John Fellows - Master of Urban Planning, 1997
Planning and Development Services
Planning Division
City of Columbia
Columbia, SC

Master of Urban Planning, 1997
Master of Architecture, 1997

What advice do you have to pass on to new Masters of Urban Planning students?

The programs, professors, and opportunities of the MUP program provided me with a significant foundation of skills, which I call upon often. My advice for new MUP students is to take a variety of classes, research various topics throughout your time in the program, and gain skills in public speaking and engagement all of which will prepare yourself for a career that may require diverse skills at any moment. I am fortunate that my career path has let me work with great citizens, colleagues, developers, educators, and elected officials. My skills in urban design, land use, public policy, public participation, active transportation, and many other skills developed during my master program are called upon, if not daily, then weekly, and my decisions are influenced by the foundation received in the MUP program at UW-Milwaukee.

What impact do you, as an Urban Planner, have on your community?

My journey to planning is not unlike those of many—a winding path—but this path has always been about bringing people together, influencing the form of place and sharing knowledge and experiences of place with others. As a planner/urban designer, the impact that I have on a community comes in both small and larger brush strokes. It might be weeks spent trying to secure funds for one block of sidewalk, or bringing a neighborhood together to discuss the future of an urban commercial corridor. Almost every day I have the ability to have personal satisfaction from the work that I do. This satisfaction occurs as one would expect, but sometimes you have to look for it. It might be the friendly smile of citizen who thanks you for something you have done; it might be the dedication of a new public plaza, bike lane, restored house; or maybe a return visit to a community where you worked in years past and seeing that the line in a master plan labeled “Greenway” is now built and used by many.

What does your typical day look like?

I currently oversee a planning division of eight planners with a focus on Long Range Planning (Comprehensive and Neighborhood), Annexation, Urban Design, Historic Preservation, and Active Transportation (bike and pedestrian). In this role, I bring people and disciplines together to shape, create, design, and influence the physical form of places where people live, play and participate in society—it can range from a land use plan to the design of a cycle track. I assist, develop, influence, and coordinate public policy related to land use, public space, preservation, physical and economic growth, transportation, and the general form of a community. I help citizens and developers navigate through unfamiliar public policy and regulatory processes so that they may influence the form of their community.

Dave Steele - Master of Urban Planning, 2004
Dave Steele
President & CEO
Partners Advancing Values in Education (PAVE)
Milwaukee, WI

Master of Urban Planning, 2004

What advice do you have to pass on to new Masters of Urban Planning students?

After receiving my bachelor’s degree in Political Science from UW Madison in 2000, I was looking for a career path where I could make a meaningful difference in solving some of our society’s greatest problems. I wasn’t sure what career path that would be, but I knew that working in politics was not for me. Eventually, I found planning, and the UWM program in particular, and was immediately impressed with the impact that SARUP’s faculty had on the community outside of the ivory tower. As a graduate student, I felt fortunate to be a part of this impact. The most important learning that happened in graduate school was not in the classroom, but out in the field, helping solve real world problems in the fascinating, often challenging, but never boring environment of Milwaukee.

What impact do you, as an Urban Planner, have on your community?

PAVE is a non-profit organization whose mission is to make excellent educational opportunities possible for families in Milwaukee. We fulfill this mission by working to improve the organizational capacity of the 42 independent schools in our network. Our schools are in the city of Milwaukee and serve low-income families. The quality of public education in Milwaukee is a critical issue in retaining and attracting residents and businesses, and we have an ethical responsibility to be sure all Milwaukee children get a good education.

What does your typical day look like?

Working in partnership with my board of directors, I set the strategic direction of the organization and implement programming to achieve our goals. I am responsible for hiring and leading a team of professionals who make our mission real in the schools they serve. I raise significant resources from foundations and community members to sustain our organization. While my career path hasn’t taken the traditional route of most urban planners, I draw upon the skills I learned and experiences I had at SARUP every day to do my job. Urban planning is ultimately about using data and systematic thinking to tackle problems, and my job is essentially problem solving. Relying on the discipline I gained in grad school, I work to problem solve both within my own organization and among the schools in our network, all toward the larger mission of positively impacting K-12 education in our city.

Michael Ostrowski - Master of Urban Planning, 2008
Michael Ostrowski
Director of Community Development
Executive Director of the Redevelopment Authority
City of Stevens Point
Stevens Point, WI

Master of Urban Planning, 2008
Master of Public Administration, 2008

What advice do you have to pass on to new Masters of Urban Planning students?

When I applied for graduate school, I initially intended to only pursue a Masters of Public Administration, with a focus on general leadership in the public sector. However, after hearing from a friend who regretted not doing the dual MPA/MUP program, but instead only an MPA, I applied for and was accepted to the dual MPA/MUP program. I have found that both programs have given me applicable skills for working in the area of urban planning and development. Public policy and analysis curriculum, as well as focus in planning theories and processes, are critical in seeing how one could make a difference for their community, especially on a personal level with community residents. Currently, my position and related duties are similar to what I studied at UWM, especially in the area of public policy analysis and public input in the planning process.

What impact do you, as an Urban Planner, have on your community?

I lead efforts to balance the promotion of a business-friendly environment with the interest of promoting and improving the overall quality of life of our community. I am particularly proud of a project that involved revitalizing a blighted downtown shopping mall into a vibrant area which now is home to a new technical college campus, a hotel and new office space. Committing to active engagement by the public throughout the process was key to reimagining this space into an area that could again be vibrant. I could not be more proud of the team approach taken by my department, other city leadership, the leaders of the existing area businesses, and the new development leaders to see this project reach fruition.

What does your typical day look like?

I am responsible for directing all community development-related activities for this central Wisconsin city, which has a population of approximately 27,000. Activities focus on serving existing employers, including a state university, businesses in the insurance and software development industries, as well as other large and small employers, by attracting new employers and serving the development needs of city residents. My responsibilities include leading economic development efforts involving business retention, expansion, and attraction efforts, planning and zoning responsibilities, creation and implementation of the comprehensive plan goals and policies, historic preservation efforts, and supervision of our departmental staff.

Sam Leichtling - Master of Urban Planning, 2009
Sam Leichtling
City of Milwaukee
Department of City Development
Milwaukee, WI

Master of Urban Planning, 2009
Master of Public Administration, 2009

What advice do you have to pass on to new Masters of Urban Planning students?

I enrolled in the graduate program at UWM because I knew I wanted to work in local government here in my hometown. I didn’t know exactly what that would look like but guessed correctly that with its commitment to engaging in local issues, UWM would help me develop the skills and best position me to take on whatever challenging roles came my way.

What impact do you, as an Urban Planner, have on your community?

Working for DCD allows me to be involved in a wide variety of projects that all have the goal of improving City neighborhoods and increasing economic opportunities for all Milwaukee residents. The work we do in City government is directly linked to quality of life for our residents and working in local government provides a unique opportunity to have a positive impact on the community.

What does your typical day look like?

I manage our long range planning team, responsible for a variety of strategic planning projects and studies, including developing neighborhood and commercial corridor strategic action plans, and supporting the implementation of “Growing Prosperity,” Milwaukee’s economic growth plan. There is an immense personal satisfaction from being involved in projects or initiatives where government “gets it right” and positive change follows. For me, this has included being involved in launching the City of Milwaukee’s signature summer youth jobs program that has since provided a “first job” for more than 25,000 Milwaukee youth, helping develop the City’s comprehensive response to the foreclosure crisis, competing for and deploying tens of millions of dollars of federal funds to create 1,000+ affordable housing units at formerly foreclosed or abandoned properties, and working to update our City’s comprehensive plan to reflect the evolving vision residents have for their neighborhoods.

Penelope Gabor - Master of Urban Planning, 2011
Penelope Gabor Field Supervisor Franklin Energy Seattle, WA
Penelope Gabor
Field Supervisor
Franklin Energy
Seattle, WA

Master of Urban Planning, 2011
Master of Public Administration, 2011

What impact do you, as an Urban Planner, have on your community?

A decade of city planning and energy efficiency management translates as valuable time spent making communities brighter. Most people, especially residents and business owners, are not savvy on how they are using energy to run their home or business. I’ve impacted over 1,000 customers by helping them understand and manage their energy usage through conservation and efficiency upgrades. Now I’m in a position of influencing a team of Energy Experts to provide great customer service and energy guidance, while at the same time reaching ambitious savings goals. I am incredibly fortunate to have an education and the experiences that I’ve had. Also, because of my concern about the footprint of a very resource-heavy industrialized nation, I need to do what I can to leave the planet better than how I found it. An effective way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to combat climate change is through energy efficiency and conservation. Therefore, I have a very important role in impacting communities in aspects from the air we breathe and the lowering of carbon pollution, to helping families and businesses save money.

What does your typical day look like?

I lead a team of residential field energy specialists that equip customers with tools and knowledge to save energy dollars. As an Energy Advisor, I’ve consulted over 450 business customers and about 1,000 residential customers to help influence positive behavior changes and decision making surrounding energy efficiency. Additionally, I’ve been fortunate to perform energy assessments on the Milwaukee Art Museum, Grand Avenue Mall, and various manufacturing facilities, and have provided assistance to mom and pop businesses throughout Southeastern Wisconsin.

What advice do you have to pass on to new Masters of Urban Planning students?

Critical thinking, data analysis, project management, collaboration and facilitation are several of the skills that I apply daily that were developed in my MUP classes. If you have a Masters degree in urban planning from UW-Milwaukee, the limits are endless. The project-based classes using real life challenges and actual clients to create solutions gave me strong footing in my career that applies in many fields in this global economy. Also, the public speaking practice in MUP classes has greatly helped in my career. My advice for students is to be adaptable, look at challenges positively, and use your computer and collaboration skills to create efficiencies and improve the benefit to the end-user. About 10 years ago, I improved the zoning application process by adding forms on the city website, and now I work with computer programmers to launch and continually improve our internal and external software applications. If you don’t have the capability to make improvements in your current role, look for a team that encourages this. Also, talk to the customers/citizens that you are serving, ask probing questions, and be open to new ideas. My urban planning education taught me how to be a conduit and problem solver between stakeholders ranging from interested parties, introverted engineers, to folks who can’t pay their energy bills.

Laura Catherman - Master of Urban Planning, 2012
Laura Catherman
Waukesha-Ozaukee-Washington Workforce Development, Inc.
Pewaukee, WI

Master of Urban Planning, 2012

What advice do you have to pass on to new Masters of Urban Planning students?

I can honestly say that I did not expect to be sitting where I am today when I applied to graduate school. Truthfully, I wasn’t even aware that these types of careers existed. Coming from landscape architecture, I expected to be doing physical planning and design. The Master of Urban Planning program opened my eyes to so many other ideas and opportunities that weren’t even on my radar.

What impact do you, as an Urban Planner, have on your community?

Through our various workforce programs and three one-stop workforce development centers, we annually help thousands of people gain the skills and assistance they need to get their first job, re-enter the labor force after a dislocation or another life event, or advance in their current career. This has a huge impact on our regional economy—businesses need skilled workers to grow and be successful. Having the opportunity to work in a career that truly makes a positive difference in the lives of so many individuals, businesses, and communities is rewarding. For anyone who has ever been without a job, or for any business that has struggled to find the right people, I know how challenging that can be and how it can have a ripple effect on other areas. I love being able to assist with these issues and help individuals and businesses get positive results.

What are your typical job tasks?

I work with the workforce development board to address macroeconomic workforce issues in partnership with our local elected officials, economic development and educational entities, and the private sector. We design and implement demand-driven workforce programming that produces a skilled workforce for our regional economy and leads to employment at self-sufficient wages. We also shape local workforce policies and strategic priorities in response to federal regulations, the regional economy, and local labor market demands.

Coleman Pfeiffer - Master of Urban Planning, 2013
Coleman Pfeiffer
Coleman Pfeiffer

Business & Investment Attraction Director
Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation
Madison, WI

Master of Urban Planning, 2013
Master of Public Administration, 2013

What advice do you have to pass on to new Masters of Urban Planning students?

My experience at UW-Milwaukee and the relationships I developed, both in my studies and in my professional work, allowed me to accelerate my career. The education I received at UW-Milwaukee has allowed me to be a trusted ally for the state of Wisconsin, introducing me to a fun, exciting, and rewarding career in economic development. When I graduated from UW-Milwaukee, I expected to work in local planning for a community in the Milwaukee area. I had experience in economic development, but always believed I would have to start at an entry level position to gain experience. Due to my prior professional experience, internship, and my education, I was successful in gaining employment as a senior planner in economic and community development for the North Central Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission in Wausau.

What impact do you, as an Urban Planner, have on your community?

I educate commercial real estate consultants and site selectors on the business climate in Wisconsin and promote the state as the best place in which to relocate/expand a business. This work impacts my community in two ways: first, I impact the entire state by recruiting new employment opportunities that improve the state’s overall economy while offering better employment choices to the citizens of the state; second, I am able to use my planning and public administration education to improve my local community by offering my expertise on economic and community trends, demographic trends and projections, and long term planning. I am able to bring a professional point of view to city council discussions, chamber committees, and main street developments in my own community.

Kate Riordan - Master of Urban Planning, 2013
Kate Riordan
Active Living Program Manager
Health by Design
Indianapolis, IN

Master of Urban Planning, 2013

What advice do you have to pass on to new Masters of Urban Planning students?

When I started graduate school, I thought I would be working in the public sector as a bike and pedestrian planner. I did that for two years as the Active Transportation Planner for the City of Fort Wayne, Indiana. I realized rather quickly, however, that the public sector might not be the best environment for me. I was ready to take Fort Wayne forward for biking and walking, but making big changes can require political will, and Fort Wayne didn’t have it. Every city is different in terms of the work you’re able to accomplish, but I was feeling very stuck and unable to use the knowledge and skills I acquired in school. I had worked for the Wisconsin Bike Fed during school and for a short while after, so I thought a return to advocacy would be a better fit for me, and so far it has been.

What impact do you, as an Urban Planner, have on your community?

My community is the State of Indiana. Like many states, Indiana struggles with obesity and its resultant health issues. Cities all over the state are looking for solutions to this and many other issues that have been caused, in part, by investing in car-only transportation. The workshops I run help to bring together organizations and individuals that don’t typically work together, such as hospitals and city government, to work towards a common goal.

What does your typical day look like?

Through partnerships with the Indiana State Department of Health and Purdue Extension, we run Active Living Workshops around the state. With a team of planners and health educators, we provide full-day workshops to teach participants about the connection between health and the built environment. Our goal is to create healthy behaviors by creating policies, plans, and programs that support active lifestyles. I write a summary report for each workshop, and also provide technical assistance and resources for the community priorities. Communities then produce an Action Plan based on the report. I also lead the Indiana Complete Streets Coalition, a group of individuals and organizations working to pass Complete Streets policies throughout the state. I provide resources and technical assistance for policy adoption and implementation at a local level.

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