To view Jessica's project (co-authored with Jack Eskin), 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?
After completing my Bachelors degree in Business Administration, I started my career in the financial services sector helping manage the corporate budget at LaSalle Bank. Always looking for a challenge, I moved from banking into the risk management field and joined the Aon Corporation as a risk management consultant. At Aon I also had the opportunity to work in the global marketing group as a project manager facilitating and implementing the global marketing strategy for my business group.
What attracted you to planning and made you decide you
wanted to be a planner?
I was born and raised in a relatively affluent area in Fairfax County. Virginia, and was used to my community looking clean and vibrant. However, when I purchased a condominium in Chicago’s Washington Park neighborhood, the community was substantially different than that of my childhood. Surveying my neighborhood - cramped corner liquor stores, dilapidated buildings boarded and padlocked, whole city blocks barren except for unpaired socks and cigarette butts - I concluded that we deserved better than disinvestment and neglect, especially when other communities on the northern end of the city were enjoying vibrant neighborhoods and local economies. This stark reality and my sincere desire to see my community change for the better ignited my interest in urban planning and economic development. Learning about the decision-making processes and challenges involved in the revitalization of an area is paramount to my being able to drive change in the development of communities such as my own.
Why did you want to study planning at UIC?
UIC is in the heart of Chicago, one of the most interesting urban environments in the country. In addition, I was attracted to the numerous renowned research centers, such as the Center for Urban Economic Development available within CUPPA that provided an opportunity for additional hands-on learning. Further, when I spoke to several alumni of the MUPP program, they all spoke highly of their experiences.
What are some of the highlights of your time as a student--classes, projects, internships, volunteer involvement?
I have really enjoyed the challenge of my economic development 1 and 2 classes; the material was always thought provoking and sparked interesting conversation among classmates and, the professor. Additionally, the Commercial Strip Revitalization studio course has been a favorite; it has provided the opportunity to not only learn new tools for addressing redevelopment issues but also utilize the concepts I have learned in previous classes.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
My long-term career goal is to do community and economic development consulting so I can create and help implement comprehensive urban economic redevelopment strategies nationally. I envision that my redevelopment plans will be inclusionary and economically sustainable, addressing community wealth building strategies as well as policy initiatives.