Name: Anne Misak
Hometown: Cleveland, OH
Educational Background: Oberlin College (Politics, 2007)
Planning Concentration: Community and Economic Development
How did you get interested in planning?
I love cities and people! I've always been active in advocacy around social justice issues, particularly related to providing basic human rights and economic opportunities to low-income communities. After undergrad, I worked at an environmental organization doing community organizing and advocacy. My favorite campaign that I worked on was advocating for a better residential recycling program in Philly. From that, I discovered that I was mostly interested in sustainability issues in cities (not suburbs or rural areas), so City Planning seemed like a good fit. The best part of being a City Planning student is that I can sit in parks and people watch and consider it research (how public space actually gets used-as opposed to how it was designed to be used-is fascinating)!
What was your background prior to coming to Penn?
After undergrad, I got a job with an environmental organization in Philly. I worked on campaigns to improve Philly's residential recycling program, to protect Pennsylvania's drinking water from natural gas drilling and stormwater runoff, and to help municipalities in the Schuylkill River watershed adopt natural resource protection ordinances. Last summer I worked for an incentive-based recycling company promoting their program in Philly. I have also been involved with a local food co-op in West Philly that provides access to fresh, healthy food in a neighborhood underserved by grocery stores.
Why did you choose Penn?
It was 15 minutes from my house and I didn't want to leave Philly:) I also really liked the hands-on classes (workshop, studio, CED practicum, metropolitan food systems, techniques of economic development, etc.) that allow me to apply what I'm learning to real-world situations. When I decided to go to grad school, I knew I wanted to learn new skills that would be applicable to my future career. Because PennPlanning was in the School of Design, it seemed like a good fit since I had no design background and therefore would have a chance to learn new things and expand my knowledge, not just reinforce things I already know (which is what I thought might happen if I went to a more policy-oriented planning school).
What is your favorite class so far?
Metropolitan Food Systems and Techniques of Economic Development (sorry, couldn't choose just one!)
Where did you intern?
I'm interning at the Philadelphia City Planning Commission in the strategic planning division. I am also doing research with a professor on the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society's City Harvest Growers Alliance program to support urban farms in Philly.
Are you involved in any planning related activities?
I'm involved with the Penn chapter of the Planners Network (the progressive planning network in the US). As part of the Planners Network, I helped organize a panel on vacant land management in Philadelphia this past spring that was attended by about 75 students, faculty and community members. We've gotten requests to do more panels on important issues like this, so we may do a series in the fall.
What are your career ambitions?
I want to work on building sustainable, resilient communities in cities. I'm not sure exactly what this will look like job-wise. I'm hoping to combine my passion for environmental sustainability, food systems planning/urban agriculture and economic development (particularly focused on local jobs and economies) to find/create a job. If anyone has such a job, let me know:)