The University of Massachusetts Amherst

Alumni Profile: Mimi Kaplan, MPPA 2016

Headshot of Mimi Kaplan

Degree & graduation year: Master of Public Policy and Administration, 2016

Current position: I am an associate planner at the Central Mass Regional Planning Commission (CMRPC). I have been in this position since May 2019.

What I do: CMRPC is one of thirteen regional planning agencies in the state, and we provide a variety of land use planning services to forty communities in Worcester County. I help communities with environmental planning and state grant programs such as Green Communities and the Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness program. Green Communities provides grant money to towns to implement energy efficiency and renewable energy projects. I help towns get designated as Green Communities, and I provide grant administration services.

The Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness Program helps municipalities increase resiliency and prepare for climate change, and I help lead community workshops and write reports for planning and action grants. I also write Open Space and Recreation Plans for towns so that they can assess their land conservation and recreation priorities and be eligible for state funding to acquire land for conservation, preservation, and recreation.

How I ended up working there: Early on in my MPPA program, I realized I wanted to focus on sustainability and environmental policy. As part of that focus, I took a few courses in the Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning program. Although I didn’t have the time to earn a planning degree as well, I realized that planning was a potential career path for me that could combine policy, administration, and sustainability.

During my program I interned at the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources, and after I graduated I interned at the Massachusetts Climate Action Network in Boston. I then worked for almost two years as the waste reduction coordinator for the Town of Amherst, which was a two-year grant-funded position. I was excited to apply for this position at CMRPC as I had been looking for an opportunity in planning, and here I am.

The best part of my job: I have quite varied responsibilities and usually work on a number of different projects over the course of a week. I am constantly learning new things, whether about a grant program, a technical skill, or the way municipal government works. I enjoy working with staff and committees in the towns we service and helping them to achieve energy efficiency and sustainability goals that are good for the planet and save them money.

A recent exciting work experience: In December I submitted applications for the towns of Oxford and Spencer to be designated as Green Communities. This capped almost two years of efforts that began before I started working at CMRPC. In February the Department of Energy Resources announced that both towns were officially designated and were awarded designation grants to complete energy efficiency and clean energy projects that will eventually get them to a 20 percent reduction in municipal energy usage and carbon emissions.

How the School of Public Policy prepared me for my career: Having to communicate well through writing and speaking has been essential in every job I have had, and my classes at SPP helped me hone those skills. Group projects such as the capstone helped me develop communication and project management skills that I use regularly in my career. Producing a product for a client in the capstone was also great preparation for the workplace. As an older student I found that working in teams with fellow students of different ages and work styles prepared me well for working in multi-generational offices.

Advice to students considering a degree in public policy: Public policy is a great degree that offers you many career options and will prepare you well for many jobs in the public, private, or nonprofit sectors. I highly recommend internships as a way to build skills and get experience, as well as to make contacts. Even doing an internship or two after graduating if you don’t find a permanent job right away is a great option that will help you get your foot in the door.

Future plans: I enjoy my job and plan to work at CMRPC for the foreseeable future, although at some point I would consider working again for a municipality, state agency, or nonprofit. I plan to stay flexible and open-minded about opportunities within my larger career goal of furthering sustainability.

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