Connecting People, History, and the Built Environment

Avery Agostinelli

Master of Community Planning, 2022

Auburn University


Why did you choose to pursue a graduate education in planning?

I think planning actually pursued me at first, The more planning courses I took, the more I realized that “this is what I am meant to do.” I honestly did not consider graduate school for planning until I received a promotional email from the program at my school, and since then I haven’t stopped singing its praises. The planning program is perfect for me because I am a visual learner with a love for architecture, history, and do-it-yourself projects. However, in the Masters of Community Planning (MCP) program at Auburn University, my classmates and I, through our group projects, came to realize how diverse our interests are, ranging from GIS (geographic information system) to legislation. To me, diversity is the beauty of planning: as planning students we each have diverse and distinct areas of expertise that lend themselves to the work of others, enabling us to achieve remarkable project outcomes after just a semester of work.

What planning subject or area most interests you?

When I entered Auburn’s MCP program in 2021, I immediately fell in love with historic preservation. I see historic preservation as the art of connecting people with their environment and the integration of a city’s culture and values into their built environment, which is crucial to a city’s success. I saw my hometown of Mobile, Alabama achieve an almost 180-degree transformation from the time I began studying at Auburn (2017) to my graduation (2022). A once neglected, largely abandoned downtown has been revitalized as a culturally rich and hugely popular destination for residents and tourists alike. For me, Downtown Mobile illustrates the power of historic preservation through adaptive reuse, community outreach, and economic development.

What opportunities does your program provide to engage with the community and fellow students?

In every semester, Auburn University’s MCP program provides an opportunity for a class, such as Studio or Quantitative Methods, to partner with a neighboring city to complete a project together. The class is then divided into groups, and each group is given a task to aid in the completion of a final deliverable for the city, My favorite community outreach project focused on Auburn itself, specifically one of the city’s primary, but underappreciated, corridors. Throughout the semester, my team and I completed individual and group projects that came together as a master project proposal for the community. It was so gratifying to speak with community members and communicate our ideas.

What advice would you offer someone considering a master’s degree in planning?

Keep your mind open! When in doubt, always maintain a curious rather than judgmental perspective and practice saying “yes” more than “no.” Before I enrolled, I worried about the versatility of planning knowledge as my family constantly asked me what I was going to do after I graduated. The truth is, I had no idea, and if I had let my uncertainty and others’ doubt deter me, I would not have graduated Auburn University with two master’s degrees and received a job offer less than a week after I graduated. This degree is incredibly versatile, and the skills I have now are marketable and valuable for almost any position. I simply cannot overemphasize how grateful I am to my planning program.

What do you hope to do after completing your degree?

I am so excited to graduate and return to Mobile, Alabama to pursue a historic preservation position within the private sector. This is my dream job because I can combine all my favorite things (adaptive reuse, community outreach, and economic development) into one job while working in the fast-paced, collaborative private sector. Ultimately, I just want a job that allows me to work with other people, engage with the community, research, and create innovative solutions. My mind is open, and I am ready to join the workforce and contribute to something larger than myself.

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