All Academic Programs

Name: Holly Masek

Program: MUP 2013

Hometown: Nashua, NH

Undergraduate school/major: Boston University, BA in Human Geography

What was your work experience/background before coming to the GSD?

I worked in sustainable tourism, specifically for one lodge in Belize. My responsibilities included sales, marketing, program development, and trip leading. It was fascinating to witness the variations in land use in a tiny country—from accelerated condo development by foreign interests in the north, to traditional Mayan subsistence farming in the south.

Why did you decide to pursue planning as a career?

I have always loved cities, and towards the end of my undergraduate degree I began focusing my coursework on the relationships between population growth, urbanization, environment, and health. I knew that I would return to school to pursue planning or demography eventually—it just took awhile. 

What made you decide to come to the GSD?

The GSD’s studio pedagogy seemed like it would encourage creativity. Additionally, I was very impressed by the resources available through Harvard. In my second year I look forward to taking classes at MIT, HKS, and possibly HBS or HSPH.

What are your main interests in planning and concentration area?

I arrived mainly interested in tourism development, but now I am quite interested in the privatization of public planning functions (possibly a result of working with Boston’s first BID all summer at my internship). I am also interested in planning for the aging Boomer generation, specifically the question of how we can plan for millions of suburbanites who will eventually be unable to drive.

Are you involved in any student groups? What have you gained from the experience?

Last semester I was involved with the Tourism Club. This was a great opportunity to work with second year students and to get to know some of the placemakers around Cambridge and Boston. This semester I am the Academic Chair of Harvard’s Urban Planning Organization (HUPO). I look forward to being more involved with shaping our degree program.

What has been the most surprising aspect of the GSD?

The hours! I really had no idea how much time studio would consume.

What has been your favorite class or project? Why?

I was very pleased with my Second Semester Core Studio Concord, MA project. I felt like my planning strategy, which offered housing and transportation solutions for an aging population in a quaint New England town, was both logical and feasible. And while my boards weren’t “exquisite” they were very clear and easily understood by the reviewers. I felt like this was the first project where my thoughts, my argumentation, and my representation skills came together.

What did you do over the summer? How did that add to your education and goals?

This summer I am interning for the Urban Design Department of the Boston Redevelopment Authority. It has been a fantastic opportunity to see how the City, the BRA, and the private sector work together (or don’t, sometimes) to achieve community goals. It has reinforced the content of Public and Private Development class, and has given me insight into how planning initiatives are accomplished and how development projects are approved in a mid-size city. I highly recommend an internship in a city planning office or public agency to MUP students. Even if I end up working for a private firm, it has been invaluable to witness the public process from the inside.


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