To view Jack's paper (co-authored with Jessica Page), Portland and Oklahoma City: A comparative case study of economic strength in high growth cities, click here. The paper was prepared for the required specialization course UPP 531, Economic Development II: Planning.
What is your academic and work background? What did you do before enrolling in the MUPP program at UIC?
In 2006, I completed a bachelor’s degree in Comparative Literature at the University of Massachusetts–Amherst. After college, I was looking to move to an interesting city outside of the northeast, and Chicago seemed both culturally vibrant and affordable. After moving to Chicago, I worked in the publishing industry for three years as an editor. On the side, I was working on a novel, which at this moment stands at 200 pages, has yet to be completed, and may never be.
What attracted you to planning and made you decide you
wanted to be a planner?
I have always loved geography and politics. I knew when I came out of college that I did not know what I wanted to be, and felt it necessary to take time to learn about different careers. At the age of 23, I met someone who graduated from CUPPA in 2003, who told me about their career as a planner working at CMAP, and it immediately seemed like something that I wanted to do. I love interdisciplinary topics, and planning seemed to combine so many of my interests: geography, politics, economics, design, sustainability, and transportation. Most importantly, it was an actual path, which seemed extremely attractive to someone who had come out of a liberal arts degree program with very little direction regarding where to go career–wise. At the same time however, while it was an actual path, it seemed clear that one could do many different things in the field of planning, so there was opportunity for reinvention.
Additionally, I have always been interested in how post–industrial cities redevelop. Where I grew up in New England, there are many old mill cities that have successfully revitalized and ones that are still stagnant. The same is obviously true in the Midwest. I came to realize that, as a planner, I could have a positive impact on post–industrial cities, by developing the expertise to help generate new economic activity, remediate contaminated land, and preserve quality housing.
Why did you want to study planning at UIC?
Not being from Chicago, I felt that I owed it to myself to do a national search. I ended up getting into 6 schools, and had some very tough decisions to make. I knew I wanted to study economic development, and had been told that UIC had a very strong program for that. Ultimately though, it came down to the fact that I thought the school had a better feel than some other programs. Students seemed really active, and immersed in the city, whereas in some other programs that I visited, students seemed to spend more time on campus than in the field (and some of those campuses are far from urban areas). Additionally, UIC is the type of place where if you want to distinguish yourself, you have to work really hard and be self–directed, which is how UMass was, and that is a setting that I have grown to prefer.
What are some of the highlights of your time as a student--classes, projects, internships, volunteer involvement?
There have been a lot of highlights: helping to organize the 2011 Urban Innovation Symposium; serving as the UPPSA Board secretary; my 506 studio class in the Lake Calumet District, which was a great opportunity to learn about redeveloping a post–industrial area; all of the economic development courses that I have been able to take; my social enterprise internship at EdgeAlliance, where I learned a lot about financing affordable housing projects; my master’s project on brownfield redevelopment in Chicago’s south suburbs, and my GIS mapping project that I conducted for ChicagoFoodTrucks.com, where I charted out opportunities for food truck operation in Chicago’s stingy regulatory climate.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
Ultimately, I want to be working in a post–industrial area, where I’d ideally get to do a mix of things: economic development, brownfield redevelopment, affordable housing, etc. Increasingly, I am becoming interested in development finance and implementation, which is a side of planning that I would like to be involved with in my career. Ideally, I would also like to get to an opportunity to work in a variety of settings: public sector, private consulting firms, and not–for–profits. Most importantly though, where ever I end up will hopefully be a place where I can learn and grow.