GSD Career Services maps out ambitious agenda for supporting UPD students

When Meryl Golden became Director of Career Services at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design over nine years ago, relatively few efforts within the office focused on Urban Planning and Design students. Today, however, Career Services is practically bursting with programs, energy, and ideas for how to assist in the professional development of UPD students. Among the highlights of the office’s ambitious agenda for the coming year is expansion of the Community Service Fellowship Program (CSFP) in partnership with the Joint Center for Housing Studies (JCHS) of Harvard University.

For years, the CSFP has assisted UPD students, as well as other members of the GSD community, as they have pursued summer internships with nonprofit organizations. Demand from qualified applicants for these popular fellowships routinely outpaces the supply of funds. In an effort to address this challenge, Career Services has partnered with the Joint Center for Housing Studies to offer additional fellowships during the coming year.

Although connected to the CSFP, the new JCHS fellowships will differ in two key ways. First, individuals who obtain the fellowships will need to work at organizations that are focused on housing, urban development, real estate, or other issues central to JCHS’s mission. Second, the application deadline for the fellowships will be later than the CSFP deadline has been in recent years. Golden said that this change is an effort to address feedback from students that the application deadlines for some GSD programs that financially support summer internships are earlier than the dates when many organizations respond to internship applications.

Golden views this expansion of the CSFP as much more than just a way to support summer employment. She views each internship that a current UPD student obtains as an opportunity to open up employment “pipelines” for future students. Career Services strives to realize this vision by engaging with employers before, during, and after UPD students enter their offices. For instance, Golden took time to conduct a site visit to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) this summer while Margaret Scott (MUP ’15) was a CSFP fellow at the agency.

Golden hopes that this site visit will help to translate interest on the part of HUD in deepening its relationship with the GSD into employment opportunities for students in the coming years. Scott believes that the site visit will help to meet that goal. Said Scott, “Meryl’s visit to HUD gave my office (the Office for International and Philanthropic Innovation) the chance to bring together several different offices (human resources, human capital, recruitment) who are interested and invested in the future of the Department. We had the chance to talk about the incredible value that urban planners add to HUD, a Department that is often heavily focused solely on housing policy or finance. We also discussed the incredible value and opportunity in reaching out to other disciplines from the GSD that are not as frequently represented, but have a great deal to offer to HUD and the federal government.” 

In the meantime, Career Services is hosting a number of events in order to support the professional development of UPD students. In October, Harvard Government Week will feature a chance to practice networking with alumni in advance of a reception with the planning directors of the largest cities in the United States. In November, a UPD alumni panel will offer students insight into possible post-graduation paths. Throughout the fall, CSFP fellows will be offering lunchtime lectures regarding their jobs in order to enlighten their peers about the program. Students can also schedule one-on-one appointments with Career Services employees to discuss resumes, cover letters, interview techniques, and job searches.

Said Golden, by way of summing up the flurry of activity within Career Services related to UPD students, “I think [we] have a robust set of opportunities.” 



Planning expo (US Department of State): Crystal Winston (MUP ’09) speaking with Jonathan Sandor Goldman (MUP ’15).