What is your current job and how did your planning degree prepare you for it?
I am currently a Marketing Associate (specializing in Content Marketing, Behavioral Insights) at Morningstar, Inc. in Chicago. My degree in Urban Planning helped me prepare for this career by teaching me the importance of research, organization, and creating outcomes to better the lives of others. As a planning major, much of my class work focused on creating solutions for community development and economic development to create better neighborhoods. As a marketing associate focused on behavioral insights, I spend a great deal of time planning strategically to create solutions for people to make better financial decisions to positively impact their lives. My work begins with research just as my community plans began with research at U of I. Once gathering research, I work to create outcomes that help investors reach their financial goals through content. My degree from Illinois taught me not only to research, plan, organize, coordinate, and execute, but most importantly, it taught me to have a heart for making a difference in the lives of others.
Why did you choose to study urban planning?
I chose to study urban planning because I have always had a passion for helping others and creating strategies to impact positive change. As a Midwesterner, born and raised in the Chicago suburbs, I always wondered why my parents worked so hard for my sister and me to live in affluent neighborhoods; my father grew up in East St. Louis, Illinois, and my mother grew up in the Englewood neighborhood of Chicago. I wondered why their hometowns were so different from mine and why disparities in school systems, neighborhoods, and food access existed. My curiosity in wanting to learn how to understand economic, social, and overall disparities led me to pursue an urban planning major.
What advice would you share with someone who is considering a career in urban planning?
My advice for someone considering a career in urban planning is to have an open mind. I never thought my degree would open a door for me to work at an independent finance research firm, but it did. Urban planning is so valuable, and it is so important across many fields. As you embark on your academic and professional career, always remember to strive towards goals that not only can impact you individually but can also impact others. Urban planning at Illinois exposed me to so many communities from tin towns in Cape Town, South Africa, to the streets of Decatur, Illinois. Urban planning can take you to many places you may have never imagined. Be open-minded and enjoy YOUR journey, wherever it may lead you.