Tomorrow on @PennCareerDay: Jeff Barg, COL ’02/MCP ’10 – PA Horticultural Society

Be sure to follow @PennCareerDay tomorrow for great insights from another Penn alum about their career path and a typical day at the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society!

Jeffrey Barg is Associate Director for Planning and External Policy Relations at the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society.  At PHS, he develops and maintains the organizational policy agenda and government relations at the federal, state and local level, and manages projects related to urban greening, creative placemaking, vacant land reclamation, urban agriculture, community and neighborhood gardens, landscape studies and more.

Prior to his work with PHS, Jeff worked with the Penn Institute for Urban Research at the Consortium for Building Energy Innovation at the Philadelphia Navy Yard.  Before that, he had a long career in journalism as managing editor for Philadelphia Weekly.

Jeff holds a BA in American History and a Master of City Planning, both from University of Pennsylvania.  (Editors note: He also plays a mean blues guitar.)


Summer in the Park

This is the next in a series of posts by recipients of the Career Services Summer Funding Grant. We’ve asked funding recipients to reflect on their summer experiences and talk about the industries in which they’ve been spending their summer. You can read the entire series here.

This entry is by Jessica Laurel Arias, PennDesign ’17

Me interviewing a community participant in Apartadó, Colombia

This summer I conducted analysis of completed participatory design projects with the organization Fundación para el Desarollo Intercultural. The projects I studied involved communities in the city of Quibdó and the municipalities of Apartadó and Chigorodó in western Colombia to build local parks as a way of promoting social integration among community residents and individuals who had recently demobilized from armed groups. The projects took place in regions that have been torn apart by internal war in Colombia. Mass displacement and resettlement, corruption, lack of institutional capacity, and a culture of violence and distrust have resulted in a social fabric that is in many cases absolutely broken. I gathered first-hand information by travelling to those areas to conduct interviews with project participants and to observe continued use and results since the completion of the projects in 2009 and 2010.

“Peace Park” in Quibdó, Colombia

The common goal of constructing a park produced more than just a physical product; it also gave these communities a first glance into the concept of the public realm: where people learn to tolerate differences, work towards the common good, and participate in civil society. The demobilized individuals described the impact of seeing a positive physical product to their labor, showing them they could be productive members of society. Many of the participants spoke to me about these projects as catalysts for greater empowerment in their neighborhoods. The different communities have since taken initiative to complete their own census to petition their municipality for greater resources, establish a school of music, complete home and infrastructure improvement projects, and involve neighbors in waste management programs. In spite of high poverty and very little institutional support, collective action and accountability have become great resources for these communities.

Linear Park in Chigorodó, Colombia (I am wearing a blue shirt)

For me as a design student, the most interesting aspect of these projects was that although design was not the primary goal, it was an essential tool for promoting reconciliation between groups with a history of violent interaction. While designing and constructing their small community parks, the participants discussed the meaning of social harmony, citizen participation, and cultural identity. By practicing these concepts through the design process, victims and victimizers came together to find common ground.

Linear Park in Chigorodó, Colombia

Through the comparative analysis I completed of these projects, and hearing about other types of projects aimed at reintegrating demobilized persons in Colombia, it became clear to me that the physical-spatial aspect of the programs was fundamental to their sustainability. The parks have become spaces for interaction among strangers and acquaintances alike, places to develop and propagate social norms, and foster a shared vision for their communities. Residents of other neighborhoods recognize these spaces as symbols of the social cohesion achieved through the projects, and the parks serve as important meeting points in the areas where they are located. The continued use of these public spaces has also helped to continually build psychological and emotional ties to the physical spaces of these communities. It is inspiring to see how design can promote more equitable societies by involving diverse stakeholders and promoting citizen participation. By becoming the creators and managers of their own shared spaces, these communities are finding access routes to wider goals: economic development, social justice, and sustainable development.

"20 de enero" Park in Apartadó, Colombia
“20 de enero” Park in Apartadó, Colombia

Need helping building your portfolio?

Mariel Kirschen, PennDesign ’16

Portfolios are a great way to show off all the skills and practice you’ve gained throughout your education and past work experience.  They also provide an opportunity to brand yourself and exhibit your unique design aesthetic.  Alongside your resume, sharing your portfolio provides potential employers with further insight into who you are as a candidate.

Where to start?  For help with building a strong portfolio, there are loads of online resources that can help.  To make things easier, Career Services has compiled a variety of these resources on their website to help guide students:

  1. Penn and Beyond Blog: Show Me Your Skills!  How to Create a Portfolio that Stands Out to Recruiters 
  2. PennDesign Portfolio Resources: Links to resources for building your portfolio, online publishing resources, and sample portfolios
  3. Design Sheets – A Quick Overview
  4. Sample Portfolios from PennDesign students: We’re adding new reference portfolios to our website from alumni and current students.  For tips on how to use these samples to get started on your own, check out How to Use Sample Resume and CVs
  5. Your Teaching Portfolio – Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching

As always, students can make appointments with a Career Services Advisor for advice and feedback on portfolios.  To make an appointment, call 215-898-7530.

Mariel Kirschen is the Design Graduate Assistant for University of Pennsylvania’s Career Services office and graduate student in the School of Design.

“This Could Only Exist in Berlin”

This is the next in a series of posts by recipients of the Career Services Summer Funding grant.  We’ve asked funding recipients to reflect on their summer experiences and talk about the industries in which they’ve been spending the summer.  You can read the entire series here.

This entry is by Katie Black, PennDesign, LArch ’16

If there’s anything previous travel has taught me, it has been that almost always, my expectations of a city, it’s culture, places, and people, rarely match reality. Prior to moving to Berlin this summer, I kept this in mind.

Yet despite how much I tried, I had mental images of what the place would be like. In my stereotype-laden daydreams, Berlin was some kind of never-never land where artists and musicians lived in moody hovels, pushing the boundaries of their life’s work, while major political movements that epitomize the world’s zeitgeist forge on in the background. It was a hipster rats-nest, where you’re expected to stay up clubbing until sunrise and take advantage of the god-given ability to drink in its many public places. Everywhere in Berlin would be loaded with history, every street would have a million stories.

My convoluted images of the city were mish-mashed against the fact that I was coming to Berlin for work. My knowledge of landscape architecture offices, of deadlines and of cherished sleep after a long day of work, clashed with this David Bowie fantasyland I envisaged. I had no idea what my life would be like in Berlin, and when I got on the plane, I was scared.  How would I survive? How would I fit in?

The city and the internship that awaited me were both intimidating, and, for the first few weeks, life was lonely and challenging. Working at an international landscape architecture office on design competitions, I was one small part of a team of interns who helped to create graphics and design drawings that communicated the concepts, strategies, and intentions of the partners and associates at the helm of the firm. We were expected to work quickly and our office had high standards for our outputs.

While I worked long hours, I still had many chances to experience the city that at first seemed so daunting. My bike ride to work took me straight down Karl Marx Allee, a monumental socialist boulevard and a major axis of former East Berlin. I turned past the TV Tower towards the office, in an older part of city-center. My flatmates and coworkers were kind and welcoming, came from all over the world, and were happy to explore the city and show me their favorite places whenever we could.

Ultimately, my imagined disparity between a fantastical city and a demanding job proved untrue – they were not two separate entities but a tightly intertwined experience. As time went on, I found myself saying more and more, ‘This could only exist in Berlin’. My work experience, the projects I was exposed to, the people I met, all came together because of the pull of the city. I am so happy to have had the opportunity to learn about my chosen profession, international practice, and what makes cities magical.

The First Step to My Career

This is the next in a series of posts by recipients of the Career Services Summer Funding grant.  We’ve asked funding recipients to reflect on their summer experiences and talk about the industries in which they’ve been spending the summer.  You can read the entire series here.

This entry is by Yani Liang, Penn Design MCP ’17

Since I came to Penn, my career goal has been clear: to become a qualified transportation planner, capable of balancing public equity and policy orientation, to develop plans that will contribute to the sustainable development of public transit after graduation. The summer internship I found is the Subway Performance Support Aide in Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) in New York City, which operates the busiest and largest transit system in North America. Before the internship began, I expected it as my first and most important step to my future career. Now, I have been interning in MTA for almost 2 months, I found that my expectation is definitely right. The intern perfectly aligns with my career goal.

The Department of Subways (DOS) is the sub-division of NYCT. Under DOS, there are several subdivisions as well. I worked in Performance Analysis Unit (PAU) under the department of Subways of Finance. I have been assisting in building a performance database for subways. I am also participating in the projects of analyzing recent and long-term changes in service performance of subways, especially through the quantification of the impact of delays causes.

I learned a lot and found that there are several things I could do to be successful during the internship. Firstly, the most important thing is know what you know, and set up reasonable goals to help you work on the right track. I have established three main goals with my supervisor which will ensure that I am able to apply what I have learned in school to the real world problems and gain valuable working experience. The three main goals go along with corresponding tasks that help me achieve the goals and also make contributions to PAU. I have routine tasks to do every day and I must pay great attention to details. I also have some projects that would come up as surprises. I think they are challenges to me and I am excited to take them.

Secondly, being professional is of great significance working in a technique oriented department. We are required to know concepts of the subway system well because all of the analysis we are doing is based on the mechanism behind the tracks and trains. Only if I got an intimate knowledge of all the subway stuff, can I really establish a more accurate hypothesis and methods to conduct the analysis. I have learned a lot during my internship that I would have never learned in school. This new knowledge contains detailed aspects which greatly broadened my view of the transportation industry.

Thirdly, since large companies would often provide some education opportunities, I also think it is important to grasp those opportunities and keep ourselves at the cutting edge in the field. The HR division often provides opportunities for people to get involved in conferences, meetings, and tours that will help them get improved. However, most of the opportunities are not mandatory, so employees are able to choose to attend or not according to the schedule. It is flexible but it also means that initiative is required. Basically, my fellow professionals have their own plan for further career development. So everyone needs to be clear of what to do and what needs to be improved in their own career plan.

The advantages of the internship are not limited by the academic scope. It is also my first step to explore what kind of personalities a good transportation planner should have, how transportation department is organized, its daily operations, and how planners make significant influences on the development of public transits. In addition, I am building a good relationship with my colleagues, who are the professional planners in the transportation field. Beyond learning advanced technique skills, I am also going to develop my collaborative ability, decision making and problem solving skills.

Finally, I would like to appreciate the great help received from Career Services. I will continue to work hard during my internship and enjoy the summer in the New York City.