MUP 2016, MINOR IN GLOBAL STUDIES
What is your current job and how did your planning degree prepare you for it?
I am a Community Planner with the Federal Government. I work at the Construction Engineering Research Laboratory (CERL), a research and development center for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Champaign. The research I do is primarily focused on sustainability efforts and resource recovery, and my team develops program guidance and management plans for a variety of clients all over the world. A degree in planning prepared me for this profession by combining both theoretical and practical applications. I gained value from each course I took within the MUP program, and I was able to tailor my course load based on my specific career interests. By getting involved with CERL through a research assistantship during my first year of the MUP program, I was able to relate my classroom knowledge to what I was learning on the job. During field assignments, and in the lab, I found that I not only needed a regional understanding but much of what I was doing was community-oriented and place-specific. Policy courses, survey creation and case study review helped enrich the experience.
Why did you choose to study urban planning?
I first became interested in planning before I knew the field even existed. Growing up, I participated in activities with my father to help revitalize our small arts community and the historic downtown. Once I moved away from home, I spent the next decade living and working in a variety of places throughout the globe. The common denominator in each of my experiences became the city where I lived. Engaging with the community was very important to me. I volunteered and worked with organizations that aligned with my interests and I helped in program planning and design. At some point, along the way, I stumbled upon urban planning as a profession at the municipal level, and I realized the degree would help me prepare for the next step I wanted to take in my career.
What advice would you share with someone who is considering a career in urban planning?
Take some courses in urban planning if you have the chance. The field is so broad, you can have very different interests from what I have described, and yet it still might be the perfect fit for you. Volunteer with community organizations and participate in public engagement. Pay attention to places and consider what makes them fail or thrive. Study maps, read books and take walks. Think about how you want to make an impact and at what level. If you find an opportunity to volunteer or work in a related internship, try it out.