Every month, the APA-IL will turn the spotlight on members who are making an impact in Illinois urban planning and with the APA-IL. These members exemplify the APA-IL's determination to Make Great Communities for All in Illinois!
This month, we talk with...
Chicago Loop Alliance, Director of Planning
Tell us a little about yourself.
If you ask me where I'm from I'll always say Cleveland, but I was actually born in New York City. When I was just a toddler, my parents decided it was time to leave the city after a series of challenging work situations and a burglary that left us with an empty home. I eventually landed in suburban Cleveland in a subdivision with vehemently anti-city parents.
Much to their surprise, I discovered a love for urban planning through a youth program run by the Cleveland Leadership Center. I learned that great urban planning can make all of the things my parents loved about our suburb (safety, outdoor space, great schools, affordability) a part of urban life. My love for cities grew even more when I realized that I didn't have to be the only non-white person wherever I went, and that the sense of otherness I felt as a child didn't have to be part of my life forever. I became committed to equity and inclusion in all of my planning work.
I have a Bachelor's in City and Regional Planning from Ohio State University and a Master's in Urban Planning and Policy from University of Illinois at Chicago. I have worked in municipal planning for the City of North Olmsted (my hometown) and as a fellow for economic development organization One Columbus (formerly Columbus 2020). Currently, I work at the Chicago Loop Alliance as Director of Planning, where I oversee the creation of plans and economic reports, and implement our diverse placemaking portfolio.
What are some of your current or notable projects?
Currently, I am working on the Elevate State corridor plan for State Street in the Chicago Loop. Our last plan for the street was created in 1987, so I am very grateful to be managing such an exciting project in a place as historic as the Chicago Loop. I also manage our placemaking programs, like the award-winning ACTIVATE series which closes down alleys in the Chicago Loop every summer to host large-scale pop-up art events. They are a great intersection of urban planning and art, which brings some of my hobbies into my job.
How have you been involved with the APA-IL?
Chair of the Diversity Equity and Inclusion Committee (2020)
What advice would you give to a new hire entering the field?
To other women in the field - don't be afraid to apply for jobs that you are interested in. A report by Hewlett Packard found that women tend to apply for jobs only when they meet 100% of the qualifications, while men apply for jobs when they meet only 60%. So much of planning is about creative problem solving and your ability to learn and adapt. Plus, many planning skills are best learned on the job. Push yourself out of your comfort zone and apply anyway. You'll either get the job and learn a ton, or figure out which skills need some sharpening.
The HP report was internal but is frequently referenced. If you're interested in reading more, check out this popular Harvard Business Review Article.