Student Spotlight: Gopika Nair
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Gopika Vijay Nair is a Masters of Urban Planning student at Texas A&M University, College Station. She will be graduating this May with a concentration in multimodal systems planning.

Gopika has held multiple internships in both the private and public sector. She is currently working as a community development intern with the city of College Station, and a project intern with XYZ Atlas (public art project). Both the internships have entirely different deliverables, but Gopika finds each position interesting and enriching in its own way.

“Working with XYZ Atlas has helped me improve my communication, networking and outreach skills,” shares Gopika. “Whereas working with the City has facilitated in expanding my research horizons into the affordable housing sector and code enforcement.”

Gopika also has a 3 months’ work experience as a summer intern at the Texas Target Communities, and a semester long research position under Dr. Wei Li, who specializes in transportation planning. Having a robust interest in active transportation has motivated Gopika to present her final research paper on “Walkability Assessment of Texas A&M University,” where she has used the CDC audit tool to score her campus streets and suggest design solutions for improving the pedestrian infrastructure. She is also the communications chair for Association of Student Planners- Texas A&M University.

Gopika completed her undergraduate studies in architecture from L.S. Raheja School of Architecture, Mumbai University, India. She is a licensed architect from India and worked for about a year and a half as an architect at Kapadia Associates Design LLP, Mumbai. Project management, concept design and development of research protocols were her primary focus during her tenure at the firm.

Upon graduation, Gopika will be moving to Bossier, Louisiana, where she has been offered an assistant planner’s position with the City. Her desire is to work in the public sector for the next few years before continuing her education and obtaining her PhD, upon which she plans to pursue teaching.

In her spare time, she enjoys going out with friends, traveling and listening to music.

Here’s more from our Q&A with Gopika:

Q: What specialty are you studying?
A: Multimodal Systems Planning

Q: Why did you select your particular specialty?
A: I was born and brought up in Mumbai, a metropolitan city in India. Coming from a city like that where there is access to several travel mode choice at all levels- local, state or regional; I felt physically challenged in Texas. My initial interest as an urban planner was in land use planning, but after coming to Texas and seeing the gaps in transportation systems, I felt that sector needed more planners. Additionally, Texas A&M University has some very strong courses to offer in transportation.

Q: Do you have a current job or internship in your specialty?
A: No

Q: Is there a particular class or professor that has made a great impact on you? How so?
A: During my third semester, I took the class Plan Making under Professor Philip Berke. I believe he is an asset for our University and it is a great privilege to be taught by him. His ways of teaching are practical and he was consistent in getting unrelenting standards for the quality of our work. His focus was on active learning, critical thinking and real-world applications of the concepts and issues related to land use and environmental planning. His coursework was very challenging, but fruitful in the end. He challenged each one of us get outside our comfort zone to get answers to real-world problems.

Q: What's your favorite project you’ve worked on, in class or in practice?
A: My favorite project is preparing the Thoroughfare Plan for Ivanhoe City in Texas. This is a real project where the city has partnered with Texas Target Communities (program from the College of Architecture at Texas A&M University has provided technical assistance on land use planning and design to small, lower-resourced communities across the state). This project is part of my final Transportation Studio. We got chance to interact with the city residents and city officials to hear their opinions and thoughts about the plan. The city is very small, just about 2000 people. This makes the project challenging in terms of raising funding opportunities, developing maps/ maintenance schedules, etc., right from scratch. Our professor, Bill Eisele from Texas Transportation Institute (TTI), is doing his best to introduce us to experts from every sector of planning who work for the city of College Station, to help understand how we can use their practical real world solutions to tackle the challenges faced in Ivanhoe City.

Q: What future goals do you have in your field?
A: My Long-term goals would be to work in the public sector for a mid-sized city as their planning director. After that, I wish to pursue teaching, where I get to learn as well as share my experiences and knowledge to the students.

Q: How has planning school changed your daily habits?
A: During these four semesters, I have taken more than required credits and completed four internships. This has helped me with my time management and organizational skills. I hope to soon excel in the art of multi-tasking. Most importantly, planning school has taught me to work with a diverse team and deal with many different personalities.

Q: What did you want to be when you were growing up?
A: When I was younger, I had always dreamt of being an archeologist. I was always curious to know about extinct creatures and historical eras with rich cultures of the past, where there is still mystery left to unfold.

Q: How many different cities have you lived in and which was your favorite?
A: I have lived in several cities across India and USA. I love travelling and have visited twenty two states in India, six states in the USA and three states in East Africa. Out of all the places I have visited or lived, Mumbai (my birth city) is my favorite place to live. It is legendarily known as the “city of dreams.”

Q: If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?
A: I would go to the Philippines, if I get to chance to travel again. It has a very strong cultural history. People there are very welcoming and vibrant in nature. I would any day choose water over mountains or forests. The Philippines is very well known for its beautiful beaches and islands, along with being a home to over 100 rare species of reptiles and amphibians.

Q: What’s your favorite color and how would you creatively incorporate it into a planning project?
A: My favorite color is GREEN and coincidentally green color can blend well into any kind of planning project. In fact, a project plan would look dull without the presence of the essence of green; which is open spaces, parks, forests, boulevards, plazas and sometimes trails. These spaces need to be conserved and there are specific regulation to areas around it. The color speaks for itself.

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