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Alumni Profile: Caroline Jordi (MUP ’10)

Name/year: Caroline Jordi (MUP '10)

Hometown: Miami, Florida

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

I spent two years volunteering and then working at the Aga Khan University in Karachi, Pakistan. Nine years and several geographies later, I’m still with the same organization! The Aga Khan University is an international university with campuses and teaching sites in Europe, Asia, and Africa. It operates as part of the Aga Khan Development Network, a group of private, non-denominational development agencies that seek to improve living conditions and opportunities in sub-Saharan Africa, Central and South Asia, and the Middle East.

What made you decide to pursue planning as a career?

I have an undergraduate degree in Urban Studies, which gave me my first opportunity to become involved in finding land for the establishment of a new campus for the Aga Khan University in Tanzania. Living in Pakistan and traveling throughout East Africa was incredibly eye opening as I discovered firsthand the detrimental effect of a total absence of planning on quality of life, the built environment, the ability to operate a business, etc. This led to my desire to work on improving quality of life through the built environment.

What made you come to GSD?

I loved what I was doing but I had no idea what I was doing! I knew I needed to go back to school to develop a foundation in urban planning if I wanted to be effective in helping the Aga Khan University expand from its programs in education and health sciences into a comprehensive university, as well as expand its global footprint. Working internationally, the Harvard brand is unbeatable and provides an instant level of recognition that has proven invaluable. I continued to work part-time while at Harvard and then came back to a full-time role upon graduating.

What is your current position?

Campus Planner at the Aga Khan University.

What areas in planning interest you the most?

  • International development, and in particular African cities.
  • This encompasses everything from the role of government and the evolution of civil society to infrastructure and housing.

Can you summarize the path you have taken since graduation that has led to your current position and how the GSD prepared you for it?

I interned with Dr. Mona Serageldin at the Cambridge-based Institute for International Urban Development (I2UD) during my time at the GSD, who opened my eyes to the realities of urban planning in the developing world and the different approaches and strategies that are appropriate for work outside the Western world. Following graduation, I was seconded to an urban planning firm (Beyer Blinder Belle) in New York, which was developing the master plan for the Aga Khan University’s campus in Tanzania. While I never planned to pursue a career on the design side, spending 2.5 years learning what it takes to develop a master plan has made me much more prepared for my client-side role.

What advice would you give to current and future planning students?

Pursue every possible opportunity to get hands-on experience in different areas.

Current projects?

Campus planning for the Aga Khan University in East Africa. These currently include:

  • The development of a 3,200 acre site in Arusha, Tanzania. This will comprise of a regional campus for the Aga Khan University and associated developments including a hospital, schools, hotels, commercial, retail and residential developments, and considerable open and community spaces. The project is in an advanced design stage with construction slated to begin in 2017, subject to funding.
  • The establishment of a 600-bed teaching hospital in Kampala, Uganda. This project is in the site selection and feasibility stage.