Student Spotlight: Mary Wolfe
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"Get to Know the GoBo"

Special Planner Profile Series

Mary Wolfe is a PhD candidate in the department of City & Regional Planning at UNC-Chapel Hill. She also serves as a student representative on ACSP’s Governing Board. Mary studies connections between transportation and health, with an emphasis on healthcare access and children’s travel. Her dissertation research examines the potential of shared mobility to shift access to healthcare facilities for underserved populations.

Before UNC, Mary was a Fulbright scholar at the Netherlands Institute for Health Services Research, where she explored the relationship between community green space and health outcomes for people with a chronic disease. Mary received her MSc in Urban Geography from Utrecht University and her BA in Environmental Studies from Temple University.

Here’s more from Mary as we “Get to Know the GoBo!”

Q: Which ACSP member school do you attend?
A: The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Q: What specialty are you studying?
A: Transportation

Q: Why did you select your particular specialty?
A: I've always been interested in human connections with the built environment. As an undergrad in Philadelphia, I studied the relationship between green space and crime rates across the city. When I lived in the Netherlands during my Fulbright fellowship, I started thinking about transportation decisions as they relate to where people live. The Dutch city of Utrecht was a great backdrop for my study connections between the built environment, transportation, and health. My focus now is on transportation innovations and how they're changing the way people access healthcare facilities.

Q: Do you have a current job or internship in your specialty?
A: I'm currently leading the evaluation of a Federal Transit Administration (FTA)-funded project in Durham as part of FTA's “Rides to Wellness” initiative. The goal of the project is to connect people to healthcare services through improved access to public transportation.

Q: Is there a particular class or professor that has made a great impact on you? How so?
A: My training in statistical methods and research design here at UNC has had a great impact on me. The rigor of this coursework has pushed me to think about data analysis in new ways and has shaped the way I approach research questions.

Q: What's your favorite project you’ve worked on, in class or in practice?
A: One of my favorite "projects" has been my ongoing involvement with ACSP as a student rep to the Governing Board. Together with the other members of the Governing Board, including my fellow student rep, we are always tackling projects and launching new initiatives to improve how the association works for its members. My two-year term has given me incredible opportunities to work with faculty, meet other students, and even attend European planning conferences.

Q: What future goals do you have in your field?
A: I hope to teach and do research that will inform planning policy and have practical import for communities. I want to continue to do planning work that spans other disciplines, namely public health.

Q: How has planning school changed your daily habits?
A: I think a lot about surface parking. Especially when I visit a new city--it's the first thing I notice (for better or for worse).

Q: What is the title of the last book you read? What did you learn from it?
A: I'm reading Street Fight by Janette Sadik-Khan, former NYC transportation commissioner, and Seth Solomonow (2016). This book highlights how some of the most successful planning interventions are usually best practices borrowed from other cities in different parts of the world. It's a nice reminder that urban areas face similar problems, and that solutions are often not out of reach.

Read more from the ACSP Planner Profile series.

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