Raised in Michigan, Erin's journey to regional planning started in the fine arts. Studying art brought her to Chicago, Detroit and Cleveland, where she fell in love with cities. "I love the creative process of community collaboration and development," Erin mentioned recently. Enrolling at the College of Urban Affairs at Cleveland State University, she won the Maxine Goodman Levine Fund award. Upon graduating, she received the Wallace Teare Prize presented to a master of urban planning graduate student concerned with housing and equity. Her positive experience at CMAP led her to accept a full-time position there.
What attracted you to the Phillip D. Peters Regional Planning Fellowship Program?
It was an opportunity to explore planning and policy issues at a level that I hadn't experienced previously. I had lots of experience working with community-based organizations, but never with a regional organization like CMAP with such a broad scope.
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 a series of technical assistance workshops. CMAP had recently developed the Centers Toolkit, an interactive planning decision software program allowing community planners to prioritize different planning strategies. The workshops allowed CMAP to provide community planners with a tool they could use in future planning efforts.
How did the Fellowship help to shape your career path and ambition?
I was drawn to the Fellowship because of its regional perspective. After working at CMAP for the summer, I developed a tremendous appreciation for the work a regional agency can do.
What did you find to be special about CMAP (or NIPC)?
CMAP is different than other metropolitan planning organizations. The key is that CMAP looks at transportation and land use planning through a common lens. It's very special to me that I work for an agency that is open to thinking about traditional planning in a new way.
What makes the Northeastern Illinois region a special place to work as a regional planner (or related field)?
I love living in Chicago because it's diverse, affordable and has public transit.
What are you doing professionally now?
After my experience as a Peters Fellow, I was hired by CMAP to continue to provide technical assistance and outreach for the regional comprehensive plan – GO TO 2040.
Why is regional planning an important function in a metropolitan region?
Regional agencies can enhance multi-jurisdictional communications and collaboration, serving as a facilitator and convener. If the Chicago region is to stay competitive in a growing global economy, public agencies and inter-governmental agencies like CMAP need to work together.