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Emily Reisman, BEng Scty '02

Civil Engineering & Society | Planning Urban Spaces

It was the clear and tangible value of the work done by civil engineers that attracted Emily Reisman to the discipline.

“I could see the direct result of that work and understand how it impacted me,” she says. “I like cities, so it seemed interesting to understand how buildings, bridges, roads came to be.

“And I liked the idea of solving ‘concrete’ problems,” she jokes.

But after graduating with her Civil and Society degree in 2002, Reisman says she realized that many of the questions that interested her most were planning questions, so she went on to complete a master’s of science in planning.

She is now an urban planner and partner at Urban Strategies Inc., a planning and urban design consulting firm in Toronto.

“We help governments, institutions and private sector clients make the best use of their land resources to create great places and liveable communities,” says Reisman, who has worked on a number of large-scale urban master plans.

“Decisions made on the basis of our advice last for a long time and have significant impacts on people's quality of life, sense of place, and the health of communities, so we need to get it right.”

One of her career highlights came early in her working life when she had the chance to work on an update to the McMaster Campus Plan, which was originally prepared by her firm.

“It was great fun to apply my new planning skills to a place I knew well,” she says.

Her advice to students: Recognize that communicating your ideas is as important as coming up with them.

“When I was being considered for a position at Urban Strategies, shortly after finishing planning school, one of the partners called one of my references, a principal at an engineering firm where I had spent a few summers, and asked, "but can she write?"

“The expectation was that an undergrad in the arts or social sciences would have provided those skills, but there were doubts about whether I had them. Use every opportunity – every presentation, report, or memo – to hone those skills so that you can confidently tell future employers, “Yes, engineers can also be good communicators.”