With Sef, the Peters Fellowship inspired a talented student to stay in the field of regional planning. Born in a small rural village in Kenya, Sef attended the University of Nairobi. He moved to the United States to pursue graduate studies in civil engineering, but discovered he could not afford the the program. Not defeated, Sef attended the University of Akron for a Masters degree in Urban Planning. Sef was awarded the "Friend of the Environment Award" by Little Village Environmental Justice Organization and is the project manager for the Full Circle project, helping Chicago communities to plan their neighborhoods.
What attracted you to the Phillip D. Peters Regional Planning Fellowship Program?
NIPC offered the opportunity to get first-hand experience working in a premier planning organization in one of the largest, best planned cities in the United States.
What kinds of projects did you work on during your fellowship? What benefit do you believe they contributed the Northeastern Illinois region?
The Full Circle project is a community mapping and planning program that helps communities with planning, development and policy work. I also created the first regional watershed map for Chicago Wilderness.
How did the Fellowship help to shape your career path and ambition?
I never intended to stay in the planning profession, as I planned to move to a higher-paying profession. However, after the Peters Fellowship, I decided that planning was the profession for me because I could make a difference in people's lives. The Peters Fellowship helped me choose community development as my specialization so that I could work more directly with community residents to help create some positive change in economically distressed communities.
What did you find to be special about CMAP (or NIPC)?
CMAP is one of the leading planning organizations in the country and coordinates the planning of a region with a legacy of pioneering planning ideas for more than a century.
What makes the Northeastern Illinois region a special place to work as a regional planner (or related field)?
Chicago offers great social and economic opportunities for its residents. For its size, Chicago is fairly affordable and the region has one of the best public transit systems in the country. The long history of community organizing in Chicago resulted in active participation from the residents in the planning and development of their communities. The diversity of the region is also one of its likable attributes.
What are you doing professionally now?
After completing my graduate studies, I joined NIPC as an assistant planner. After the merger of NIPC and CATS, I joined CMAP and am currently an associate planner.
Why is regional planning an important function in a metropolitan region?
Most planning challenges are not local but regional in nature. Without taking a coordinated regional approach to community problems, most urban problem cannot be solved.