Alumni Profile: Erick Guerra (MUP ’07)

Name/Year: Erick Guerra (MUP ’07)

Hometown: Boston, MA

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

After undergrad, I worked as an exhibit designer at an anthropology museum and a Peace Corp volunteer in Gabon. When I got back from the Peace Corps, I worked a lot of odd jobs while applying to graduate programs. During that time, I started working as a transport planning intern with the City of Cambridge.

Also for good local flavor, (prior to undergrad) I worked as a paperboy for the Boston Globe and a vendor at Fenway Park.

What made you decide to pursue planning as a career?

I liked what a generalist, horizontal field it is. It felt like a good field for someone like me who cared a lot about social justice, design, history, and place.

What made you come to GSD?

I really wanted to be in Boston to be close to my family. I also really liked the emphasis on studios.

What is your current position?

Assistant Professor in City and Regional Planning at the University of Pennsylvania.

What areas in planning interest you the most?

  • Transportation planning
  • Land-use regulations

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?

The GSD helped me land a job working in international development planning with Mona Serageldin and Francois Vigier. I also worked for Judith Grant-Long grading and giving labs for the urban planning methods courses. I enjoyed doing research and teaching but realized that I would really need a PhD to continue to do either and so I started applying to doctorate programs.

What experiences at Harvard do you look back on as having been most helpful in your career?

Tony Gomez-Ibanez has been an exceptional mentor. I still meet with him when I’m back in town and he always has kind, pragmatic, and really useful advice. As a teacher and advisor I try to channel my inner Tony in order to do a better job at both.

I also learned a great deal from my studio courses, particularly a studio on New Bedford with David Lee and one on Mumbai with Niall Kirkwood.

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

Push yourself to do the things that are hard for you. You’ll learn a lot more that way than if you stick to the things that come to you naturally.

If you could be a student again, what would you do the same and/or differently?

I took a lot of classes at the Harvard Kennedy School and MIT. I probably would have branched out even further to take advantage of courses about public health or economics. There are just so many great opportunities on and around campus.