Alumni Success Stories

Martin Bernal: Incorporating Professionalism into City Politics

Photo of Martin Bernal

Year graduated:

Grad School:
Masters in Public Administration, University of Texas LBJ School of Public Affairs, 1990

What I do:
I am the city manager for the City of Santa Cruz.  I oversee the operations of all city departments, with approximately 900 employees.

Why I do it:
Of all the levels of government, municipal government touches everyone on a daily basis, through trail and street maintenance, water and waste water service, police and fire services, parks, libraries, and more. Being able to help elected officials make and implement decisions is the one of the most satisfying aspects of city management.

How I got here:
My interest in architecture led me to land use planning, which in turn led me to city management.

What my Urban Studies major has done for me:
It was through Urban Studies that I discovered how best to bring together two interests, architecture and helping those less fortunate than I, into a career choice.

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Tiffany Griego: Managing Stanford's Real Estate

Photo of Tiffany Griego

Year graduated: 1998

Grad School: MBA, Stanford GSB, 2004

What I do: As the Associate Director of Real Estate for Stanford’s Office of Real Estate, I manage redevelopment, leasing, acquisition and disposition of commercial and residential projects in the Stanford Research Park and on other University lands. My work entails assembling teams of architects, general contractors, brokers and attorneys to facilitate real estate transactions that generate income for the Stanford endowment.

Why I do it: This is the greatest job! Working for Stanford managing its vast 8,800 acres of land holdings provides a unique opportunity to utilize my real estate asset management and construction project management experiences, financial and analytical skills, Urban Studies degree and MBA from Stanford, and my passion for developments that demonstrate respect for the environment and promote a sense of community.

How I got here: Following graduation in 1998, I sought a job in which I could develop a tangible skill, thus I worked as a Project Manager in Stanford’s Capital Planning and Management, where I facilitated the planning, design and construction of seven campus development projects for the University. Following business school graduation in 2004, I worked as an Asset Manager with IHP Capital Partners, an institutional investor which provides equity for the acquisition and development of residential master-planned communities. I was responsible for the management of the Northern California portfolio, totaling 20 assets valued at over $450 million in equity commitments.

Biggest accomplishment: Two I’d like to mention: First, figuring out that I love urban studies and real estate because I love wrapping my mind around the complex issues presented by the built environment; Second, convincing the profit-seeking investment firm for which I previously worked to finance the installation of photovoltaic (solar) panels on the entire master-plan development of 155 homes for $3.1 million because I believed it would facilitate sales absorption in the slowing real estate market and it was the right thing to do.

What my Urban Studies major has done for me: The benefit of the Urban Studies major is the systematic exploration of topics that could lead to several careers. With the encouragement of my amazing teachers and advisors, especially Len Ortolano, I began evaluating my passions and interests as a means to identify my career goals very early in my major. As an Urban Studies student, I learned how our culture and socio-economic patterns are shaped by the physical spaces we design, how to analyze the social, political, economic and physical forces that shape real estate development decisions, and how intelligent city planning can often solve community problems. The Urban Studies major has also given me a strong sense of community and camaraderie with the program’s talented alumni.

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Brad Jacobson: Practicing and Teaching Green Architecture

Brad Jacobson
Year graduated

Grad School :
Masters in Architecture, University of Pennsylvania, 1998

What I do:
In recent years I have worked at EHDD Architecture in San Francisco as Project Manager on the Stanford Green Dorm and Project Architect on the Global Ecology Research Center, an interdisciplinary research department operated by the Carnegie Institution on Stanford's campus that won a 2007 AIA Top Ten Green Building Award.

Why I do it:
Because I am passionate about sustainable design and the environment generally.

How I got here:
After obtaining my Masters degree, I worked for a while in Philadelphia, then returned west to begin designing affordable housing in San Francisco. After a few years and one very successful family housing project in the city, I traveled for a while and lived and worked for a season on an ecovillage that some fellow Stanford grads are building in Missouri. There I helped construct a strawbale community center and regained my focus on environmental issues. Since then I have had the opportunity to work on some great projects with very inspiring clients, engineers and architects.  There is no better classroom than the construction site. 

What my Urban Studies major has done for me:
When I got to graduate school in architecture, it was a big adjustment for me.  Over time, though, the broad education offered by Urban Studies proved more useful than training narrowly focused on design.

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Xanthe Jory: Founding and Leading a Charter School

Photo of Xanthe Jory
Year graduated:

Grad School: Master's in Education, CUNY-Lehman College, 1999

Master's in Educational Administration, Harvard School of Education, 2000

What I do: Founder and Executive Director, The Bronx Charter School for the Arts

Why I do it: I take the arts very seriously. I believe arts education is critical to human development and learning. The Bronx Art School is founded on this principle.

How I got here: After graduation, I moved back to New York to work for a community development corporation based in the South Bronx. I then taught in a public school while earning a degree in elementary education at the City University of New York (CUNY)-Lehman College. I headed back to school full time at Harvard for my degree in Educational Administration. I returned to New York to work as an educational consultant, while at the same time working to start Bronx Charter School for the Arts.

Biggest accomplishment: Founding Bronx Charter School for the Arts

Career goal: My goal is for Bronx Arts to be one of the best schools in New York City. I hope to expand the school in the future to encompass grades K-8.

What my Urban Studies major has done for me: Having an Urban Studies background is a great way to start to understand the complexity of the issues that face urban areas right now. Students should use that sophistication they have learned in Urban Studies to try to find a piece of the puzzle that they feel really passionate about.

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Meghan Kirby-McFarland: Protecting Open Space

Year graduated: 2005

What I do: As the Land Associate in Acquisition at Peninsula Open Space Trust (POST), a non-profit land trust based in Palo Alto, I work on property research, the department budget, land acquisitions, and support for the Executive Vice President.

Why I do it: Open space is critical for natural resource protection, wildlife habitat, public recreation and agriculture. Without permanent protection, development pressures could irrevocably alter our beautiful landscapes. As I learned at Stanford, open space is key to concentrated densities and creating smart urban growth. We need these preserved vistas and scenic lands to connect with ourselves, each other, and the planet.

How I got here: After graduation I worked for an environmental planning and consulting firm working predominantly on Environmental Impact Reports. From there I worked as an independent land use consultant until my job offer with POST.

Career goal: I plan on getting an MBA with an emphasis in sustainability and/or environmental non-profit management. My goal is to lead effective and enduring change to create a healthier planet for people and the environment.

What my Urban Studies major has done for me: The interdisciplinary nature of Urban Studies offered a wonderful array of course offerings, driving home the incredible interconnectedness of the built and natural environments, and the people who occupy them. In being able to explore a variety of topics and potential skill sets, I was able to recognize my true passions and strengths. Being able to think strategically and solve problems successfully requires an interdisciplinary background like the one Urban Studies provides.

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Dale Margolin: Serving the Legal Needs of Young People in Foster Care
Dale Margolin

Year graduated:

Grad School:
Columbia University Law School

What I do:
I am the Interim Director and Teaching Fellow of St. John's Law School's Child Advocacy Clinic.  The Child Advocacy Clinic is a live, in-house law school clinic that represents children who are the subjects of abuse and neglect proceedings in New York.  Each semester, I teach and supervise eight students. The students are assigned to the Clinic's cases and perform all of the duties of a lawyer, including appearing in court under my supervision.

Our Clinic is particularly focused on adolescents, because of the obstacles and injustices they face as they "age-out" of the foster care system.  The Clinic is also involved in policy work, and I am currently organizing a national Symposium on the housing crisis facing youth discharged from foster care.

Previously, I represented New York City's pregnant and parenting teens in Foster care as a Skadden Fellow at the Juvenile Rights Division of the Legal Aid Society of New York.

Why I do it:
I felt that the best way for me to try to help foster children was to become a lawyer.  It most suits my skills and personality. Although I never thought of myself as a teacher, I am enjoying this new, additional role, and it is making me a better advocate!

Typical day:
Each day is unique. When I am in the Clinic office, I am responding to student questions about their case work and to any emergencies that arise. Other days the students and I are in court, or we are making home visits to see our clients.  Once a week, I also teach a two-hour seminar to my students, and have a formal meeting with each one to review their case work. 

In addition, on my off-hours, I am engaged in scholarly research and writing on family law and child advocacy issues (I currently have a law review article placed for publication).

How I got here:
I became interested in foster care through an internship at a social services agency in New York following my freshman year at Stanford. I was shocked to learn about how many kids were in foster care and how poorly they were treated.  After that summer, I felt that I couldn't not try to make things better.  My experience at Legal Aid post-law school was invaluable; but when I was offered the opportunity at St. John's to continue representing young people while at the same time teaching and, hopefully, inspiring, other new lawyers to pursue this work, I could not pass it up.

Career goal:
I hope one day to open my own foster care agency that only serves teenagers and is sensitive to their individual needs.

What my Urban Studies major has done for me:
Like many Urban Studies students, I got involved with the Public Service Scholars program.  I wrote an honors thesis on the teen court system, an experience that was extremely encouraging and one of my best. The interdisciplinary course offerings of the Urban studies program were extremely relevant and a perfect foundation in the issues for working with the underprivileged.

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