Recent Executive Master of Urban Planning (EMUP) online graduate, Chrishelle Palay, spent the last two decades in the architecture field before she decided to pursue a different, related passion: housing policy advocacy.
“I transitioned from architecture because I realized it wasn’t something I wanted to do anymore. Actually, Hurricane Ike kind of led to that realization, as I saw that there are so many communities that didn’t have the skill sets to understand and navigate how to recover from disaster,” she explained.
Palay began working with members from low-income communities to advocate on their behalf for better housing and living conditions, and she is now the director for Houston Organizing Movement for Equity (HOME), a Texan coalition of community-based organizations focused on repairing the state in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.
Palay was passionate about her new career focus and wanted to deepen her knowledge, “The thought of pursuing a master’s in urban planning was on my mind because I thought if I was even better equipped, I could do deeper work that really helps my community members.”
The EMUP program, which is tailored to working professionals who want to make their cities more equitable, sustainable and just, was a perfect fit.
When asked about her experience, Palay mentioned she was particularly fond of her diverse cohort members, “…Now I got to understand through the perspective of someone who’s been working in development, from the perspective of someone that works within finance, someone else who works through the lens of leading homelessness issues or efforts within their community.”
Following graduation, Palay wants to continue building her experience in the advocacy sector and broaden her scope to focus on connecting local-based issues with federal policy changes.
“I want to be doing all I can to be a policy advocate and a bridge builder for equitable disaster recovery so that low-income communities — the most vulnerable communities that are impacted by disaster — are able to have the tools to recover. [I want to ensure] we also have equitable policy that allows folks to really recover and not be set back,” she said.
After taking a moment to look forward, Palay also reflected on what she would tell other people considering the EMUP program, “Lay aside any reservations that you may have. It will be a rigorous program, but a transformative experience … You will have a community of support both from the faculty and the students.”
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