To view Jen's paper, Employment Forecasts for Ohio's Primary Metals Manufacturing and Administrative and Support Services Industries, 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 finishing my undergrad degree in geography and psychology, I worked as a research assistant at the Housing Assistance Council in Washington, DC, the only organization that focuses specifically on rural housing issues at the national level. I eventually decided to pursue a lifelong goal to live abroad and ended up serving in the U.S. Peace Corps as a TEFL Teacher Trainer in Nicaragua. I spent my 27 months working one-on-one with local English teachers, organizing training workshops, and doing other projects around my community and with volunteers around the country. Afterwards, I returned my job in DC while I applied to grad school and then moved to Chicago!
What attracted you to planning and made you decide you
wanted to be a planner?
When I started undergrad I wanted to help people by way of improving their mental health. Eventually, my geography classes inspired me to think about helping people at a broader level, which I saw could be done through planning and development of communities, cities, and regions. I finally made the decision to pursue a planning degree when I came home from Nicaragua to a country with resources and wealth but that was still home to so many people who struggled to live day-to-day.
Why did you want to study planning at UIC?
I only applied to graduate schools located in places I would want to live in after I had completed the degree and on that scale Chicago was one of my top picks because it would allow me to move closer to home while still living in a vibrant urban area. However, the most important factor was that UIC’s program is strong in my chief areas of interest: community and economic development.
What are some of the highlights of your time as a student--classes, projects, internships, volunteer involvement?
The highlights for me include the hands-on learning through the planning studios and other classes, helping to organize events like the Urban Innovation Symposium that allowed me to interact with professionals doing amazing work, and the unparalleled opportunities to get to know corners of the city of Chicago that even long-time residents have never visited. Above all, my involvement with the student association has provided opportunities to get to better know my fellow students, professors, and working professionals.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
In five years I hope to be working in either community reinvestment or economic development consulting. One of the aspects of Peace Corps that I most enjoyed was managing my own projects so I would like to be a project manager, with the eventual goal of managing a team.