News | Shining the Spotlight on USC MPL Tanya Shah - Steward of Mobility, Accessibility, and Sustainability at Nelson\Nygaard

Stop the Video



by Josie Liu

Tanya Shah, a University of Southern California (USC) Price Masters of Planning alumnus, has been associated with the field of planning for more than 7 years. From her upbringing in an urban environment and throughout her six-years of higher education, Tanya realized that she is “most passionate about using sustainable methods and solutions for solving everyday issues” within the field of planning. She is grateful to have discovered her sustainability niche of transit systems and streetscapes, through which she can contribute to improving the cities that she has lived in and will move to in the future.


Before earning her Master’s degree at USC in 2019, Tanya earned her Bachelors of Planning at CEPT University in her home country of India. While at CEPT, Tanya interned in Ahmedabad, India, with the Mahila Housing Trust and Center of Excellence in Urban Transport, two organizations focused on women’s education and urban transportation planning respectively. She also took on roles as a research assistant for Archiprix International, an initiative in support of higher education projects in architecture and planning, and as a teaching assistant for a course on Interactive Cities.


Tanya interned with multiple organizations during her time in grad school in Los Angeles, too. At Public Matters, Tanya worked for the Greetings from East LA program. There, Tanya mentored high school planning students from East LA Renaissance Academy, using her  transportation planning knowledge to encourage students to envision the prototypes of Multimodal and Active Transportation Tours of East LA. Tanya’s second internship was at the Southern California Association Governments (SCAG), where she worked as a Sustainability intern and created data visualizations and maps for various agency initiatives, including SCAG’s Regional Transportation Plan, Connect SoCal. On campus, Tanya flourished academically as a Dean’s Merit Scholarship recipient and graduated with honors for her USC Price’s comprehensive final exam. Her involvement in extracurricular activities is just as much of a success story: Tanya served on the boards of USC Price Women and Allies, and Associated Students of Planning and Development; coordinated Price’s Boot Camp program, which USC graduate level students attend to bolster their technical skills; and contributed as a graduate teaching assistant for a course on Comparative International Development.



After graduating from USC, Tanya officially committed to working in transportation planning with a sustainability lens. She entered the workforce in Boston as a Junior Associate Transportation Planner at Nelson\Nygaard Consulting Associates, a US-based transportation consulting firm. Nelson\Nygaard is dedicated to developing both transportation systems and surrounding urban areas that are effectively mobile, accessible, and sustainable. As a Junior Associate, Tanya assisted a wide range of clients, including municipalities, agencies, universities, and private clients, with their transportation planning needs. Tanya approached the consulting process strategically, starting with internal and external researching for sufficient background and preparedness, followed by data collection and analysis, writing and editing reports, and developing outreach materials. She also contributed to general transportation design strategies, proposals, and other deliverables by creating maps, graphics, and charts.


Due to a combination of the COVID-19 pandemic and international work restrictions (as a citizen of India), Tanya was only able to work at Nelson\Nygaard’s Boston office for one year. After selection under a US-work authorization lottery, Tanya was rehired by Nelson\Nygaard in their Seattle office, starting in September 2020. She is responsible for many of same duties she worked on in the Boston office, though she now works within a mixed-specialty team dedicated to transit and multi-modal projects. Currently, she is working on a variety of projects: congestion pricing studies, human services transportation plans, comprehensive operation analysis of a transit system, and a shuttle study. She feels incredibly fortunate to be able to work for at least more three years in the US, and is thankful that she loves her current role.  


Tanya believes that her previous working experience prepared her for her job with Nelson\Nygaard because she gained essential professional capabilities and interpersonal skills necessary in transportation planning. She credits her internship employers and tasks for teaching her the true complexity of planning and regional stakeholder needs. At SCAG, Tanya gained insightful understandings of the diverse geography of Southern California and the various governance required amongst different jurisdictions. Tanya’s past experiences exposed her to various sectors at stake in the field of planning, which corresponds directly to her current endeavors at Nelson\Nygaard. Her advice to those in higher education now is to “grab every opportunity [you] get” as a student. Tanya certainly heeded her own advice by taking advantage of free networking opportunities and student trips, all of which have contributed to her ability to thrive in the professional workforce as a planner.


Looking forward, Tanya plans to further her professional memberships and involvement  in the American Planning Association (APA) and Women’s Transportation Seminar (WTS). “I would like to continue working in the Seattle area and work on projects that strive to create a more sustainable transportation system,” Tanya added. Since passing her AICP exam through the candidate pilot program, Tanya hopes to spend more time exploring her new home while building her experience to apply for the AICP credential.