Navigating Urban Planning: From Capstone to Loudoun County

February 8, 2024

Welcome to the Professionals Podcast, hosted by Amanda Gillespie and Luke Kasim. In this podcast episode, alumnus Kristian Maldonado (MPS '23, Sustainable Urban Planning) shares his amazing journey into the world of urban planning.

Navigating A Career in Urban Planning: From Capstone Projects to Loudoun County

Embarking on my urban planning journey was a series of unexpected twists and turns. Initially, I found myself drawn to civil engineering, but everything changed after I stumbled upon a career test suggesting urban planning as my true calling. With a mix of uncertainty and excitement, I decided to pursue geography studies at the University of Nevada, where my passion for urban planning truly ignited.

My decision wasn't made lightly. I delved deep into research, poring over resources like the Bureau of Labor Statistics to understand the trends and opportunities in the field. Ultimately, coming to the College of Professional Studies was a no-brainer decision for me because of GW’s accredited masters degree and it’s proximity to political and governmental decision makers.

One of the defining moments of my journey was my capstone project, where I challenged conventional notions of suburban living, particularly in the Western United States. Through rigorous analysis and thoughtful consideration, I proposed a shift towards sustainable development solutions, aiming to address pressing issues like water scarcity and environmental sustainability.

Reflecting on the broader impact of urban planning, I've come to appreciate the unseen yet profound influence of planners on our everyday lives. From crafting walkable communities to designing strategic infrastructure, our decisions shape the very fabric of cities, often without recognition. My experience underscores the multifaceted nature of urban planning, blending elements of science, policy, politics, and community engagement.

Now, as I navigate my role as a land use planner in Loudoun County, I draw upon the knowledge and skills cultivated during my academic journey. Whether advocating for policy changes or engaging with local communities, my commitment to creating a more sustainable and inclusive future remains unwavering. My story serves as a testament to the transformative power of urban planning and the enduring impact of following one's passion.