This semester we were fortunate to welcome Jorge Luna as an adjunct professor, teaching Urban Transportation: Problems and Prospects. Students in this course analyzed theories and policies surrounding urban transportation, explored contemporary problems and solutions, and investigated political and ethical implications within the transportation planning process. To learn more about how an MPA degree can prepare you for a career in transportation planning, read the following Q & A with Jorge Luna.
Q: Can you describe your educational and professional background in urban transportation?
A: I attained a Bachelor’s degree in Urban Affairs and Planning from Virginia Tech and a Master’s in Public Administration from Arizona State University. I began my career in a non-profit organization in the Washington DC area, helping manage disaster mitigation projects around the world. I then had the opportunity to work as a land use planner for the City of Phoenix in their Planning Department. In Phoenix, I transitioned from land use planning to transit and transportation planning in the city’s transit department, overseeing the planning and evaluation of all routes in the city. As my desire to learn more about regional planning grew, I accepted a position with the region’s metropolitan organization and council of governments to support the transit component of the regional transportation plan and federal fund distribution. I later became Manager of Service Planning at the regional transit authority, Valley Metro. I spent several more years at Valley Metro before moving back east to be closer to family. I currently work for a consulting firm doing transit and transportation planning across the US. This role allows me insight into the private side of the sector, as well as the ability to utilize my years of experience and varied expertise.
Q: Within transportation planning, what is your perception of the value of an MPA?
A: The MPA degree has been of great value. It has given me the flexibility to touch many aspects within public administration and has helped me understand public processes in a deeper context. For example, why are certain processes or policies instituted and/or needed? Why do they take a certain amount of time? It has helped me recognize how public administration has evolved to meet the challenges and needs of a changing world. In addition, the MPA degree has provided me with a foundation of how public policy works.
In my current position, I use this foundation and prior experience to understand the issues of the public administrator. I can identify the issues and pressures they are facing, and challenge those I work with to collaborate on a solution to those issues.
Q: What do you enjoy about teaching as an adjunct professor, compared to being a practitioner in the field?
A: I enjoy both worlds and roles for different reasons. As this is my first time teaching a full semester course (I have been invited to be a guest lecturer here and there) it has been truly rewarding. I enjoy sharing the material, providing real world insight, reviewing great course books and exchanging different perspectives with the students in class. Most importantly, this experience has been a great reminder of the innovation that comes from a fresh growth mindset. As a practitioner, it is a constant push to keep myself and those around me innovative and empathetic to the end user.