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Name: Vitalia Shklovsky

Program: MUP 2012

Hometown: Lipetsk, Russia / Framingham, MA

Undergraduate school/major: Brown / International Relations & Architectural Studies

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

I worked for three Business Improvement Districts in Midtown NYC, for 2+ years

Why did you decide to pursue planning as a career?

I wanted to work with the built environment, and its intersection with social and economic policy.

What made you decide to come to the GSD?
I wanted to learn about real estate finance, design, and development.

What are your main interests in planning and concentration area?

I had two concentrations: Real Estate and Housing / Community Development. My major interests that result from the two concentrations are affordable housing and major-scale mixed-use “economic development” projects like DIFs and master downtown revitalization programs.

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

I was afraid of snobby professors and students at Harvard. I was more excited than nervous about the studio work.

How has your impression changed since coming to the GSD? 

Harvard is much better than I expected. Taking classes at HKS, HBS, GSD, as well as MIT, and meeting the professors and students everywhere, was the best thing about my Master’s program.

What has been your favorite class or project? Why?

I liked two – the Affordable and Mixed-Income Housing Development, Finance, and Management class, which included the 2011 FHLB Affordable Housing Development Competition (AHDC), and the Economic Development Planning Class at MIT, where Harvard students can cross register. The AHDC client was the Jewish Community Housing for the Elderly, who wanted to expand their existing senior housing campus in Brighton. The competition was real, challenging, and taught me about housing development, teamwork, leadership, finance, community engagement, and Boston. I loved working with a client and sinking my teeth into one project that could become real. So real, in fact, that one of my family friends already lived on that campus, and I felt incredible for knowing our proposal could change her life.

The other project involved all 20 class students working for the Office of Economic Development at the City of Worcester. We delivered strategies in workforce development, second tier business retention, entrepreneurial programs, and downtown revitalization. It was great to have a real client with specific deliverables and deadlines. It was also very good experience in teamwork, since there were many tasks throughout the course.

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

I worked at a small real estate development consulting firm. It was fantastic experience to work on half a dozen projects for municipal clients, learning local real estate markets, practicing planning skills like demographic and economic research, and meeting Boston area planners. I also did some feasibility analysis for specific real estate product types, like supermarkets and performance spaces, and fiscal impact studies. I had a fabulous boss, too, who remained my mentor through my second year of the program and through my job search.

What are your career ambitions?

The more I learned at Harvard, the more I realized I want to do many different things with my life. I want to work in housing, in economic development, for a start-up abroad, for a domestic start-up, for an investor, in micro-finance, for the city, for a neighborhood. I think that after a few years of work, I might want a part-time MBA. And then open a dance studio.

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