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Name Kate Anderson

MUP 2014

Hometown Chevy Chase, Maryland

Undergraduate school/major Georgetown University/French Literature

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

I did legal research in a few firms in anticipation of going to law school. But I soon saw that wasn't the route I wanted to take, so I explored work in community development, including working with an NGO in Bogotá, Colombia that focused on education and public health for young women.

Why did you decide to pursue planning as a career?

I like tackling problems from different angles, and I enjoy the interdisciplinary approach of planning. I wanted to be involved in work that addresses social justice and community development, and I want to do that at the city level. I considered graduate studies in international development, but decided that working in urban planning will allow me to approach social problems at a scale that feels tangible and makes sense to me, and I can still work internationally if I choose to do so in the future.

What made you decide to come to the GSD?

It's a nice, unique blend of art and policy here. I like the perspective that the design school gives –  I wanted my analytical skills and knowledge to be balanced by creativity- and the GSD is all about fostering creativity. Also, you can't really beat Harvard University and Cambridge in terms of providing an intellectually stimulating environment.

What are your main interests in planning and concentration area?

I chose to concentrate in Housing and Neighborhood Development. I'm interested in working in participatory planning and learning how various individuals and interest groups can affect change in their communities. I also am interested in public spaces and public health.

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

A friend graduated from the GSD several years before I applied or even considered urban planning. She gave me a tour of Gund Hall when I was in town visiting, and I loved the architecture and her descriptions of studio work. I saw it as a place that cultivated a lot of innovation and collaboration.

How has your impression changed since coming to the GSD?

I definitely believe that the GSD fosters innovation and collaboration – my classmates work well together and are all amazing, in very diverse ways. After spending so many working hours in Gund, I can't say I always took a step back to appreciate the design of the building that attracted me at the beginning. But, I was able to stay inspired by seeing the work of everybody surrounding me.

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

I was a part of HUPO (Harvard Urban Planning Organization), which plans various planning-related events. It's a good way to get connected to the planning world outside of GSD classes. I also joined the Dudley House Orchestra – a musical group for Harvard graduate students. It's a nice, consistent musical outlet, as well as a good way to meet students from other schools.

What has been the most surprising aspect of the GSD?

I knew that graduate studies would involve more individual research, but I was surprised by how much discretion I've had in a lot of my assignments, especially in studio. There's some training and guidance, but not a lot of handholding, which means you can take more ownership of your work and explore things creatively, but it can also be a challenge in terms of choosing paths of study. I was also pleasantly surprised by the diversity of our class in terms of background, but also how well we all work together.

What has been your favorite class or project? Why?

I really liked Spatial Analysis and Representation first semester. I had no formal design background, and it taught many basic design skills and how to use Adobe software with a lot of fun assignments. Second semester I enjoyed Creating Resilient Cities: Disaster Field Lab, where we worked with New York City and issues of sea level rise post-Sandy. We were able to visit the site and work with locals.

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