Can you describe your work and how your planning degree contributes to it?
Many of the courses in the program, especially the special topic courses, are very practical. I definitely use what I learned in my planning job today. You never know when a course will catch your interest and lead to a good opportunity. I randomly took a complete streets course while in grad school and loved it. So I applied for an internship doing pedestrian and bike planning with project examples from that course, and I still work at that organization today as a transportation planner.
What do you like most about your current job or related work in planning?
Working as a planner within a nonprofit advocacy organization allows me the freedom to innovate and come up with new ways to do our planning projects. I enjoy working with an interdisciplinary team on many different types of projects around the Chicago region. Every day, project and community is different.
What advice do you wish you had gotten as a MUPP or, conversely, what advice would you give to young planners today?
Take every opportunity to speak up: in class, giving presentations, during meetings, and at your first planning job or internship. This is a great skill to begin developing while you're still in the program. As a working planner, you most likely WILL have to do public speaking. So don't just let the loud, entertaining classmates always take the main speaking roles in projects, even if you're shy. Public speaking is a skill that anyone can learn with practice. Sometimes presentations will go well and sometimes they won't, but it's all a learning experience.
Also, don't be afraid to speak up during meetings at your first planning job. Even though you don't have the institutional knowledge yet, you bring a unique and fresh perspective as someone who has just come from the university environment where you had the opportunity to learn from many other planners, professors and students about the latest best practices. When I was hired as a full time planner from an intern, my deputy director told me that I bring a fresh perspective and that's good. But I think it took me a while to realize that can be just as important of a contribution as long-time institutional knowledge. After working there a few years, I see it. I still learn a lot from our interns. UIC MUPPs are brilliant.