Rebecca Lave’s ’93 first “real” job remains her
favorite. She was a graduate student when she joined a team of urban planners
writing an ambitious master plan for Boston’s beloved Charles River
Basin recreational area. The plan would guide future development of new
parks and greenways, roads, trails, and public facilities.
Her job was to rally community support for the enormous project. There
was a catch.
“There were all these groups and they really,
really hated each other,” she says.
The joggers feuded with the bicyclists. The sail boaters and power boaters
despised each other. The project involved four municipalities (including
Boston) and 50 community groups, and their battles over rival agendas
threatened to unravel the entire project.
Lave, who was in the final year of a master’s program in city planning
at MIT after majoring in art history and political science at Reed, immediately
leaped into the action.
The job perfectly fit her indefatigably upbeat personality. She moved
from group to group finding common ground, using humor to build trust
and understanding. She eventually convinced bitter rivals not only to
sit down together but also to work on common goals.
“As much as I’ve always liked the planning
and policy aspect of my job, the part of my job that has the most lasting
impact is when I can get people to talk to each other and deal,”
she says. “That is what gives them the foundation to work in the
Since the Charles River project, Lave has relocated to the West Coast
and worked as a planner at a consulting firm in Berkeley called Design,
Community, and Environment. There she worked on complex public projects,
including the redevelopment of the Presidio military base in San Francisco
and a revamping of public transportation to Yosemite National Park. She’s
currently studying for a Ph.D. at UC–Berkeley in geography.
“I have this deeply corny but strongly held belief about the value
of a grassroots democracy,” Lave says. “And having a job where
you can make that work is wonderful.”