February 15, 2013
It takes a certain confident “jump in feet first” attitude to apply for the coordinator position of Bike Temple when you have only rarely touched the pedals of a bike.
Community and Regional Planning Master’s degree student Lindsey Graham simply saw it as another challenge.
“I heard from (Community and Regional Planning Chair) Deborah Howe that Temple’s Office of Sustainability was looking for applicants. I had been on a bike maybe four times in my adult life — I was no bike rider — but I applied because I have a passion for transportation planning and I got the job,” said Graham, 27, who will graduate in May. “In 2011 I decided to take a chance and really learn how to ride a bike in the city. I took Bike Temple’s Urban Riding Basics course and it truly changed my lifestyle. Now I try to influence all of my friends to get comfortable on the road — Philadelphia is a very bikeable city.”
Graham traces her fascination with transportation planning to family trips along I-95 from Connecticut to North Carolina (she calls High Point her home town), which ignited an interest in maps an cartography, and long commutes to North Carolina State, which fueled a desire to fix transportation systems that needed a helping hand. One day, she said, she woke up and wanted to live in a big city. New York? Too big. San Francisco? Too far away. Philadelphia, she said, “had the great history, culture, and people” that she was looking for. It also was the perfect avenue to explore professional planning and urban transportation systems.
“When I discovered planning as a career, I recognized the real impact I could make on communities. Everyone uses some form of transportation — every community is facing transportation challenges,” she said. “Transportation planning is a booming field. I’m looking forward to getting in there, shaking things up and working with people to solve their problems.”
Graham is currently in the middle of another challenge that could very well change her life. Out of a field of thousands of applicants, she was recently named a semi-finalist for the Presidential Management Fellows program, a prestigious two-year paid government fellowship that could provide her with the opportunity to work with a variety of United States government agencies, such as the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce and Defense, Homeland Security and, of course, Transportation. The rigorous selection process includes hours of interviews, tests, and assessments, which take place in Washington, D.C.
“I’ve been consistently impressed with Lindsey’s passion for planning and her commitment to developing her skills. She’s taken the initiative to really pursue every avenue to become an effective planner,” said Deborah Howe. “She has a profound commitment to making a difference in society and I know that she will. No one can match her energy.”
Graham is the third Presidential Management Fellow from Temple’s Community and Regional Planning program in three years — an almost unheard of accomplishment among planning programs in the country. She hopes to follow in the footsteps of 2011’s Brandon Porinchak and 2012’s Christina Mortensen in becoming a finalist. Both previous finalists are currently working at the Department of Housing and Urban Development; Mortensen has helped mentor Graham through the process just as Porinchak had done for her the year prior.
“My dream is to work in federal government; to become Secretary of Transportation,” she said. “A Presidential Management Fellowship is a wonderful step to get there. It’s an invaluable career experience.”
Successful planners are able to “engage diverse communities in meaningful ways — Lindsay definitely has that ability,” said Kathleen Grady, Director of Temple’s Office of Sustainability.
“People feel comfortable approaching her and asking questions. She is adept at bringing people into the conversation,” said Grady. “Lindsey has a diverse background with work experience in transportation planning, non-profit management and community outreach. Building upon that, the Community and Regional Planning program does a good job of preparing students to think holistically about a problem. When they graduate, students are equipped with a diverse set of skills to address complex issues that Presidential Management Fellows will face on a regular basis.”
Graham said Community and Regional Planning, part of Temple’s School of Environmental Design, produces “effective leaders and great organizers, strong individuals who are ready to work hard.”
“The faculty is so supportive and I’ve learned so much from them. Our professors share practical knowledge — they were or still are professional planners,” she said. “I really couldn’t see myself anywhere else.”
Learn more about the Community and Regional Planning program at www.ambler.temple.edu/crp.