Stephanie credits growing up in the emerging Minneapolis suburbs as the daughter of a transportation engineer and planner as the major reasons she ended up in the field of transportation planning. Graduating from the University of Chicago in 2006, Stephanie took a position as Chicago's prestigious Center for Neighborhood Technology, contributing to smart growth initiatives not only in and around Chicago but also in Maine, Milwaukee and Indiana. Stephanie then headed west, to pursue her Masters of City Planning at the University of California at Berkeley – with a concentration on transportation planning.
What attracted you to the Phillip D. Peters Regional Planning Fellowship Program?
It was an opportunity to see what was happens at the regional level in Chicago. I am a believer in the need for regional governance—too much happens at the regional level for planners not to be acting at that level. Also, it was in Chicago, a region I love and know well.
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 several projects during my Fellowship, which began with the early work on GoTo 2040. I also participated in the Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program (CMAQ). This was so fascinating that I used it as the basis for my Masters project.
How did the Fellowship help to shape your career path and ambition?
It reinforced my interest in the public and non-profit sectors. I had never worked in a public agency and this was a great way to start. It also reinforced my passion for regional planning and demonstrated that there are big steps to be taken in that arena. I may eventually bring this back to Chicago, or perhaps the federal level.
What did you find to be special about CMAP (or NIPC)?
The people at CMAP are the agency's biggest asset. I was really inspired by the people I worked with and, in particular, the younger planners. Also, having worked where there are some major planning capacity issues, I recognized the value of the technical assistance that CMAP provides.
What makes the Northeastern Illinois region a special place to work as a regional planner (or related field)?
The transportation! There is so much of it and, even better, a lot of it is rail. I had little trouble living car-free in Chicago and regularly got to my suburban destinations on Metra.
What are you doing professionally now?
I am a newly-minted Master of City Planning, heading to the Washington, D.C. region to work as a Transportation Associate for ICF International.
Why is regional planning an important function in a metropolitan region?
Our economy functions at the regional level, our transportation system is regional and our social networks are often regional. Given how much happens at the regional level, we need a level of regional planning, coordination and dialogue to move forward in the long-term.