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Career Journeys: Urban Planning and Sustainability
Posted by Chinmay Damle on May 30, 2019 10:00:00 AM
My journey to the field of urban planning has been a circuitous one. From a very young age, I always imagined myself helping society, especially the underprivileged, and improving their quality of life. Growing up in India, I witnessed overcrowded streets teeming with litter and extreme poverty daily. I remember meandering through gridlocked traffic on foot to school after a heavy rain with public pathways flooded up to my shins—which, at the time, I thought was standard.
After my family moved to the United States, I was in disbelief and awe of fast-flowing traffic, clean streets, and the relative affluence. This early experience was the spark that stoked my ambition and the desire to understand the world around me, opening a path that would eventually lead to a passion in urban planning.
Getting Started: UCI’s Earth System Science Program
At the beginning of my undergraduate college career at the University of California, Irvine, I decided I wanted to find a degree which I could utilize to benefit the community on a large scale. I found a subject matter that I enjoyed in the Earth System Science (ESS) program. I was able to exercise knowledge that I had gained from the classroom during everyday life, from the weather to the local geology. ESS helped me understand the world around me through chemical, physical, and biological processes.
As I started learning about the natural environment and how humans are negatively affecting these processes, I started to consider potential solutions to mitigate these complex issues. So, I began pursuing a minor in Global Sustainability, which presented the challenges of meeting present needs without comprising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. During a lecture, a professor advised the class, “Of course understanding how nature works is important, but how humans interact with nature and their impact is just as important, if not more.”
I found the sustainability issues related to urban development to be the most riveting, including green architecture, passive heating/cooling, smart cities, and transportation. A well-planned community can minimize environmental impact, while creating a positive impact on the inhabitants of the community and local economy. This achieves a diverse and empowered population where people want to live. This fueled my interest in the built environment.
Career Growth and Learning: FirstCarbon Solutions
After joining FirstCarbon Solutions, my environmental background and a growing familiarity with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) process gave me an insight into how urban development could affect the environment and how a healthy environment can lead a stronger and healthier community. My current position exposes me to the extensive development necessary for urban projects, which sparked an interest in urban planning that has only grown since. I was drawn to the field because it has results that you can see. It is a means to bring about a tangible difference informed by existing infrastructure, and balancing current and future demands from growth. I was particularly attracted to the fields with deteriorating or inadequate infrastructure that are being negatively impacted by a continually growing population, such as transportation, housing, and environment. In these cases, creative and forward thinking must be applied to mitigate existing problems and anticipate those which may arise in the future. I have found FCS to be a great place for me to foster my interests while supporting my future goals.
Leaping Forward: USC’s Master of Urban Planning Program
With this in mind, I have made the decision to continue my urban planning career journey at the University of Southern California. The Master of Urban Planning program allows me to explore my specific interests to a deeper extent, as well as expand upon the strong foundation that I have built during my undergraduate and professional career. My interest in sustainability aligns with the program’s learning outcomes of efficient resource use and solving global crises as a community. I will be able to apply my strengths to study public interaction with the built environment and how this interaction can be made more efficient and beneficial for the community. As an urban planner, I would like to contribute to the public infrastructure, which I was awed by as a child, while continuing my growth in a field that I feel so intrinsically passionate about.
Interested in joining our collaborative team at FirstCarbon Solutions? We are always on the lookout for sharp, energetic team members excited to share their ideas and make an impact. Check out our current career opportunities here to learn more.