Leaders in Sustainability
Grade Level: 1st year Master’s student, Urban Planning and Leaders in Sustainability Program (LiS)
Hometown: I grew up in Minneapolis, started my undergraduate work at the University of Minnesota, finished at the University of New Orleans (one year after Hurricane Katrina), then moved to L.A.
The University of New Orleans Planning and Urban Studies department was very involved in post-Katrina recovery. It was a great experience volunteering and working to revitalize the city.
Why did you choose UCLA? Your city is your lab. When I was reviewing graduate programs in Urban Planning I picked a place I thought would be interesting to work in; my focus is transportation planning. I joke that working in post-Katrina New Orleans wasn’t enough of a challenge—I had to go to Los Angeles to work on transit and transportation related issues. I believe in the value of public education and really support the public university model. I had a transportation planning mentor who recommended UCLA based on the notable researchers who work here and the Urban Planning program’s comprehensive analysis of the subject.
Why did you join LiS? I come from a really interdisciplinary background. I took a lot of geography courses in undergrad. I have been involved with the NASA DEVELOP National Program at the Stennis Space Center outside of New Orleans and at Jet Propulsion Laboratory here in Pasadena. With the DEVELOP program, students work on earth science research projects, mentored by science advisors from NASA and partner agencies and extend research results to local communities. This experience really helped me understand how applied environmental research can shape policy.
What do you like most about this academic program? LiS provides an opportunity to interact with people from different departments. In graduate school you can get tunnel vision and only focus on a single area. LiS is a way to take classes in a variety of disciplines. The leadership aspect is great too. You are encouraged to take an active role and look at the broader picture. LiS brings so many people together—you can really pick each other’s brain and learn a lot.
Assignment you’ve enjoyed: I did a case study in LiS course Business and the Environment, through the Anderson School of Management. We examined Virgin America, a pretty environmentally conscious corporation that is putting 100% of their profits towards biofuel research for commercial airlines. The class was a chance to study something outside my general curriculum. The project involved looking at a huge breadth of business factors: risks and opportunities, market strategy and the organization’s environmental initiatives.
Environment or sustainability issue you are passionate about: I am really passionate about bicycle and pedestrian planning. Short car trips are often the highest polluting. I think we are starting to move from a car culture to becoming more bicycle and pedestrian friendly. We need to orient the built environment for people, rather than cars. Everything is interrelated. For example, encouraging cycling and walking can reduce our dependence on foreign oil and help to tackle the obesity crisis. When people are walking and biking outside the city comes alive—this is good for individuals, for businesses and the environment.
Recreational Activities: Biking of course! My other hobby is photography. I’m taking a class through UCLA Extension about visualizing the urban landscape. This is a fabulous class. It is wonderful to have homework that requires you to go outdoors and capture images.
Favorite aspect of being a Bruin? I love going to football games at the Rose Bowl. The Bruin network is so plugged into the city too, and accomplishing great things. It’s nice to connect with people who are fellow Bruins.
Career Aspirations: I have a lot of career goals. Ideally I’d like to work in the public sector, for the city, and on the private sector side as well, in a consulting capacity, in bicycle and pedestrian planning. I’m interested in design, parking policy and livable street initiatives. I’d like to understand how urban planning works in the real world then return to UCLA to earn a Ph.D. and teach.
Advice for undecided students considering LiS? LiS is a built-in network of students and coordinators who are excellent resources. LiS really helps guide and direct you to subject areas you’re interested in outside your academic program. It gives students a chance to explore what other departments have to offer.
Published: Wednesday, May 12, 2010