Hometown: Kansas City, MOStephanie Brown Photo
Current City: Minneapolis, MN
Current Position: Engagement Manager, McKinsey & Company
Other Degrees: B.A. in Government and History, Georgetown University; MPA, Harvard Kennedy School

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

I worked in politics in Washington D.C., I worked for the federal government, then on presidential campaigns, and finally, started a political consulting company. I always had an interest in local government. When I saw that nothing was truly happening at the congressional level, I thought I could make more of an impact at the city-level, which led me to the GSD and the Kennedy School.

2. Why did you choose the GSD?

I was very interested in the design component of planning. I also like the possibility of the joint degree program at the Kennedy School. At the GSD open house, I noticed that there was a range of perspectives and there was an emphasis on the “big picture,” which was important to me. The GSD also offered me the most financial aid, which made the decision easy.

3. What areas in planning interest you the most and how are you addressing them in your career?

I’m especially interested in negotiated spaces. Place matters, what we build has permanence and shapes how people see themselves. Through urban planning, we see that there are multiple perspectives and experiences of the built environment and all of these perspectives should be valued. Yet, because of this, people disagree, and resolutions are complicated. I find this to be fascinating.

The private sector plays a big role in building cities, so I have a hand in experiencing and mediating these processes. In my current role, we work at the intersection of different sectors. Recently, I’ve worked on projects that require public and private sectors to talk to one another. For example, I worked with a government in Africa to establish ways for the private sector to provide power and waste management. I’ve also worked with a non-profit to develop city resiliency strategies and with the federal government on increasing their private sector investments.

4. What’s your favorite memory of the GSD?

I really loved studio – the creativity and the chaos of it all bonded our class together. In my second year, I took a Jerusalem-based options studio with Alex Krieger, Professor in Practice of Urban Design. We looked at options for developing a parcel next to a light rail line. That was a really special experience.

5. What are some networking strategies that you’ve found most useful?

Persistence is a virtue. When reaching out to someone for an informational interview, always follow up if you don’t hear back right away. Most people want to respond but may not have the time right away. Approach the conversation with an open mind and don’t pursue a specific agenda. Instead, focus on what you can learn – there may be possibilities or ideas that you haven’t considered yet. Last, don’t treat the conversation as being purely transactional. Spend time getting to know the person and developing a rapport. Building a relationship is more important in the long run.