What have you been up to since you finished the MURP program?
I was fortunate that what started as a six month internship with the City of Boulder during my second year in MURP transitioned into a full-time Associate Planner position after graduation. Even in the COVID era, I'm lucky to be able to continue to work remotely and contribute to building a sustainable, multi-modal and accessible transportation system for Boulder.
How did you become interested in your field?
I grew up in rural Montana, where car ownership and mode choice was the default. Moving away to college in Washington State without a car, I learned how freeing it was to travel by bike and bus - how much work I could get done while on the bus to class, the deepened appreciation I had for my college city when I took time to slow down and explore by bike, and the cost savings I had when maintaining a car wasn't a focus. After settling on urban planning as my career in undergrad, I had a few years before starting my masters to explore what most interested me about the field. Though I did move to Denver with my car, I quickly discovered that was the most expensive, stressful and un-interesting way to travel. As the equity conversation permeated the start of my coursework at UC Denver - I understood that transportation planning is a nexus field that aligns conversations of health, history and choice. I was (and continue to be) excited to focus on planning through this framework.
What have been the biggest challenges in your career?
My career is still young, so I'm sure there are many challenges ahead! At this point, a major challenge particularly in the COVID era is to explain budgetary shortfalls to my workplace community - project delays, minor repairs foregone for major ones, and staff stretched thin with already full workloads. Explaining city standards when they go against what community members may intuit as their own health and safety is tricky to navigate.
What do you find most rewarding about your career?
Making community members' day to day experiences getting from A to B (for recreation, work or social interaction) safer and more enjoyable. I particularly enjoy engaging with kids, parents, older community members and people with disabilities, as they have unique challenges and needs to ensure the can safely navigate the city.
In what ways has your MURP degree had an impact on your career and who you are today?
MURP was a foundation for me - new to Colorado on new to living in a big city - it provided a social and learning basis for my career growth. The opportunities I had as a student to plug in to conferences, conversations about planning, professional organizations and networking events - on top of my coursework - all allowed me to root into my passions in the field.
What would you say to a prospective student that is considering CU Denver's MURP program?
Go for it! A masters degree is a good investment anywhere, but pursuing a planning degree in Denver allows you insights through the city lens you study in, and that's hard to match.
What was your favorite part about your time at CU Denver?
Just being utterly steeped in planning and feeling like I happily never fully took that lens off - not just in classes or studio, but in how I viewed the city, the conversations I had with non-planning friends, the news I read and more.
Do you have any advice for recent MURP graduates looking to break into the planning field?
Be bold in pursuing the field of planning you're interested in and sell why you are the fit an employer is looking for. But, if you don't land your dream job right away, don't panic either. There's a lot to learn even from a challenging position or one that is outside your typical interests.