The Peters Fellowship can prepare a student to make a major impact in a metropolitan region other than Chicago. During high school, Gretchen's senior thesis focused on analyzing writings about the various neighborhoods of Chicago. "Without knowing it," she said, "in that paper, I had discovered my chosen profession." At University of Illinois, Gretchen discovered the field of Urban and Regional Planning. Gretchen was a Peters Fellow while completing her Masters at Rutgers University in City and Regional Planning. Today, Gretchen lives in New York City and works at The Port Authority of NY & NJ.
What attracted you to the Phillip D. Peters Regional Planning Fellowship Program?
The Fellowship was different than most internships because the Fellow really got to chart his or her own course for the summer. The staff at CMAP want to expose the Fellow to as much of their work as possible and to provide the opportunity to dig into a real project.
What kinds of projects did you work on during your fellowship? What benefit do you believe they contributed the Northeastern Illinois region?
I worked on the Calumet Rivers Redevelopment Project, which brought together seven municipalities located along the Calumet River to create a comprehensive redevelopment plan. I also worked on the Full Circle program, working with and training community-based organizations in low-income neighborhoods.
How did the Fellowship help to shape your career path and ambition?
It was my first hands-on exposure to working with local community development organizations. I draw upon those experiences still today. I learned how to facilitate neighborhood meetings, bring together groups with differing ideals and create a vision for the future.
What did you find to be special about CMAP (or NIPC)?
CMAP was my first exposure to a regional planning agency. I saw first-hand the "interconnected-ness" of transportation, economic development and neighborhood redevelopment.
What makes the Northeastern Illinois region a special place to work as a regional planner (or related field)?
Northeastern Illinois is growing rapidly. As people and companies keep moving further out, infrastructure and quality of life must keep pace. The region faces a difficult task. CMAP can help shape the region's new landscape.
What are you doing professionally now?
I am a Senior Urban Planner at The Port Authority of NY & NJ. I sought the position because I knew that their projects touch the everyday lives of every commuter, visitor, business person and resident in the New York/New Jersey area.
Why is regional planning an important function in a metropolitan region?
Without regional planning, necessary infrastructure would not be built, communities in need of expertise and assistance would fall through the cracks, and the region would not develop cohesively. My experience at CMAP showed me the value of regional planning in a metropolitan region.