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Intro Spotlight: Maria Walker

Intro Spotlight: Maria Walker

In keeping with our tradition of interviewing new team members, we asked our new Assistant Planner, Maria Walker a few questions...

Tell us a bit about yourself 

I am an Urban Studies and Planning graduate, with a minor in Ethnic Studies from UCSD. While I may have been born in Southern CA, I grew up in Brooklyn, NY. Living in California these past 4 years have been a bit of a culture shock for someone fluent in public transportation, but I am eager to be a part of the process here in San Diego.

In my spare time, I like to read and spend time with my cat Mochi! I enjoy baking banana breads and trying new recipes. Since I am a “Walker”, I’ve always followed my namesake and love walking by the beach or in nature during my downtime.

How did you become interested in Circulate San Diego?

When I began my initial job search, I was looking for an entry level position in urban planning, but urban planning encompasses so many sectors and careers that it was hard finding the right thing. Using my projects from college and reflecting what my passions were, I knew I wanted to work for a company that did community engagement and focused on improving transportation and walkability.

It was difficult in the beginning because there’s not many positions, especially in the private sector, that are as involved with the people compared to NGOs. Instead, many focused on technical writing, solely design work, or research. I wanted something with a bit more flexibility to learn and do everything. This was when I searched up on google, rather than indeed, “San Diego NGOs Walkability” and Circulate appeared! And of course, I applied and here I am!

What’s your most memorable face palm moment? Or what is your biggest achievement to date? Choose one. 

It's hard for me to recall a singular facepalm moment because I feel like I have them all the time. In the summer before my senior year of college, I was looking for an interview to fulfill my graduation requirement, and at the time I was applying to cities such as Del Mar, Solana Beach, and La Jolla to stay close to campus. I was also taking a summer ethnic studies course on “Latina Voices”, and I had my final essay to submit before the summer session was over.

However, I was also working on my resume for Del Mar that I submitted my resume rather than my final essay to my professor, and I did not realize until a day before grades were due! Luckily, my professor contacted me before grades went through, and she even offered her help to look over my cover letter and resume after the class ended! I was grateful this fluke worked in my favor, and with her help, I ended up getting my internship at Del Mar!

If you could choose anyone, who would you pick as your mentor?

I’ve met many amazing people in San Diego, especially in the field of planning that I have already chosen several as my mentors. I am so thankful for my professors Sue Peerson and Mor Shilon; both are empowering women in urban planning who are accomplishing many things in their respective careers.

Sue introduced to me to the design aspect of urban planning and how important placemaking is today. With her guidance, I have been able to expand on my projects and create vibrant, walkable communities that have inspired me to continue this direction in my career. It's one of the reasons why I want to work on transportation and walkability in San Diego!

Mor is an amazing friend and professor who introduced me to the value of community engagement and research. Her methods of teaching were nontraditional compared to my many classes in college; with her guidance, I developed as a planner and always remembered to work with the community, not for it! It’s such an essential skill, especially in a career where what we do affect day-to-day lives.

I am so grateful I can call them both my mentors and I hope to put everything I’ve learned from them both into my new job at Circulate.