Tarsi Dunlop

MPS in Urban & Regional Planning
Current Position:
Policy and Program Manager, Local Progress
Arlington, VA

How do your contributions to your program and to the SCS community overall make you a strong candidate for The Hoya Professional 30?

I try to consistently contribute a racial equity lens and underrepresented perspectives to my classes. When applying to the Urban and Regional Planning program at SCS, I intended to focus on centering equity in urban planning. I wrote that I thought I could bring that as a contribution; two years later I believe that my effort helps support the program’s overall commitment to race and equity. As my ethics class grappled with questions around race and equity after the murder of George Floyd by the Minneapolis Police Department, I found myself both in a listening role as some peers grappled with a newfound understanding of state sanctioned violence against Black people, and also in an advocacy role by bringing resources and context from my work in a progressive nonprofit organization that focuses on racial justice. Not long after, I was honored to be asked to contribute feedback on the student committee statement on Black Lives Matter in the summer of 2020. My hope is that perhaps some of my fellow students find allyship and value in my commitment to tying the work of urban planners to the broader movement to advance racial justice in our communities.

How have Georgetown’s Jesuit values, such as “Community in Diversity,” influenced your life and work?

I’ve felt the importance of my difference, more than the insecurity of feeling as if I don’t fit in. I’ve always wanted people in my life to revel in their diversity as part of my community.

In my studies I seek out those in my community to help enrich and contextualize my learning through their own lived experiences. One of the many things I appreciate about the planning profession is how many planners I’ve met with their own distinct paths into the profession. In the workplace, I work to understand the diversity among my colleagues—their habits, preferences, how they manage stress—to better collaborate and recognize how we work together; we are all different, but together we make a strong team. I love that people are from different countries, backgrounds, and cultures. Finally, I believe that this diversity in my community is part of the reason I manage to find joy and hope for the future, even during these challenging months.

What’s the best piece of career advice you’ve received?
About five years out of college, I was in a job that I no longer enjoyed very much; I was lamenting to one of my college professors about how I didn’t know what the next best logical step was for my career and professional journey. I felt stuck, uninspired, and I wasn’t excited. He told me I should stop thinking about my life and my professional decisions as a linear set of steps and choices. As someone who planned my life years in advance, that was a startling concept.

He explained it was more like a generally forward-moving zig-zag; my experiences shaped me for better or worse. I would learn something from them that would inform a future decision, if I could only take a step (or two) back. It might not feel aligned, but at the very least, I could learn about myself and use that to make better informed decisions over time. This approach means I regret less and I have more patience with myself.