Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts

Judith Garcia ’13

Designing a dream: Judith Garcia wants to become one of America’s best urban planners. Her work at Wheaton and abroad has paved the way for her journey to the top.

Laying out urban planning. In basic terms, urban planning is concerned with the control of the use of land and design of the urban environment. Believe it or not, urban planners design our transportation networks, and ensure the orderly development of everything that makes up a city—businesses, schools, roads, entertainment facilities and residential areas. Everything you can find in a city is planned—even the water sewers beneath our feet!

There’s nothing more gratifying than serving other people. Urban planning and city development provide me the opportunities to serve the “public interest,” improve the life of others through a technical and political process without having to run for office, and, better yet, I get to see a finished product.

The importance of travel.
Spring semester of my junior year, I traveled to Oman through the SIT program as a Gilman Scholar. I was the first American female to intern for the country’s Supreme Committee of Town Planning. I worked side-by-side with engineers and planners in the construction of a second highway that would connect Oman to Dubai as a method to lessen the traffic congestion and high rates of car accident fatalities. The experience allowed me to understand planning from an international perspective, but also gave me the opportunity to have a hands-on experience with one the largest urban renewal projects in the history of the Middle East.

Building a bridge. Thanks to the financial support of the Marshall Center for Intercultural Learning, I had the opportunity to attend the American Planning Association’s annual conference in April 2010. I met urban planners with different areas of expertise from all over the nation. The most valued lesson I took from the conference is that the task of urban planners is to build a bridge between plans and people. You cannot create a sustainable city without considering the people living in it!

An avenue for success. Meeting economics professor Russell Williams has had a profound impact in me. Ever since I was a freshman, Professor Williams has always said his goal is to make me one of the best urban planners in the nation. He has taught me the skills of being a critical thinker, that in life one must not know the answers to everything but instead know how to ask the right questions. Lastly, he has taught me to stay grounded to my integrity and to proceed with caution.

The extent to which my professors have gone to support me and cultivate my intellectual growth demonstrates the best of a liberal arts education. You can’t find that kind of personal attention anywhere else.

Interview by Alex Cilley ’14
Photograph by Shiwei Huang ’15