What is your current job and how did your planning degree prepare you for it?
My current job is a Planning Technician for the City of Steamboat Springs—for our city, this involves reviewing and signing building permits, sign permits, revocable licenses for certain right-of-way encroachments, managing and routing development review applications, guiding people to the right type of development process, and providing customer service with respect to understanding our code and what they can do under it.
My degree helped me understand the "why" behind how our zoning works and also how it compares to established theory—no community does it perfectly. The clerical aspects of my job could be done without planning knowledge, but I would be pretty useless without understanding what the code enables us to achieve and how it works. It enables me to actually be helpful, rather than just factual.
Why did you choose to study urban planning?
I chose to study urban planning because it seemed to be a natural progression of my undergrad studies of Environmental Planning and Policy. It's a cool mix of social science, environmental science, and politics, and it is awesome understanding what actually goes on in the development of the community around me.
What advice would you share with someone who is considering a career in urban planning?
If someone is considering a career in urban planning, I would advise them to get as much practical hands-on experience as possible—the City of Champaign was invaluable in that respect—and to work in a community that shares their same values. That's not to say Steamboat Springs has all the values I do (they sure love their parking), but the community is very aware of environmental issues and housing issues, and they have made several positive steps toward improving upon those goals. We have no minimum home/unit size, we allow secondary units in all zone districts, we have an urban growth boundary, and we have a robust downtown business district that doesn't suffer from too much auto-oriented development outside it.