I did not find urban planning; it found me. I was majoring in Political Science when I saw a wrapped bus advertising “Smart and Sustainable Cities,” and, eager to learn more, I scheduled an advising session. Following a conversation with Chris LaPlante, I added SSC and began my journey as a dual degree student. From my first SPIA class, I was able to bridge both disciplines and bring a unique perspective to my planning classes. Studying urban planning means learning about the urban environment and the many different types of people and systems that play a role in cities.
I find it fitting that my VT Smart & Sustainable Cities classroom experience has been unique and diverse, similar to a city itself. Regularly, I interact with different types of people in my SPIA classes. I learned about urban infrastructure sitting next to a classmate whose second major was public health, researched local supply chains alongside green engineering and GIS minors, and strategized collaborative planning methods with a classmate passionate about economics. My involvement throughout undergrad has been unique too, from my dual degree combination to a study abroad in Switzerland and Ethiopia, to founding a service non-profit organization. These diverse experiences, coupled with faculty and peer interactions at VT, have allowed me to grow. When classes went online during the pandemic, I took a semester-long co-op at a regional planning commission, which continued into an additional year of interning. I applied my classroom knowledge to real-world scenarios and my passion for service by utilizing equitable and inclusive planning practices.
My Virginia Tech classes and experiences inspired me to continue learning. I applied to multiple urban planning master’s programs, but the Architecture School at the University of Virginia stood out to me. UVA’s faculty research topics, historic preservation certificate, and emphasis on visual aids to communicate ideas were some of the many features that attracted me to their program. Although I do not know the specifics of the selection process, based on my application experience, UVA was interested in well-rounded individuals who could address their academic and community contributions. This spring, I became the first non-UVA student accepted into their Master of Urban + Environmental Planning +1 program. My acceptance is a result of careful course selection at Virginia Tech as well as additional course planning guidance from the UVA Advisor to fill requirements.
While my acceptance into the +1 program wasn’t traditional and was something I sought out individually, it is exciting to see that this is an opportunity that will become more accessible in the coming years. I am honored to serve as a trailblazer for the future partnership between Virginia Tech and the University of Virginia Urban Planning programs. As I begin a new chapter at UVA’s Architecture School, I express my gratitude to Virginia Tech and SPIA for pushing me to explore, ask questions, and learn from others.