Degree: MPlanning, 1995
Location: Washington, D.C.
An epiphany on her honeymoon prompted Mariia Zimmerman to change careers from teaching geography to transportation planning. Within a week of returning home to the Twin Cities, she applied to the Humphrey School and hasn’t looked back since.
Recently, Zimmerman launched out on her own, establishing a consulting practice that offers valuable resources to governments of all sizes. Zimmerman had previously been the deputy director for Sustainable Communities at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD); prior to her work at HUD, she was the vice president of policy at Reconnecting America.
Why did you decide to leave HUD and launch your new consulting practice?
My career has focused on the policy side of planning. To achieve success in transportation, development, or affordable housing, I believe that good planning needs to inform and be shaped by the policy environment.I launched MZ Strategies, LLC to focus on the two areas where I believe communities and advocates need more effective strategies to create lasting change:strategic alignment of resources (human and fiscal) to implement and maximize sustainable results from public and private sector investments; and navigating the state and federal policy and rule making paths to make equitable sustainable development easier.
What are your favorite types of consulting projects?
Given that I have interests in policy and research but also value the opportunity to work with communities on individual projects, one of my business goals is to engage in a mix of these different types of consulting activities. I am thrilled to be working on several Minnesota-based efforts involving transit, bicycling, and the revitalization of urban neighborhoods, which are resulting in nationally recognized models. I enjoy the messy and complex issues that don't fit neatly into one category, such as transportation planning, economic development, or environmental planning, but rather require solutions that involve multiple sectors. I would love in the year ahead to find opportunities to work in rural and smaller communities; having grown up on a farm, I understand the critical economic and quality of life challenges these communities face.
What has been most rewarding thus far?
I've been fortunate to have some amazing career opportunities since moving to Washington, D.C. in 1997 after the Humphrey Institute. Recently though, I felt a strong desire to find a better work/home balance while still attempting to make significant contributions to the planning and smart growth fields. Six months after starting my own consulting business, I am incredibly grateful to have had a number of wonderful clients and, at the same time, spend time with my two young sons. Being able to meet them at the bus stop and support their dreams and needs feels like a blessing after 15 years of intense federal policy work. It's also been incredibly rewarding to again have the opportunity to write, both formally for a project with the Center for Transportation Studies at Minnesota on a research summary for their Transitway Research Program, and also through regular blog postings on my company website (www.mzstrategies.com) and the Metropolitan Institute at Virginia Tech, where I am a visiting fellow.
February 12, 2013