Urban Design Events & Charrettes

Creating Space for Emerging Professionals at CNU

The Emerging New Urbanists (ENU) made their first appearance at CNU this past March with the primary goal of creating a space for these emerging professionals to share with and learn from each other. They prioritized welcoming all new voices and encouraged the sharing of new ideas. Opticos Design’s very own Singeh Saliki, Cal Kurtz (ENU Co-Chair), and Beth Cichon (ENU Team Lead) have been participants since ENU’s founding, helping grow membership to nearly 100 active members.

When attending conferences alongside well-established professionals with exclusive networks like the Congress for New Urbanism (CNU), young and emerging professionals often struggle to find meaningful ways to contribute or fit in.

Although ENU was formed recently in the summer of 2021, the group has already taken impressive steps toward its goal of empowering emerging professionals to shape the future of New Urbanism. Following the Place Summit held virtually across the country in October 2021, ENU began preparing for CNU by asking, “How do we welcome all first-timers at CNU while also elevating the work and voices of our members?”

Overall, ENU members led four sessions, took part in 3 plenaries, organized a happy hour, and ran a booth at CNU.30. No small feat, considering the obstacles previous groups have faced when trying to break into the inner circle of an established New Urbanist mindset.

With a mission of welcoming first-timers and other emerging professionals, introducing members to new colleagues, and knowledge sharing over the course of the congress, ENU led the CNU Orientation Breakfast, Mentorship Huddles, and Newest New Urbanists panels. The Orientation Breakfast included a kick-off welcome from CNU’s Executive Director Rick Cole and words of welcome from ENU Co-Chairs Cal Kurtz and Spencer Miller-Johnson, followed by educational activities and networking opportunities.

ENU also hosted the Mentorship Huddles lunch on the first day. This session allowed students and emerging professionals to have casual conversations with mentors about career trajectories, improving current career skills, and any other general advice.

The Newest New Urbanists panel showcased the career paths of five Emerging New Urbanists, shining a light on the different twists, turns, and obstacles each panelist had experienced. Each panelist was then able to share their advice with the audience on how best to navigate a New Urbanist career.

Beyond the panels that ENU hosted, they also held a booth where people could learn about the group and join in festivities and conversations. There was also a Happy Hour for encouraging casual discussions and networking.

Wanting to elevate the voices of emerging leaders and professionals within the field, ENU members presented in various Plenaries and a Pandemic Mini-Project session. Opticos Designer Beth Cichon presented her work, “Finding a Gallery,” as a panelist on Pandemic Mini-Projects. Cal Kurtz spoke about the work ENU has been doing to create a community of emerging professionals at two Plenaries.

The Emerging New Urbanists have made tremendous progress since their establishment. The organization continues to work alongside CNU and other affiliates to educate and mentor new students and emerging professionals and empower members to help shape the future of New Urbanism.