Parking Plan.
My education at Illinois prepared me by providing me with the tools and knowledge needed to work on a variety of plans, while ensuring any work I produced was 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 different lens and helped me become a stronger and more empathetic planner.
Before joining CMAP, I worked as an Associate Planner at Teska Associates, Inc. (2013–2016) and interned at the North River Commission (2012) and the Logan Square Neighborhood Association (2011).
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 knew early on it would have to entail working directly with the residents, understanding their needs, and incorporating their ideas on what they felt was needed to make their community safe, accessible, and desirable.
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. Additionally, I'd recommend they network and volunteer early and often.