Degree(s) Earned
M.U.P. ’17

Current Employer: Progressive AE

Hometown/Country: Oak Park, MI

Current City/Country: Grand Rapids, MI

/ Alumni / Master of Urban and Regional Planning,

Julianna Tschirhart


“I appreciated the range and amount of events and opportunities, whether that was lectures, extracurriculars, or Expanded Horizons.”

Why did you choose Taubman College?

I’m from Metro Detroit so it was important to me to go to graduate school in the area so I could gain experience and make connections in the region. I chose the planning program at Taubman because I was looking for a full-time student experience with a transportation planning program. I liked the idea of a relatively small program but with access to the resources of the larger university at U of M. The prospect of living in Ann Arbor for a couple of years was also appealing.

Describe the work that you do.

I am a Planner with Progressive AE, based in Grand Rapids, Michigan. As a Planner I work with private developers, city and county governments, and other stakeholders to tackle planning and zoning issues in their communities. Whether that is leading a master planning process for a small village or working with a developer on getting their project through local zoning approval, my work touches multiple areas of urban planning — from macro to micro. Working at a multi-disciplinary firm with architects, engineers, and other designers allows us to approach projects holistically and offer expertise at various stages of project development.

What are some of the projects that you have worked on recently?

A few interesting projects recently have been helping to get Michigan’s largest community land trust to date through the approval process in Grand Rapids. This is an ownership model that guarantees affordability for the first and future owners, and is sort of a stepping stone to traditional homeownership. I am also working on a zoning reform toolkit for the Michigan Association of Planning. The goal is to present tools that local units can utilize to expand housing supply and choice in their communities. The housing shortage and housing affordability issue is huge here in Michigan and across the country, so it feels especially relevant and rewarding to be a part of that project. Other recent projects include assisting with zoning ordinance rewrites and master planning processes for communities, as well as doing community engagement for streetscape redesign projects.

How did Taubman College prepare you for your career?

Taubman gave me a solid background in planning theory, law, and practice. Although everyone came into the program wanting to do different things with their degree, I appreciated the background in planning law, local government finance, economics, and statistics. The capstone was also a great opportunity to work for a client and tackle a real planning challenge. I wouldn’t be in the role I am now without having gone to Taubman, so I am appreciative of the lessons and connections I made while there.

What is an important lesson that has stayed with you from your time at Taubman College?

Working collaboratively is going to serve you no matter your role. I studied sociology in undergrad where group projects were rare. In contrast, almost every class in graduate school had group work. Learning how to work with others more effectively was something I took away from my time at Taubman. The other more planning-specific lesson came from some of Jonathan Levine’s courses. Mainly that zoning is already an intervention into the market and that we are overregulating and keeping people from being able to live in the types of homes and communities they would like to. To allow for mixed uses, more density, less parking — that is actually a lessening of restrictions and an expansion of choice. It was a big reframe moment for me!

What did you like best about attending Taubman College?

The people! I met great friends and inspiring professors while I was at Taubman. It is so cool to see what some of my classmates are now doing in their careers. I also really appreciated the range and amount of events and opportunities, whether that was lectures, extracurriculars, or Expanded Horizons.