Name: Lizzie Hessmiller
Hometown: Allentown, PA, but my parents live in Austin, TX
Educational Background: L'université Paris-Sorbonne (Paris IV), Paris, France. Major: Geography, Concentration Urban and Rural Planning (Géographie, spécialité urbanisme et aménagement), Graduated 2010
Planning Concentration: CED!
How did you get interested in planning?
The short story was that you had to test into the urban planning concentration at the Sorbonne, and the class was smaller than the general geography degree, and I was looking for a smaller, more individualized degree. The longer story is that I got interested in historic preservation through my cultural geography classes in undergrad and got an internship in an ethnology museum in the urban fringe of Paris. The museum curator ascribed to "new museology" theories and ran his museum as a participatory organization in which the museum collections were actually objects collected from residents throughout the years. The experience showed me how historic preservation is intrinsically connected to community development and urban identity. I am doing a dual degree in Historic Preservation and City Planning so that I can explore the intersection of shared community history, the built environment, place-making, and economic growth more thoroughly.
What was your background prior to coming to Penn?
I came to Penn right after graduating from undergrad. My academic background is in literature, but after realizing that the job market for literacists is not really growing, I switched to geography, which... I guess isn't really growing too quickly either. But it did lead to an urban planning concentration. Professional background: Museum intern, Girl Scout Camp Counselor, Theatre teacher.
Why did you choose Penn?
I applied to Penn and Columbia because of the dual degree in Historic Pres and City Planning. Because I was living in France, I wasn't able to make it to either school's open houses, so I really knew very little about the "feel" of the two programs. Thus, I chose Penn for practical reasons. The cost of living in Philadelphia is obviously oodles cheaper than it is in NYC. When I tell my friends in New York how much I pay for my apartment in Philly, they cry a little bit. Also, my girlfriend lives in Philadelphia, and she's so cute. If you met her you would also want to live in Philly. Penn's website is also a lot more user-friendly than Columbia's, which made me feel like Penn itself might be more user-friendly than Columbia. But mostly, I chose Penn because they were SO NICE TO ME. Kate and Roz in the Planning office were the people I contacted when I had a question (and I had a lot of questions.). They were consistently helpful, warm, and funny. I assure all potential students that this doesn't change. They remain helpful, warm, and funny all the time. I mean, really, everyone in this program is invested in the community. It's an amazing place to learn. I chose Penn for practical money and relationship reasons, but if I knew then what I know now, I would still choose Penn because the people are just amazing.
What is your favorite class so far?
Techniques of Economic Development. Any Laura Wolf-Powers class is a class to take.
Where did you intern?
Partners for Sacred Places - a preservation firm headquartered in Philadelphia that evaluates religious congregations' economic impacts on their communities and the city (The economic value to the City of just one congregation is over 1 million dollars!)
Are you involved in any planning related activities?
I am active in Penn Planners Network, our school's branch of the progressive planners' organization. Last year we organized a panel about the vacant land problem in Philadelphia, and this year we are going to try to present at the national Planners Network Conference. I am co-chair of the School of Design's student council, though I still don't really know what that means. I was published in Penn Planning's student journal, Panorama, and I did work study at the Enterprise Center CDC, a community development corportation in West Philly.
What are your career ambitions?
I would love to work for an organization that focuses on place-making as a tool for economic and community development. I am very interested in adaptive reuse of old buildings. I would be very excited to work in a firm that gives old buildings new life.
I also think I could make millions off of my crepe making. I am seriously thinking about opening up a crepe restaurant and giving a discount to Penn Planners. This is why you should come to Penn.