UPPSA takes planning school beyond the classroom.  
We provide opportunities for professional, academic, social, and philanthropic events, and serve as a vehicle for student input into the MUPP program administration.  In a planning program that's one of the largest in the nation, UPPSA helps students connect, interact, and engage. We're always looking for new opportunities, events, and volunteers -- contact us anytime!

Past UPPSA Board Representatives: 

2016-2017 Board Representatives

Michael Sewall

Hometown: Western Springs, IL

Concentration: Community Development

Planning Interests: Participatory planning and democracy, neighborhood planning, bicycle advocacy, housing policy, commercial districts, equity and justice.

Hobbies: Biking, cooking, traveling, trying new beers, watching classic movies, and hanging out with my parakeet, R2D2.

Michael grew up in the western suburbs of Chicago and got his bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri, where he led an award-winning student newspaper. For about four years after college, he ran community news websites throughout the Chicago suburbs before moving to the city. His interest in urban planning developed after getting involved in his neighborhood association, the West Lakeview Neighbors. He has worked as an intern at the Active Transportation Alliance, the Lakeview Chamber of Commerce, and the Village of Brookfield's Community and Economic Development Department.


Jeff Ryan

Hometown: Manhattan, KS

Concentration: International/Community Development

Planning Interests: International development, community development, and planning issues related to rural communities.

Hobbies: Traveling, reading, sailing, and writing

Jeff was born and raised in Kansas and ended up living overseas for a few years. He eventually returned to Kansas to complete his bachelor’s degrees in History, Anthropology, and Global/International studies at the University of Kansas, and later moved to Chicago to study planning at UIC. Jeff’s interests are varied, with research interests including refugee resettlement, public safety and security issues, rural development, agriculture policy, and alternative democratic practices.  Jeff is currently working as a consultant for the West Town Chamber of Commerce, and as an intern for Hickey and Associates.  

Divyanga Ganesh
APA-IL Student Representative

Hometown: Mumbai, India

Concentration: Transportation

Planning Interests: Trip generation and Fare Planning, Economic and Strategic Planning, GIS, congestion management.
Hobbies: Singing, playing sports, traveling, photography, making DIY objects.

D (Divyanga) was born and brought up in India. She completed her Bachelor's in Architecture from Chennai, India. During her academic study, she had the opportunity to work with an NGO called Transparent Chennai, where she was involved in slum-redevelopment project. After completing her undergraduate degree, she moved to Bangalore, where she was working on few architectural projects. Later she moved to Mumbai and worked as a part-time lecturer at D.Y.Patil College (Mumbai University) and also worked as a neighborhood planner. She was also one among the master planners for Kolhapur Film City project, Mumbai, India. Having been exposed to quite a few large-scale projects, she wanted to stretch her knowledge into understanding the core of city planning, which made her decide to pursue Urban Planning at UIC. Chicago gave her exposure by providing internship opportunities at Hickey and Associates and the RTA.

Jaclyn Tidwell
Symposium Co-Coordinator

Hometown: Decatur, IL

Concentration: Community Development

Planning Interests:  Municipal and neighborhood planning, arts and culture in community development; small business development; youth programs; commercial corridor planning, equity and justice.

Hobbies:  Traveling, yoga, reading, hosting, arts and culture, exploring Chicago, connecting with friends over a good cup of coffee.

Though Jaclyn was born and raised in central Illinois, she called Nashville, Tennessee home for 10 years prior to moving to Chicago this past summer. In her past role at the Arts & Business Council Nashville, Jaclyn developed three year-round projects that connected volunteers with low-income residents to provide education, mentorship, and support. A highlight was designing Periscope, a small business incubation program that gives training and economic opportunity to artists. Jaclyn also managed relationships with a range of community partners including the Mayor’s Office of Economic and Community Development, The Entrepreneur Center, Metro Nashville Arts Commission, The Land Trust for Tennessee, and the Center for Nonprofit Management.


In the Nashville theat​re​ community, Jaclyn worked as an actor, writer, and organizer as well as co-founding the inaugural Sideshow Fringe Festival, a progressive four-day performing arts event, and originating neighborhood-based arts engagement projects including the recent Local's Cut: Edgehill storytelling piece, a recipient of the Metro Nashville THRIVE Individual Artist Award. Jaclyn also served weekly as a mentor at the Oasis Center REAL Program, a youth intervention program for teenage men caught in the juvenile justice system. Jaclyn holds a B.A. in Political Science and Theatre Performance from Belmont University.


Jo Pena
First-Year Representative 

Hometown: Miami, FL
Concentration: Environmental Planning and Policy
Planning Interests: Sustainable development, climate resiliency and adaptation, livability and equity.
Hobbies: Cooking, reading, container gardening, and exploring Chicago.

Originally from Florida, Jo moved to Chicago to continue learning about urban spaces and to finally experience all four seasons. She concentrated in urban studies while pursuing dual degrees in environmental science and policy and sociology at the University of South Florida. Jo is interested in how planning policies impact quality of life in cities, particularly in relation to environmental and social systems. She has worked as an intern at the Center for Urban Transportation Research and the Hillsborough County Planning Commission. Jo is currently a research assistant at CUPPA under Dr. Kate Lowe.

Colleen Ma
Vice President

Hometown: San Francisco, CA

Concentration: Community Development/International Development

Planning Interests: Affordable housing, supportive housing, social justice, evaluation programs, nonprofit and infrastructural programming

Hobbies: Bouldering, camping/backpacking/hiking, dog-stalking, eating, and baking in excess.

Colleen is a native San Franciscan whose professional background is in social work, marketing, and community organizing. In Chicago, she has worked with SSAs, nonprofit housing advocacy groups, and with housing developers. Colleen has also worked as a case manager and service coordinator for re-entry, homeless, and substance abuse populations in San Francisco, and has been involved in community organizing, labor rights, marketing, early childhood education in Los Angeles. She attended UCLA for her undergraduate degree in Geography/Environmental Studies with minors in labor and workplace studies and urban and regional studies.

Michael Kenny

Hometown: Chicago, IL

Concentration: Transportation

Planning Interests: Transit planning, complete streets, GIS, travel demand modeling

Hobbies: Baseball, cycling, running, singing, travel


Michael was born and raised in Downtown Chicago. He spent his college career planning for law school, but after working as a paralegal for two years decided to pursue a different career path. His passion for public transit issues in Chicago, as well as his many hours spent taking the 'L' to and from school, drew him into the world of urban planning. He hopes to encourage the use of alternative modes of transportation and create sustainable and equitable urban transportation systems. He finally got his driver's license at age 24, just in case.

Alvaro Villagran
Alumni Relations Officer

Hometown: Buenos Aires, Argentina 
Concentration: Economic Development and Transportation

Planning Interests: Equity and Sustainability in Transportation;  Public Transit Management; Complete Streets; Economic Development; Transit Oriented Development; Transportation Planning for Global Cities
Hobbies: Traveling, photography, cooking, playing sports, and sharing good conversations.

Alvaro was born and raised in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and moved to Chicago in 2011. Alvaro has a background in history and political science, and he holds a B.A. from Universidad Torcuato Di Tella and a M.A. from Northwestern University. Alvaro is a Transportation Improvement Program intern at the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning.

Alex Mistak
Symposium Co-Coordinator

Hometown: Chicago, IL 
Concentration: Economic Development, GSAV Certificate

Planning Interests: Development, Research and Analysis, Public Sociology
Hobbies: Bicycling, Yin Yoga, reading, researching, playing guitar/singing, traveling, volunteering, attending random events in Chicago, learning French

Alex's career interests began as an undergraduate, majoring in Sociology and minoring in Marketing and Psychology. Outside of the classroom, Alex has held many leadership positions including: Phi Theta Kappa (Honors Society) President, Gustafson Scholar, Women's Civic Institute member, Alternative Spring Break Site Coordinator & Leader (with Grow Memphis), and as a tutor (for students with learning disabilities for two years and in English abroad- Suresnes, France).


She is happy to be a part of the urban planning and policy program at UIC, which provides an opportunity to play with data and kick-start a meaningful career that can make a difference in the lives of others.


Since beginning the MUPP program she has interned with Chicago Anchors for a Strong Economy at World Business Chicago, the West Central Association (West Loop Chamber of Commerce), and Project Forward, aided Dr. Kate Lowe as a research assistant, and Co-chaired with the 2016 Urban Symposium.

Enrique Castillo
Chief Activities Officer

Hometown: Garden City, KS

Concentration: Community Development

Planning Interests: Affordable housing, municipal and neighborhood planning, and historic preservation. 
Hobbies: Triathlons, watching sporting events, reading, karaoke and volunteering. 


Enrique grew up in Garden City which is in rural southwest Kansas. He completed his undergraduate degree at Metro State University of Denver in Chicano/a Studies. His background includes working in the community through various non-profits and supporting community programs. Before starting the program, Enrique worked in higher education promoting post-secondary education in Chicago's communities. Recently he had the opportunity to intern at Metropolitan Planning Council. There he worked on the Great Rivers Project, where he focused primarily on stakeholder outreach and engagement, and research.