Degree(s) Earned
B.S. Arch '06

Current Employer: SmithGroup

Hometown/Country: Oshkosh, WI

Current City/Country: Royal Oak, MI

/ Alumni / Bachelor of Science in Architecture,

Kathleen Duffy

Principal | Urban Planner

“Being part of one of the best public universities in the country exposed me to a student body and faculty that piqued my curiosity, innovation, creativity, and passion to make the world a better place.”

Describe the work you do. What are some of your recent and current projects that excite you? What inspires you about the future of your chosen field?

I lead our team of urban planners at an interdisciplinary design firm where we plan at a variety of scales, from sites to cities. My emphasis is in land use and neighborhoods, but I’m a proud generalist who is equally excited by rapid transit alternatives as I am by resilience planning and urban farming. Highlights include leading the City of Las Vegas Master Plan, City of Detroit Comprehensive Plan, and partnering with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation helping communities across the state become redevelopment ready. As one whose program emphasized sustainability, I’m excited to see how that has evolved to a more holistic approach to resilience and equity. We need to continue to fix the problems previous generations of planners made for a more equitable future.

Why did you choose Taubman College for your education?

I grew up a Michigan fan in Wisconsin with two alums for parents and always dreamed I could go to Michigan. Because the University of Wisconsin didn’t have an architecture school and I wanted a big school, I had a convenient excuse to go to the school of my dreams. I stepped foot on campus in Ann Arbor and felt “home.” I got preferred admissions to Taubman, so in my first two years of undergrad I was free to explore the vast array of electives that contribute to my well-rounded, interdisciplinary focus I use at work every day.

How did Taubman College prepare you for your career? What experiences beyond the classroom (internships, research assistantships, teaching opportunities, or other external experiences) provided additional value?

My foundation in architecture and interest in historic preservation and redevelopment has informed the types of projects I am most excited to work on. Whether I’m writing infill design standards for housing or laying out a redevelopment site to better fit its surroundings, my background in architecture is almost always at play in my planning work. My last studio project for a brownfield redevelopment in downriver Detroit has played out in real time for projects in and around redeveloping rustbelt cities – including just down the street from that site!

How has being part of the alumni community impacted you, personally and professionally?

Just saying, “I graduated from Michigan,” usually elicits a positive response that needs no other explanation. I have remained active as an alum even though I went on to be a planner, not an architect. I love connecting with students from both programs, chatting with them about the future, and reminiscing with my classmates I’m still friends with about our adventures on the 3rd floor.

What did you like best about attending Taubman College?

Being part of one of the best public universities in the country exposed me to a student body and faculty that piqued my curiosity, innovation, creativity, and passion to make the world a better place.

What advice or important lesson would you share with someone considering Taubman College and/or pursuing a career in your chosen field?

Read and explore. Visit new places, understand how diverse our built environment is, ask questions, and connect to causes that you are inspired by. Never stop learning – each day as an urban planner gives me a new problem to solve and a way to make my work better than yesterday.