Before Eugene Kim was named Vice President and Senior Planning Manager with the transportation department at Parsons Brinckerhoff in Los Angeles, he earned his Ph.D. in Urban Planning from the UCLA Luskin School in 2000. In his role as Vice President, Kim manages transportation projects with the level of specificity needed to advise engineers, synthesizing the knowledge into easily digestible reports for his clients.
Kim took a few moments to reflect on his time at UCLA Luskin, how it helped him achieve his career goals and what being an alum of the School means to him.
Question: How did your education at UCLA help prepare you for your role today?
Answer: As a Ph.D. student I received rigorous exposure to the history and theory behind planning practices and gained exposure to planning professionals. I was able to examine the underpinning of planning theory in the U.S which helps me in my job today. I also learned all the technical skills, from using GIS, design techniques, analytics, etc. that I use frequently.
Q: Did you use the Alumni/Faculty network? How has it helped?
A: I do keep in touch with the faculty and like to keep my ties to UCLA alumni
and the institution. We host networking events for UCLA graduate students and
recently submitted a proposal with the Lewis Center. UCLA is the training
ground for the best and brightest transportation professionals. We have a
symbiotic relationship with them because of research resources UCLA has and the
real world planning practice we provide.
Q: What is one thing you learned that you won’t forget?
A: The importance of new ideas. Or even to be able to reframe older challenging issues in new ways. This is the lifeblood of planning. We must think differently, be creative and seek new ways to solve age-old urban related wicked urban problems. This process never gets old.
Q: What is some advice you’d give to current students?
A: Think about your four-year plan and then
work backwards. Gain the experience and opportunity that shows future employers
a clear trajectory towards your goal. That goal can change but you should be
able to see a progression in your resume. Think of a job as a two-year program –
after two years you know enough to either want to stay or move on. However, always think about how you are branding yourself. Think strategically.
Q: When Meyer and Renee Luskin gave their naming gift to the School of Public Affairs, Meyer said the following: "We believe that our society's most important problem is: 'How do we do a better job of living together?' To me, our gift expresses the ultimate idea: People deserve a better life." How does what you do connect with the Luskin Legacy? What does the Luskin Legacy mean to you in your daily work?
A: Planning often results in unintended collective outcomes, some are severe and intractable but we can never give up. We must find ways to make cities more livable and commit to improving communities. I believe my job is all about adhering to that philosophy. My job is about making it easier for people to gain access to new opportunities, see family or friends, make different housing options possible and have fun.