Anna Ma

BAUP 2016, Minor in Landscape Studies

Rockford, Illinois

What is your current job and how did your planning degree prepare you for it?

Currently, I am a Metropolitan Planner for Region 1 Planning Council (RPC) in Illinois. We serve 3 counties and a metropolitan area of about 280,000 people. Since many planning departments in our region are small and have 1 or 2 employees, our RPC is consulted out to assist and sometimes to lead their planning projects. For instance, we’re wrapping up the update of the 2017 Loves Park Comprehensive Plan and beginning the first phases of the Boone County Comprehensive Plan. Day to day, I work on transportation improvement projects and other federally mandated projects for the Federal Highway Association and Federal Transit Authority.

Why did you choose to study urban planning?

I loved the planning program at UIUC! I chose to study urban planning because the program here made a huge impact on me in terms of helping me see what the private sector planning profession was like--through job shadow field trips to St. Louis--and being well connected with internships within Champaign-Urbana to provide me with real world experience in the public sector, such as an internship with the Champaign-Urbana Regional Planning Commission.

In addition, the university also encourages student involvement in APA (American Planning Association) which is a great place to learn more about innovative planning in the U.S. Through that, I’ve been able to serve on the APA National Board on the Student Representatives Council Executive Committee and as student liaison to the AICP Commission where I’ve been a part of the planning process for the new AICP Candidate Pilot Program. Go check it out!

What advice would you share with someone who is considering a career in urban planning?

My advice for students considering a career in planning is that when applying, be mindful of the different types of planning careers out there. For those interested in the public sector, embrace the planning process and long-term nature of planning work. It's much more than designing a catchy streetscape rendering in Adobe Illustrator or leading a fun public participation event. There's a lot of day to day tasks of the planning process that are necessary to make big projects work and you just have to be patient!

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