Student Spotlight: Jaclyn Garcia
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Jaclyn Garcia is a master's of Urban & Regional Planning student at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. She will be graduating in June 2018 with a concentration in Transportation Planning.

Jaclyn has spent the past three years working with the Los Angeles Department of Transportation, transitioning from a part-time to a full-time position as a Budget Analyst. Her interest in planning began with her work at the department, where she was initially involved in the implementation and monitoring of traffic safety projects. “As I began learning more about all the traffic fatalities in the city, I knew I wanted to do something about it,” shared Jaclyn. “It really is a public health epidemic.”

Jaclyn’s interests have been related to promoting sustainable modes of transportation and the intersection of transportation and public health, especially for populations that are disproportionately impacted by traffic fatalities. Her graduate thesis will evaluate traffic safety programs worldwide that are targeted towards seniors. She presented some of the findings of her thesis at the 2018 Transportation Research Board Conference.

Jaclyn holds a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies from University of California, Santa Cruz. Her undergraduate thesis was titled “The Current Challenges to Small Scale Wind Energy in California,” where she researched local level policies that prohibited small-scale wind turbines from being installed in communities. “At that time I didn’t know that the research I was working on was actually a form of policy analysis and was closely related to planning,” added Jaclyn.

Jaclyn holds a leadership role as the president of her schools Graduate Planning Student Association. In her free time, she enjoys hiking and going to local music events.

Here’s more from our Q&A with Jaclyn …

Q: Which ACSP member school do you attend?
A: California State Polytechnic University, Pomona

Q: What specialty are you studying?
A: Transportation

Q: Why did you select your particular specialty?
A: I come from an educational background in Environmental Studies. A few years ago, I accepted a job at a city transportation department on a whim, without any prior interest in planning or transportation. It was there that I better understood the nexus between environmental science and transportation planning through promoting sustainable methods of transportation and also complying with state environmental regulations. I loved the work I did and decided to go back to school for my masters in Urban & Regional Planning.

Q: Do you have a current job or internship in your specialty?
A: Yes, I am currently a Budget Analyst at the Los Angeles Department of Transportation (LADOT), and hope to transition to a planning role when I graduate.

Q: Is there a particular class or professor that has made a great impact on you? How so?
A: I came into my program with a strong interest in data analysis, visualization, and in Geographic Information Systems. However, once I took more classes related to policy analysis, I found myself enjoying that part of transportation planning even more. I enjoy that it allows me to further practice my research, critical thinking, and writing skills.

Q: What's your favorite project you’ve worked on, in class or in practice?
A: My favorite project in school is a project I am currently working on with my entire class. We are developing a 20-year plan to reduce and possibly eliminate vehicles from a large park in our county that experiences high volumes of traffic. I'm enjoying that this requires us to consider the implications this has on the surrounding land use, transportation systems, and also any environmental considerations. This requires that we work together as a team, which is much more realistic to how planning operates.

Q: What future goals do you have in your field?
A: My goal is to eventually work my way to a senior-level planning position at a local transportation agency. I hope to have anything but a typical desk job. I would prefer to be the one at the table as the agency adopts innovative policies and best practices that can be used across the country, while at the same time ensuring equitable results across the region.

Q: How has planning school changed your daily habits?
A: As someone who currently works full-time and goes to school full-time, it has definitely made me value any free time I have. I squeeze in my homework any chance I get, whether on the train, at lunch, or before work. Since attending planning school, I find myself always reading both local and national news around the clock and also listen to it on the radio. I always feel the need to know what is going on and the implications it has on our communities.

Q: What did you want to be when you were growing up?
A: I always wanted to be an artist growing up. I ended up circling back to my creative side now that I create maps and visual materials both in school and at work.

Q: If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?
A: Definitely Japan. I have always loved the food and the culture, but since I started studying planning, I took on a whole new interest in the country. I look forward to going back.

Q: What’s your favorite color and how would you creatively incorporate it into a planning project?
A: My favorite color is purple. When I think of this color in a city context, I imagine some of the best streets I've walked on where the streets were lined with jacaranda trees (yes, those beautiful but afterward messy trees). Walking is so much more enjoyable when you have something nice to look at like blooming trees.

To read more from our Planner Profile series or nominate someone to be profiled, click here.

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