Can you describe your work and how your planning degree contributes to it?
As a planner for Metra, my work primarily focuses on working with local municipalities and other stakeholders to help identify ways Metra can help them meet their planning goals, whether that's through new transit-oriented developments or through more efficient station-area operations, such as changes in parking or pedestrian access to their Metra station. My UIC education is very valuable for providing a mix of "hard science" skills - such as data processing and GIS analysis - and the "soft science" skills required for public outreach, community engagement, and working with both stakeholders and staff.
What do you like most about your current job or related work in planning?
Having grown up in the Chicago suburbs, working as a planner in the Chicago area is extremely valuable and rewarding. Suburban communities often deal with greater challenges in regards to transportation planning than more urban areas where public transit is frequent and accessible, and thus suburbs often require more innovative collaborations and solutions to maximize limited funding sources. By helping suburban communities diversify their transportation options for their residents and businesses, we can make our suburbs more sustainable and directly contribute to the health and happiness of millions of regional residents.
What advice do you wish you had gotten as a MUPP or, conversely, what advice would you give to young planners today?
Regardless of where you end up working, whether it's a government job or at a non-profit or in the private sector, planning is ultimately a form of marketing: the best laid plans will not be effective if people are not excited and motivated by the plan. A successful planner needs to be able to "sell" their plans to constituents and other stakeholders, so seek out opportunities to improve your public speaking, writing, and graphic design skills.