A winding path
Meet two graduates whose careers have taken them to the outermost reaches of the United States.
Bart Rudolph (B.A. ’06)
The career arc for an urban transportation planner generally follows a predictable path: from a city transportation department, to a regional planning agency, to a state transportation department. And while “exotic” is not often a term applied to environs such as Albany, N.Y., Sacramento, Calif., or Jefferson City, Mo., Rudolph took a flier on a job location that seemed like an adventure. Goodbye, squirrels; hello, caribou. Rudolph is now a transportation planner at the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities, living and working in Anchorage.
When Rudolph saw the job opening, he had already worked for the city of Lawrence, Kan., and the Mid-America Regional Council in Kansas City, Mo., so this was his chance to work at the state level and advance his career. Not to mention camp out overnight on a glacier. “Every weekend is a vacation, from kayaks to glaciers to climbing mountains—stuff I never would’ve dreamed of doing,” Rudolph says. “Here, if you come back to work on Monday morning and tell somebody you didn’t do anything over the weekend, they look at you in awe—how could you waste a weekend?”
Rudolph says that in Anchorage, a city with a population of 300,000, he’s hardly in the midst of the wilderness. It offers many of the amenities of an urban center in the lower 48. “They say Anchorage is only 10 minutes from Alaska—I get the rural environment and the city life,” he says.
Reshawn Fields (B.A. ’05)
A lifelong Kansas City resident, Reshawn Fields longed to see what other parts of the world had to offer. Her first stop was Texas. After Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, many evacuees ended up in Houston. With a background in urban planning and design, she thought her skills could help in resettlement. After a while, she made her way to San Francisco and started researching graduate schools. The master’s program in urban planning at the University of Hawaii was well regarded. A few months after enrolling, however, she started to doubt that Hawaii was the right fit for her. Fields was getting ready to leave when she landed her current job, an environmental planner at Parsons Brinckerhoff.
Working in her field from such a beautiful home base turned out to provide a wealth of opportunities—she’s been able to experience planning from a totally different perspective. Fields has worked on multiple roadway projects on three different islands. She is also working on the Honolulu Rail Transit Project, a major infrastructure project that will influence the community for generations to come. And she has worked with the Hawaii State Energy Office and National Renewable Energy Lab. “This is huge because Hawaii has great potential to develop renewable energy projects given the unique geography and
climate,” she says.
Everyday working life in Honolulu isn’t pure paradise, she learned. “In the beginning, it was great because it was an adventure for me,” she says. “So the cost of living and being so far from family, none of that bothered me the first year and a half.” But trying to actually live there is a different story, she says. That’s when paradise goes away. “It’s part paradise if you can afford it or if you have connections.” She has figured out how to make it work, and Fields is starting to think about the next chapter. Although she would love to be closer to family, she wants to live where there is demand for her skills as an environmental planner.