Success Stories

Alum Highlight: Zachary Flora

Ward 8 is the poorest ward in Washington, D.C, and its health statistics reflect that status. More than a third of its residents suffer from obesity, yet for a number reasons—including poor transportation options and a lack of recreational facilities—about a third also get no physical exercise. Equally troubling is the fact that, as in many disadvantaged neighborhoods, healthy food is hard to come by.

Zackary Flora, who graduated in 2016 from Georgetown’s graduate program in Urban & Regional Planning, is well aware of these deficiencies. But in his Capstone project devoted to improving residents’ health through better planning, he also emphasizes the community’s attributes.

“I wanted to study the connection between the built environment and public health,” said Flora, who received the program’s Outstanding Student award. “In planning, we often look at what communities don’t have rather than what they do have.”

And what does Ward 8 have? For starters, lots of neighborhood schools, some sitting on relatively large areas of unused land. Why not use some of that land for community gardens, Flora said, and then establish farmers’ markets at the schools to sell the produce? He said that such an initiative—coupled with a push for bike lanes and other transportation enhancements—could improve public health even as it leverages, and strengthens, community ties.

Flora is now a Regional Director for Rental Beast, a Massachusetts-based company that connects landlords and property managers with potential renters. With an undergraduate degree in Health Sciences, he was looking for a graduate program that allowed him to pursue his interest in the link between city planning and public health.

He found that program at Georgetown.

“I really liked that it gave me the flexibility to work and attend school,” Flora said. “This program really fit my needs as a working professional.”

Alum Highlight: Maura Brophy

Maura Brophy was already working in affordable housing when she enrolled in the Master’s in Urban & Regional Planning program at Georgetown. As an Asset Manager for the Community Preservation and Development Corporation (CPDC), she served on six redevelopment project teams and oversaw the delivery of more than $16 million in Low-Income Housing Tax Credits.

Brophy loved her work. Yet as much as she valued creating housing opportunities in low-income neighborhoods, she knew she wanted to explore other areas of urban planning—especially new ways of financing urban infrastructure and large-scale urban development—and develop a more comprehensive understanding of the profession.

Georgetown’s program helped her make that transition. In January, she started work at the Federal City Council, a 70-year-old nonprofit that represents the business community in Washington, D.C. She is now involved in some of the biggest projects in D.C., including the expansion of the Metro, the redesign of Pennsylvania Avenue, and the redevelopment of historic Union Station.

At Georgetown, Brophy became part of a community of students, instructors, and urban planning professionals who were as committed to the field as she was. In her second year of the program, she teamed up with fellow student Arianna Koudounas to complete a comparative analysis of ecodistricts in Seattle, Portland, and D.C.

Ecodistricts are designated city sectors that focus on reducing the municipality’s environmental footprint and improving its quality of life. As a result of their work, the two were later invited to present their findings at the American Planning Association’s annual conference in Seattle.

“The program does a wonderful job of making resources and classwork available to explore areas of individual interest,” Brophy said. “It allows people who are entering or advancing in the field of urban planning and development to connect with people who have deep experience; and I think that’s one of the greatest advantages I benefited from.”