Alumni

  • Jason Hachadorian

    Jason Hachadorian

      Jason Hachadorian (MS CRP '15) is heading to Washington to work as a research assistant focusing on Innovation Districts with the Brookings Institution.

      Like many who land in the nation’s capital, he wants to use his talents to affect positive change, particularly in urban centers.

      “Cities right now are enjoying a real resurgence. After decades of people leaving urban centers, people are moving back to cities,” said Hachadorian, 26, of Collegeville, who graduated with an M.S. in Community and Regional Planning from Temple in May. “The focus now needs to be on how to handle this influx of people and apply sound redevelopment strategies to accommodate them. As a planner, you develop on-the-ground knowledge of how cities work in addition to learning how to communicate and mediate between different stakeholders, recognizing changes in demographics and the environmental realities cities face.”

      Hachadorian is putting his planning education into practice. He recently began the next chapter in his career as a research assistant with the Brookings Institution, one of the oldest and most well-known global think tanks, located in Washington, D.C. The institution conducts social science research and education, predominantly examining national and global economics, government, urban policy and foreign policy. Brookings was ranked as the most influential think tank in the world by the University of Pennsylvania in 2014.

      “I will be conducting research for the institute’s Metropolitan Policy Program. I’m focusing on ‘Innovation Districts,’ which is an intermeshing of regional economic development strategies with neighborhood change,” he said. “In large part I’ll be supporting the work of the senior policy analysts and policy fellows through data analysis and visual cataloguing of several cities to unearth best practices.”

      Hachadorian said innovation districts arise primarily in cities where a great deal of start-up activity has taken place in tandem with an “anchor institution.” He said he will initially take a “deep dive” into thoroughly exploring two innovation districts — University City in Philadelphia and Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

      “In western Philadelphia, for example, you have Drexel and the University of Pennsylvania, which employ a lot of people and have a lot of land and capital. In University City, you can see a lot of start-up activity occurring,” he said. “There hasn’t been a great deal of study on innovation districts. One of my tasks will be developing a definitive definition about what comprises an innovation district.”

      Hachadorian said he came by his interest in planning through a background in environmental studies with a short stay in the medical field.

      “I was working for Main Line Health when I realized that wasn’t for me. My first real exposure to planning was while I was completing my undergraduate program in environmental studies at St. Mary’s College in Maryland,” he said. “I worked on a year-long independent research project exploring the impact of community gardening in Baltimore communities. I talked to residents and got a sense of the important role the gardens played in their communities. I made suggestions for incorporating urban gardening into unban and redevelopment policy.”

      Hachadorian said Temple’s Community and Regional Planning program had the focus on the environment and sustainability that he was looking for. While at Temple, he became a research assistant with the Center for Sustainable Communities, working on projects that included research for an Environmental Protection Agency urban waters grant and brownfields redevelopment planning in Philadelphia. He also interned with the Economy League of Greater Philadelphia, a non-profit organization dedicated to “advancing greater Philadelphia as a world class destination.”

      “Temple’s program allows students to develop and flourish in the areas of planning that are of most interest to them — there is ample room to develop a specific interest and apply it outside of the classroom. It’s a very collegial atmosphere where the faculty is completely invested in your success,” he said. “Temple prepared me to take my skills and apply them to various regions and any kind of planning. At Brookings, I’m excited to continue to hone my planning and communication skills and to use those skills in a different, multifaceted way.”

      Photo and story credits: JDuffy

  • Ellen Hwang (MS CRP'14)

      Ellen Hwang (MSCRP ’14) has a background in non-profit management and program development.  She currently works as a Program Manager for Innovation Management at the Office of Innovation and Technology (OIT) for the City of Philadelphia.

      “What is essentially the City’s IT infrastructure, OIT is a dynamic department.” Ellen Explains, “In addition to the typical operations of an IT department (Think: hardware, software, web development and applications development, etc.), there’s the Innovation Management Group.  The Innovation Management Group serves to build and strengthen the network of innovative municipal workers across the city.  The main goal is to develop programs that will build the capacity of and increase cross-departmental collaboration within City government, improving the City’s efficiency and effectiveness in its public services.  At the foundation of our work lies the 3P’s:  People, Place, and Process.  To affect change, we cultivate a network of people who work collaboratively and creatively; we provide a physical place for change to happen; and we challenge the old and create new processes that shape the way in which the City does its work.”

      Of the Community and Regional Planning program, Ellen said, “Each week, in Planning History and Theory, our class discussed the diverse roles which planners have played from past through present.  I found this class to be of particular importance in guiding me to consider what kind of planner I desired to be in today’s marketplace. As a student in the CRP program, fundamental aspects of my current work were repeated in every class I took such as:  Planning Politics and Administration; Planning Communications; Planning Analysis; Sustainable Community Design and Development; Regional Development.  The program prepared me to be able to navigate and work with complicated organizational systems.  It also equipped me with a holistic understanding of how communities function and operate, which is crucial to understand in any setting and any work.”

  • Diane Lucas (BS CRP'15)

      Diane Lucas (BSCRP ’15) turned her undergraduate classroom experience into real life community development. Diane is employed with Tetra Tech in Langhorne, PA, a company that specializes in Environmental Engineering, Science and Sustainable Community Development.

      While a student in the CRP program at Temple, Diane studied the East Parkside neighborhood of Philadelphia for a group project in her Urban Form and Design course. “The project was an excellent learning experience. The neighborhood and residents intrigued and inspired me, and the potential for a revival of the neighborhood into a beautiful, sustainable urban area for all ages and incomes was evident to me,” Diane said.

      Working with Gina Behnfeldt, Vice-President of Economic Development Services at Tetra Tech, Diane set up a meeting with a representative of the East Parkside Community. “We had a tour of the area and discussion about the community revitalization goals. I felt my colleague shared my enthusiasm for the potential that existed”. The mission for Gina was to find the capital the neighborhood needed for improvement projects, which she secured through private investors, and progress is being made toward redeveloping abandoned properties. A 30-unit LEED Platinum apartment building is currently under design with the hope of more to come. “Seeing actual progress being made has made me extremely optimistic about the future of sustainable urban development,” says Diane. “Every renewal project large or small that breaks ground is a great achievement towards the making of great neighborhoods for all people”.

  • Ashley Nuckles (BS CDEV'15)

      Ashley Nuckles took the scenic route to community development as a career.

      “In my freshman year of college, I went into pre-dentistry, then biology. Then I went to Bucks County Community College and got my associate’s degree in Business Administration,” said Nuckles, who will be among the first students to graduate from Temple’s undergraduate Community Development program. “After that, I was going to continue in business, but I had a real ‘summer of transition’ where I realized that wasn’t the right fit for me. I starting doing some research and discovered planning and landscape architecture as potential careers — it opened my eyes to so many new possibilities.”

      When May 2016 rolls around, it might feel like déjà vu for Nuckles. As part of the Community Development “4+1” program, she has been taking master’s level courses while completing her undergraduate degree. In just one year, she will also finish up her master’s in Community and Regional Planning.

      “Being able to complete both degrees in just five years, it’s exciting and such an advantage to me as a planner. In community development, I have the benefit of learning about localized community engagement while the planning program has a more regional perspective,” she said. “It is such a huge field and I like every aspect of it — the program has allowed me to develop my own skill set and become a more well-rounded professional. I could transition easily from the public or the private sector.”

      While completing her degrees, Nuckles has been putting her community development and planning skills to good use, interning with the Greater Valley Forge Transportation Management Association’s (GVFTMA), non-profit program Communities in Motion and supporting research in Temple’s Center for Sustainable Communities.

      “I’ve had the opportunity to work on energy efficiency projects covering all of the Delaware Valley Regional — 353 municipalities. I’ve worked on Traffic Demand Management studies along the Route 422 corridor; that’s just two of the many opportunities I’ve had as a student to use what I’ve learned practically in a real-world setting for actual clients and organizations,” said Nuckles, who was the recent recipient of the Community and Regional Planning Award for Academic Excellence and the School of Environmental Design Alumni Association Award. “I think one of the advantages of Temple’s program is that the classes are typically small in size and the professors are both educators and practitioners; that makes all the difference. The program is very much focused on practice — you get an excellent sense of what’s out there and what you will be doing in the profession.”

      At home, Nuckles is applying her skills as well, volunteering at the local non-profit Langhorne Open Space, where, in addition to being a member of the community garden, she was asked to present a strategic plan — a five year vision for the group — to the organization’s board.

      In Lower Southampton, the municipality is working to develop a walkable town center, a daunting task in an area where the township meets Bensalem and a SEPTA regional rail line, she said.

      “With this many stakeholders involved, it becomes a complex challenge to get everyone to work together toward a common goal that will benefit the community. The township is putting together an advisory committee and I’d like to be part of it,” said Nuckles. “I think often times people forget that they create the environment around them — they have a say in how it is shaped and, hopefully, improved. From my standpoint, I have this background in community development and planning combined with a strong sense of community. It only makes sense to use those skills for the betterment of the community I live in.”

      During her time at Temple, Nuckles said, she has had the opportunity to take classes at the Ambler, Main and Center City campuses, “all very different environments that emphasized different approaches to planning.”

      “I can take the skills I’ve learned and apply them to multiple different regions and multiple different types of planning,” she said. “My Temple experience has combined small university teaching and classroom size with the environment of a large research university — I’ve had the opportunity to experience all that Temple has to offer. I’ve been able to converse with my teachers and personally relate to the faculty and my department chair. Accessibility, I think that’s a very special part of Temple.”

      Photo and story credits: JDuffy

  • Mari Radford (MS CRP '09)

      Mari Radford would like nothing more than to have her job no longer be necessary.

      As a Lead Community Planner for the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s floodplain management and insurance branch, Radford, a 2009 graduate of Temple’s Community and Regional Planning master’s program, knows all too well the devastation and loss caused by flooding in the United States.

      “It might sound funny, but our goal is to put ourselves out of business. Our mission is to help communities make the best decisions on where and how to build,” said Radford, who became part of FEMA’s Region III team in 2010 — Region III includes Pennsylvania, Maryland, Washington, D.C., Delaware, West Virginia and Virginia. “It is so much easier to make informed decisions to mitigate flooding before an event happens. Our job it to help communities reach a level of resilience that allows them to get back on their feet with a minimal amount of difficulty.”

      Flooding is the number one disaster in the United States and the world. As local neighborhoods and communities can attest, this region of the country is particularly susceptible to the devastating impact of floods. And anyone who has watched the news in recent weeks has seen the astonishing images of flood-ravaged communities throughout the country.

      “Between 1980 and 2013, the United States suffered more than $200 billion in flood damage. That takes a tremendous toll on people and communities,” Radford said. “But out of all of the types of disasters, flooding is the most predictable. There are things that we can do to prevent it from happening.”

      When Radford arrived at Temple to pursue her master’s degree, she was no stranger to assisting communities on a global stage.

      Working for the State Department for more than 20 years with postings all over the world, Radford helped ensure the safety of civilians and soldiers in war torn Mogadishu, Somalia; evacuated refugees escaping tribal violence in Rwanda; and assisted in building communities from the ground up in Russian Georgia after the fall of the Soviet Union.

      “I loved my jobs overseas and I was really trying to determine how to make those experiences marketable in the real world. Everything I heard about the Community and Regional Planning program seemed to legitimize my previous experience,” she said. “I entered the program in January 2007 and immediately connected with (then Department Chair) Deborah Howe. She really went out on a limb for me and provided me with a graduate assistanceship — the faculty became my colleagues, we shared office space; I was able to develop such a wonderful network of connections in the field.”

      Radford said her State Department experience provided a “very logical link” to her CRP studies.

      “In several of the places we served, we always had a suitcase packed, whether it was because of political unrest or physical instability in the region. One of the mandates of the State Department was to always have a sense of readiness,” she said. “Through all of my experiences, emergency management became a real interest of mine. I learned very early on that building communities was not just about where to place city hall, mapping out streets, and stormwater management. It’s also about how to plan for safety — I wanted to take my skills and apply them in an emergency management context.”

      After interning with FEMA while still a student at Temple University Ambler, Radford began working for URS Corporation as their FEMA Outreach Coordinator right out of the gate — “a perfect match for my interest in emergency management planning and my newly minted Community and Regional Planning degree” — before transitioning to FEMA initially as a mitigation planner.

      “The job has definitely evolved,” she said. “The staff is now almost all professional planners with a lot more training out in the field. We work proactively with local floodplain administrators, elected officials, building inspectors, permitting officials, non-profits, residents, bankers, mortgage brokers, realtors and insurance agencies. The bottom line is building capacity for flood risk reduction.”

      FEMA, Radford said, is currently involved in an ongoing project to remap all of America’s coasts and has funded a variety to floodplain mapping projects throughout the country — including the extensive remapping of the Pennypack Creek Watershed conducted by Temple University’s Center for Sustainable Communities — “to help protect our communities; to prevent disasters before they happen and help ensure there is less devastation when they do occur.”

      More than three years out from Hurricane Sandy and more than 10 years out from Hurricane Katrina, FEMA continues to work with communities throughout the country to get back on their feet again after natural disasters.

      “Events like Tropical Storm Lee and Hurricane Irene in 2011 had a tremendous impact on Pennsylvania — we are still working with communities re-building from those storms. Hurricane Sandy, of course, did tremendous damage to New Jersey and New York,” Radford said. “The Midwest is currently seeing record flooding while California is experiencing devastating El Niño-fueled storms. FEMA’s primary focus is how do you keep a town or community functioning — rebuilding infrastructure such as schools, roads, police departments and fire stations is a priority.”

      When something overwhelming occurs, FEMA is there to assist communities; assist residents in finding the resources they need to rebuild while also identifying risks and developing plans to rebuild safer, sustainable communities, Radford said. FEMA works with communities to prioritize their rebuilding plans and identify available funding, she added.

      “It’s about everyone working together to fulfill an essential need,” she said. “We’re also involved in a lot of outreach and a lot of public education; floodplain management classes, for example, to help reduce the risk of flooding.”

      FEMA is also part of the regional response and coordination for any major event in the country, both natural “and planned,” Radford added. FEMA, for example will be involved in the coordination of Pope Francis’ recent visit to the city in addition to the upcoming Democratic Presidential Convention in Philadelphia.

      “Whether an event is natural or manmade, you have to be prepared for everything,” she said. “Because we are prepared, we can respond effectively in concert — at the local, community, state, federal and national level.”

      Looking back on how the Community and Regional Planning program prepared her to help face what can seem to be insurmountable challenges, Radford said Temple provided “an extremely welcoming, supportive environment that prepared me for a career that I know allows me to make a difference.” 

      “With evening classes, Community and Regional Planning really is a wonderful program for working adults — you’re not leaving the program with horrible amounts of debt and you don’t have to worry about daytime scheduling. The faculty are all people working in the industry sharing their knowledge, their skill, and their connections — it’s a readymade network,” she said. “There are so many planning career avenues to pursue — transportation, housing, community building, GIS, stormwater management, historical preservation, emergency management — and all of them are fascinating.”

      Photo and Story Credits:  Jim Duffy

       

  • Lauren Van Dyk (MS CRP'15)

      Two weeks after May graduation, Lauren Van Dyk (MCRP ’15) joined the Montgomery County Planning Commission (MCPC) as a Community Planner. Lauren began a voluntary internship with MCPC in January 2015 that focused on growing Montgomery County’s local food system. She jumped at the chance to apply for a full-time position upon learning of an opening in MCPC’s Community Planning division.

      Today, Lauren is the Community Planner for the boroughs of Ambler, Narberth and Red Hill, and is assisting Principal Community Planner Mike Narcowich in updating Upper Moreland’s comprehensive plan. In addition to weighing in on various planning issues and providing County reviews for projects and ordinance changes in her communities, Lauren is also currently working on adding environmentally-focused language to an existing zoning ordinance that will address water quality, the adoption process of a new form-based zoning code and authoring an updated and more comprehensive sign ordinance to replace existing language.

      Lauren feels her courses at Temple have contributed to her success thus far as a professional planner. She regularly utilizes concepts and methods learned in courses like Introduction to GIS, Planning Analysis, Planning Communications, Sustainable Community Design and Development, and Planning Studio in her work and has been able to build on those skills in the months since graduation.

      “I feel strongly that Temple’s focus on sustainability and ecological planning prepared me for a future in this field, as so many communities in our region have pushed those issues to the forefront of their planning goals. It gives me both comfort and confidence to know that my education has given me the tools I need to be a professional planner in our ever-evolving world,” Lauren added. She also noted that the growing number of Temple graduates joining MCPC “is a true testament to the quality of Temple’s planning program, and demonstrates the competence and preparedness of CRP alumni. It’s great to see!”