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Name: Tessa Perry

Program: MUP 2013

Hometown: Santa Rosa, CA

Undergraduate school/major: Political Science

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

I worked in the lending department at a community development financial institution. The organization provides financing and technical assistance to nonprofits that help low-income communities in Northern California.  

Why did you decide to pursue planning as a career?

I found that I wanted to work more on the project side versus the lending side of the projects I was involved with. I thought this required not only more direct skills in real estate development, but also more knowledge of how to create great communities and how cities function since the ultimate goal is to create stronger neighborhoods.

What made you decide to come to the GSD?

I was excited about the studio pedagogy and getting hands on experience rather than a more policy based approach of other programs. I also thought studio’s focus on the built environment would be beneficial for working in real estate and felt that the concentration areas I am interested in are strong at the GSD.

What are your main interests in planning and concentration area? I am planning on concentrating in Neighborhood and Housing Development and Real Estate and Urban Development.

What was your impression of Harvard and the GSD before you came?

I was intimidated by the idea that the GSD program is very urban design focused. I thought that most of my classmates would have some sort of design background.

How has your impression changed since coming to the GSD?

Although some of my classmates do have backgrounds in design, most do not. There is a really wide variety of backgrounds in our program and most of us struggled through learning the basics of graphic design together. I am also noticing that the curriculum is changing each year and it seems to be moving away from its reputation as a design-focused program.

What has been your favorite class or project? Why?

My favorite project was the Affordable Housing Development Competition that is sponsored by the Federal Home Loan Bank of Boston, but also is part of an affordable housing class. The competition was a lot of work, but it allowed us to work with real organizations on actual sites and we all learned a lot. I have definitely been using the skills I learned in that class this summer.

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

I worked for Somerville Community Corporation, an organization that works to preserve diversity and affordability in Somerville. I worked in the real estate development department, helping them research ways to finance transit-oriented affordable housing without using the traditional 9% low income housing tax credit as these credits have become exceedingly competitive in Massachusetts. Learning more about developing and financing affordable housing was a goal for the summer, since I hope to work in this industry after graduating, and I definitely got that experience this summer.

What are your career ambitions?

My goal is to become a developer, or consultant for a developer, to bring new life to troubled neighborhoods by building mixed-use projects with affordable housing, businesses, retail, community space or performing arts centers that serve the community and create economic opportunities.


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