After hearing about ULI NEXT from a friend and colleague who was very active with ULI, I decided to apply to the first ULI NEXT flight. As an urban planner at a non-profit that works closely on a variety of planning and development issues, I was interested in becoming more involved with ULI in general. I was particularly intrigued by the group’s focus on mid-career professionals, which seemed like a missing element among the various professional organizations in the city. With each ULI NEXT meeting, everyone in our flight gained a greater insight into not only interesting projects happening in the city and beyond but also into how we all approached these projects differently. This experience was a fantastic opportunity to interact more closely with peers in related fields and provide new understanding on an project or issue. Whether it was a hard hat tour of Yards Brewery, a conversation about the realities of current housing policies, or our different perspectives on how autonomous vehicles will affect we build in the future, NEXT provided the ability to learn from each other professionally, engage socially, and become more familiar with the interdisciplinary aspects of built environment professions. Beyond our wide-ranging conversations at NEXT meetings, we were also able to get the latest information on ULI’s new initiatives to better understand how we can stay involved in the future. I’d recommend the NEXT program to anyone looking to become more engaged with ULI and other colleagues working around the region.
Karen Thompson is a Planner/Project Manager with The Delaware River Waterfront Corporation where she works on a wide variety of projects from the planning phase through construction. She was in the first flight of ULI PHL NEXT.