By Yurida Ramos, USC MPL, 2017
Kristine Rose O’Brien is a USC alumnus. She completed a Master of Planning with a concentration in Transportation and Infrastructure in 2015 from the USC Price School of Public Policy. Just this year, Kristine started her new position in the United States Senate as a Legislative Aide for Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-NY). Our conversation follows.
Can you tell us a bit about your job?
I recently accepted a position as a Legislative Aide for Senate Minority Leader, Charles E. Schumer, the senior U.S. Senator from New York. My role in his office is to work with a legislative team of approximately 20 people, working on national and local policy issues of transportation, infrastructure, and economic development.
What do you enjoy most about your new position?
I enjoy working both with constituents and national policy. I am proud to be part of a team that cares deeply for their constituents. I had the opportunity to work on projects with the Senator’s office even prior to joining his team, and witnessed firsthand how he leads his team to deliver on issues that matter. One of the things that make my job more enjoyable and fulfilling is being part of a team focused on good and working government.
How did you become interested in transportation?
I have always been interested in transportation. Growing up overseas, I spent a lot of time near seaports. I did my undergraduate studies in business school with a major in finance. After college, I started working in the finance department of an airline company.
How did you choose to return to school, and specifically, what made you select your particular degree program?
Although I loved my job, the public sector aspect of how people traveled around the world always appealed to me more than anything. Soon, I realized my yearning for a Master’s degree and sought my manager’s advice for programs I should pursue. During my research, I came across the USC alumni website and noticed an alumni profile in strategic port development that I related to. That’s how I discovered the master of planning degree. I did some research on the Price Master of Planning program and knew that this was the exact degree program I wanted to pursue.
What advice might you give to a current student about getting the most out of his/her education?
I believe technical skills make a difference in the sense they enable one to complete tasks quicker, but a person’s true value-add is their ability to ask meaningful questions, think critically, and solve difficult problems. I particularly recommend taking courses that give you a diverse background. In addition, taking courses with professors from different backgrounds can help students develop strong skills that will help carry them into their professional career. Courses with Professor Giuliano, Professor Boarnet and Professor Myers were challenging, but pushed students to really think about how one can examine and solve problems and as to how one could present accurate and compelling information. I also enjoyed and recommend studio courses, in particular, Port and Infrastructure and Finance.
What career advice might you give to a current student?
I encourage students to keep their options open and pursue interesting opportunities, especially those that may only come about once in a lifetime. In order to do this, I recommend keeping an open mind. In addition, interpersonal skills help you get to the next level, and networking is equally important. I am especially emphatic on this point since my current position was through a referral. Also, taking advantage of the Price Alumni network in your area is important. The Trojan family is true, especially when you move to a new area.
How was your experience at The Port Authority?
I value my experience at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. The Port Authority offers a leadership fellowship program where selected fellows participate in multiple rotations. I feel that this unique opportunity allowed me to develop a career that I otherwise may not have been able to have. The fellowship not only supported professional development, but also allowed the flexibility to pursue their passion within the Port Authority.
During my fellowship I worked on the agency Capital Plan and had the opportunity to work for a year with the Office of the Vice Chairman of the Port Authority, who is appointed by the Governor of New York. I focused on major initiatives at the Port Authority including the redevelopment of JFK Airport and the Gateway Program which will majorly benefit rail along the Northeast Corridor. The capacity in which I worked had a profound impact on my career path. I truly believe that the fellowship at the Port Authority afforded me opportunities I would have never had otherwise.
Why pursue a professional career in New York?
I took a course with Professor Geraldine Knatz during the second year of my Master's program for which I read Empire of the Hudson, by Jameson W. Doig. The book demonstrated the uniqueness and complexities of the New York region’s transportation system and I applied to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey’s fellowship program in order to quickly learn many perspectives. Once I received the fellowship offer with the Port Authority, I was compelled to pursue the opportunity to contribute and grow professionally in one of the largest cities in the country.
Yurida Ramos is a second year Master of Planning (MPL) student at the USC Sol Price School of Public Policy. She currently interns for METRANS Transportation Center as the Events Coordinator and for Los Angeles Council District 14 as a Planning Intern. She also serves as the current Communications Chair for the student organization Associated Students of Planning and Development (ASPD). After completing her MPL degree, Ramos hopes to pursue a career in the public sector to improve connectivity through sustainable practices. She can be reached at email@example.com.