Urban Planning Master’s Graduate Provides Equitable Disaster Relief

USC alum wearing a USC sweatshirt
As the director for Houston Organizing Movement for Equity (HOME), a Texan coalition focused on repairing the state in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, Chrishelle Palay hopes the EMUP will deepen her impact on helping her community. (Photo / Courtesy of Chrishelle Palay)

Following Hurricane Ike, Chrishelle Palay was inspired to pursue a career in housing policy advocacy to better equip communities as they recover from natural disasters.

For Chrishelle Palay, the last year has been monumental.

As a recent graduate of the Executive Master of Urban Planning (EMUP) online program, the degree has already propelled her career path — even if urban planning was a slight departure from her previous positions.

Palay’s educational journey began when she attended Prairie View A&M University, an HBCU in Texas, where she pursued her bachelor’s degree in architecture. She spent the next two decades in the field, working as a designer for high-rise residential projects throughout the U.S. before she decided to pursue a different, related passion: housing policy advocacy.

“I transitioned from architecture because I realized it wasn’t something I wanted to do anymore. Actually, Hurricane Ike kind of led to that realization, as I saw that there are so many communities that didn’t have the skill sets to understand and navigate how to recover from disaster,” Palay explained.

Palay began working with members from low-income communities to advocate on their behalf for better housing and living conditions, and she is now the director for Houston Organizing Movement for Equity (HOME), a Texan coalition of community-based organizations focused on repairing the state in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.

While Palay was passionate about her new career focus and its emphasis on creating a more equitable, resilient city — and felt her background in architecture helped her successfully navigate the systems involved — she wanted to deepen her knowledge in urban planning.

Read more about Chrishelle’s story