About Samantha Kearney

About Samantha Kearney

I am a city enthusiast, communications manager, and MUPPet (Master of Urban Planning and Policy).

Samantha reflects on Florence's skyline

I attended Kalamazoo College, where I earned a double major in political science and art & art history, and also had a concentration in classical studies. I studied abroad at the American University in Cairo for a semester, which cemented my view that planning is a critical component of social justice. The thick air pollution that coated all buildings (and lungs) in a layer of gray grime and obscured the opposite bank of the Nile, the starving children in the shadows of unforgettably opulent architecture, and Tahrir Square --a traffic circle that became the epicenter of Egypt's revolution, are etched in my brain.

I also lived in Rome for two summers as a Kalamazoo student. The first summer I participated in an excavation of the villa of the Roman Emperor Maxentius, where I used GIS for the first time, and the second summer I worked on my senior thesis about three controversial Fascist master plans and their architecture, which merges classicism, the international style, and propaganda.

EUR, Foro Mussolini, and the Fascist Headquarters in the Centro Storico

These plans were EUR (Esposizione Universale Roma, which was the intended site for the 1942 Worlds Fair that was canceled because of WWII), the Foro Mussolini (now the Foro Italico, a large sports campus), and the Centro Storico (historic center, which made room for civic buildings, wide boulevards, and trains by displacing neighborhoods whose impoverished residents were moved to inadequate public housing on Rome's perimeter).

After graduating from Kalamazoo I began an architecture masters program at the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, but I realized that to improve sustainability and social justice in the built environment I needed to work at a larger scale than individual buildings, so I moved back to Chicago to figure out what to do next.

Ultimately I attended the University of Illinois at Chicago's College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs, but in the meantime I worked as a graphic and website designer, skills that complement those I acquired later in my masters program, since public outreach and effective communication are critical to the transparency and implementation of plans. My website clients included the National Council for Preservation Education and the Illinois Labor History Society, while my print clients included the UN Cares (the HIV-AIDS awareness branch of the United Nations).

a screenshot of the National Council for Preservation Education's website

While studying at UIC I had an internship as the Communications Assistant for the Congress for the New Urbanism, and also worked as the Marketing Assistant for UIC's Institute for Research on Race and Public Policy. My masters project was about identifying opportunities to create more affordable housing in Chicago's nationally listed historic district in Pilsen, a working class Mexican-American neighborhood threatened by the early stages of gentrification.

Now as a graduate of UIC's MUPP program, I work at the Housing Authority of the City of Milwaukee as their Community Services Coordinator (more about that on my homepage). If you want to know more about my experiences and opinions about the planning scene in Chicago or Milwaukee, or about the role of urban policies in our society, email me and I can schedule an informational interview with you.