Chris Szmurlo

MUP 2016

Chicago IL

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

I am a Planner for the Regional Transit Authority (RTA) in Chicago. I am involved with the organization’s community planning efforts which provide funding and technical assistance to communities that are undertaking transit-oriented development (TOD) plans, zoning code updates, transit improvement plans, TOD developer discussion panels, pedestrian access improvement plans, and other innovative implementation approaches that benefit the regional transit system. The classes at DURP provided me with the theoretical knowledge and practical skill set to effectively comprehend how planning is practiced in the real world.
Prior to working for the RTA, I interned in the planning departments of several cities within Illinois, including Champaign, Urbana, and Park Ridge. My duties ranged from creating maps in ArcGIS to drafting staff reports to doing research on topics related to land use planning.

Why did you choose to study urban planning?

I have always been fascinated with urban areas. Since a young age, the sense of order that exists amid the hustle and bustle of a thriving city has intrigued me. However, it wasn't until I came to UIUC as an undergrad that I realized that urban planning was a major that I could study. I took several classes and was immediately fascinated with what I was learning. I was hooked and decided to pick up urban planning as my second major.

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

Try to get involved in the profession as soon as possible. Don't be shy to send a cold email to any planning agencies or departments that are in close proximity to you. They may need assistance and you can learn a lot from working with them. That is how I got my first summer internship in planning. It sadly was an unpaid opportunity, but quite honestly it got my foot in the door and I obtained a whole range of skills from the experience.

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