To view Will's project, Oak Park Village, Illinois: Community Profile, click here. The project was prepared for the required core course UPP 502, Planning Skills.
What is your academic and work background? What did you do before enrolling in the MUPP program at UIC?
Before returning to school for my masters in planning, I worked for 3 years in the airline industry as a marketing and business analyst (stemming from an undergraduate degree in business). I specifically worked on projects to improve efficiency in our reservations operations and successfully merge the operations of two major carriers.
What attracted you to planning and made you decide you
wanted to be a planner?
Planning is a unique profession that lets strategic thinkers and creative minds consider broadly how we interact with our environment. We consider multiple perspectives and include numerous stakeholders. We absolutely must have a diverse range of skills and tools at our disposal. We are not necessarily experts in one particular field, but hold interdisciplinary knowledge about many. And our recommendations as planners will very likely shape the environment in which people live their lives. So, it is a profession that also requires careful deliberation and accountability. It is fulfilling, constantly changing, and very challenging. And so as I learned about the profession I became more intrigued until I finally pulled the trigger, enlisting in a summer program at Harvard that confirmed my desire to switch careers.
Why did you want to study planning at UIC?
I actually began study toward my master degree in planning at the University of Southern California. There, I was impressed by the highly experienced staff and the level of background and theory we received in our courses; however, the programmed lacked a hands-on focus and was specifically oriented toward planning in Southern California. As a long-time resident of the Midwest and someone with vested interest in the future of our Chicago region, I found that UIC’s program would much better prepare me to practice planning in the heart of the nation while allowing me to connect with professionals that could help guide my interests and career. So, I transferred mid-degree and have been thrilled with the program.
What are some of the highlights of your time as a student--classes, projects, internships, volunteer involvement?
I was lucky to have the opportunity to work in Mayor Emanuel’s Office as a City of Chicago Mayoral Fellow during the summer of 2011. It was a great experience giving me some training on the policy side of planning. There, I helped with numerous projects that have since been realized by the administration, which has had a profound effect on my sense of contribution to the Chicago area. Internships like this really allow you to make links between the skills we learn in grad school and their practical application to real-world projects.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
I want to continue to develop my technical skills while working on projects that encourage innovative solutions for livable communities in the context of growth in urban centers, decline in suburban peripheries, and the resulting transportation network constraints. I believe the pace and drive of the private sector will help me advance more quickly, at first. After 5 years and AICP certification, I hope to be either working on the implementation of innovate transportation and land use projects in the private sector, or working to create partnerships and policies to encourage such implementation within the public sector.