Name: Juell Stewart
Hometown: Chicago, IL
Educational Background: Cornell College (Iowa); B.A., Philosophy and Sociology, 2007
Planning Concentration: Community and Economic Development
How did you get interested in planning?
From an early age, I was fascinated by the municipal political process and the mechanisms that govern resource distribution in cities. Along the way, I figured out that Planning would be a good way to explore those topics as they relate to spatial conditions. During the summer between my first and second year of college, I went to the Career Discovery Program at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. Though the program concentrated on the design elements of Urban Planning, I appreciated being exposed to planning in an academic environment, and my interest in the field blossomed from there.
What was your background prior to coming to Penn?
After college, I moved to Brooklyn and worked as a community organizer. From there, I dabbled in different fields from publishing to working as a Research Fellow at the Applied Research Center, a racial justice think tank. Working in a research environment shaped my interest in urban policy; my frustrations around the way that urban problems are addressed ultimately refueled my passion for planning.
Why did you choose PennPlanning?
Once I resolved to bite the graduate school bullet, I visited all of the schools I had even a passing interest in that happened to be on the East Coast. When I visited Penn on a friend's recommendation, I fell in love with the accessibility of the faculty (particularly in my concentration), and the camaraderie I felt amongst the students went a long way. Happy Hours are not only a wonderful perk extended to us by the School of Design, but they really speak to the culture of the program. At Penn, we are encouraged to work together to solve problems-even across disciplines and concentrations. Something that I found out after coming to Penn that makes me especially proud is that the City Planning program has a rich legacy of remarkable visionaries and presents ample opportunities for critical thought.
What is your favorite class so far?
I can't choose just one, so I'll give you the top three.
1. Quantitative Planning Analysis Methods helped me make sense of tons of data and gave me skills that are applicable to the kind of social research I want to delve into;
2. Site Planning was a great class that combined spatial analysis, graphic design and critical thinking. It was a great combination of all of my planning-related interests;
3. Techniques of Urban Economic Development was an amazing foundation for the policies and rational behind economic development strategies.
Where did you intern?
I returned to my hometown to participate in the City of Chicago's Mayor's Office Fellowship Program.
Are you involved in any planning related activities?
I'm a representative for the Student Planning Association and a member of Progressive Planners Network.
What are your career ambitions?
I'm looking forward to applying the skills I've learned at Penn to a policy research environment, in the private, nonprofit or academic sector. Ultimately, I want to contribute to political discourse in a meaningful way, and I'd like to help work towards making political participation more accessible through technology.