Kicking off a career with the Wayfinding Fellowship - Metropolitan Planning Council

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Kicking off a career with the Wayfinding Fellowship

Flickr user Bruce Berrien (CC)

The Wayfinding Fellowship invites a past research assistant to continue navigating their way to a career.

Nothing cures jetlag like a job offer. This March I was on spring break in Tokyo, a trip that was meant to be a last hoorah before graduating with a master’s degree and starting the job hunt. At about 3 a.m. local time—jet lag gets the best of us—I was awake and ready for the day, waiting for the rest of the city to wake up. To kill some time, I checked my e-mail. I wasn’t expecting anything important—everyone knew I was on hiatus—so I was pleasantly surprised to receive an e-mail from Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) Project Manager Breann Gala telling me about MPC’s new Wayfinding Fellowship.

Breann was my supervisor last summer throughout my time as a research assistant at MPC. Together we worked on a number of projects such as the launch of the South Suburban Transit-Oriented Development Loan Fund and a community engagement process in Chicago’s Woodlawn neighborhood. The work was a perfect balance of research and action; also, it exposed me to a range of stakeholders in communities and many of MPC’s partner organizations. I appreciate the approach that MPC takes toward their work because I think it embodies the many elements that are necessary for effective planning. After leaving MPC to return to an Urban and Regional Planning program at Michigan State University, I panicked. What if I’ve peaked? What if I never like a job as much as I liked working for MPC? … What if I don’t get a job at all?!

The Wayfinding Fellowship was a beacon of hope. The position invites a past research assistant, who can no longer afford to volunteer their time, to return to MPC for a six-month program with heightened responsibility at the organization. The position is designed to be mutually beneficial; it helps MPC retain talent and provides the fellow an opportunity to continue learning about urban planning and policy challenges and developing project management skills, while building a professional network to start a career.

I was flattered to receive the nomination from Breann and jumping for joy when I was officially accepted for the fellowship. It’s sometimes said that the harder you work, the luckier you get. In this case, I think that held true and I intend to continue to work hard for MPC in hopes that my lucky streak continues. My main projects as a Wayfinding Fellow will be in the realm of housing and community development, particularly focused on promoting policies and programs that support vibrant communities and expanded housing and transportation options. I will be coordinating a pilot project in South Suburban Cook County to help communities grappling with single-family rental housing implement strategic code enforcement and data collection policies. I will also be supporting MPC’s efforts with Chicago Neighborhoods 2014 by helping to review and catalog past planning documents, which will ultimately inform how the City of Chicago works at the community level moving forward.

If Breann’s e-mail said I needed to leave Tokyo immediately and return to MPC, I would have been on the next flight. I am proud to contribute to MPC’s 80-year-old mission and excited to see where this opportunity leads.


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