Degree(s) Earned
M.U.P. ’16

Hometown/Country: Edmonton, Canada

Current City/Country: Toronto, Canada

/ Alumni / Master of Urban and Regional Planning,

Katrina Chaves

“I was attracted to the diversity and experience of the professors and wanted to learn from experts in the field of community development.”

Why did you choose Taubman College?

Taubman’s program provided robust expertise in housing and community and economic development, in addition to the certificate in real estate. Being a part of the University of Michigan also gave me access to substantial academic resources and courses in business, architecture, and natural resources, which rounded out my education. Taubman’s proximity to Detroit and the experiences and lessons the city offered were also a huge draw and added a rich layer to my education and personal growth while attending graduate school.

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

I’m currently in a period of transition regarding my career; however, in my previous role, I managed the disposition and development of publicly owned land in the central region of Detroit. I partnered with the private sector, other city departments, state agencies, and the community to facilitate transformative, complex, mixed-use, mixed-income housing developments in several neighborhoods. I worked on two notable projects in Detroit: the Herman Kiefer project (north of New Center) and Sugar Hill (in Midtown). HK is a large, neighborhood-scale project involving the adaptive reuse of a hospital complex, along with about 100 home rehabs. Sugar Hill is a new construction project with affordable and market-rate housing, ground-floor retail, and a parking structure.

How did Taubman College prepare you for your career?

I was able to take a wide variety of courses in planning, law, real estate, negotiations, and ecological design, and work with classmates who held different perspectives and disciplines. This has helped tremendously in managing projects involving competing interests and requiring involvement from multiple disciplines. The professors and Career and Professional Development team also were very supportive and helpful in finding me my first job after graduation.

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

One of my amazing professors once told me, “Meet people where they’re at.” This has been a challenging lesson to apply in life and work, but it has been an invaluable approach in connecting with the wide range of people and communities I have come across in my career and personal life. Some neighborhoods are ready to change and grow, while others are not. They have to deal with past trauma and experiences that may not fit into the timeline the project team has developed. This is an important consideration to keep in mind if your profession involves introducing massive change to a team, a group of residents, or a city.

What did you like best about Taubman College?

The friendships and professional network that I have developed over the years span across the globe, and I am very grateful that I have learned from and been able to work with some very accomplished and brilliant people in urban planning and development.