USC Price School of Public Policy

Price Student Q&A: Soobin Kim

Hometown: Republic of Korea
Major: Urban Studies and Planning

Q. What inspired you to choose your major?

A. I’ve always been intrigued by spatial design and organization. On a visceral level, the idea that where things are located can determine quality of life first led me to choose the Urban Studies and Planning major. Now, as an aspiring urban planner, I’m more drawn to its complexity. Planning is an incredibly comprehensive process that requires a flexible mindset and the ability to balance conflicting interests. It’s the kind of challenge that I look forward to.

Q. What opportunities has Price afforded you?

A. Price hosts multiple events every week, inviting experts and experienced professionals to campus. The panel discussions, seminars, and speakers series that other people would spend money and time to attend, I’m able to squeeze in between classes. On top of being a valuable learning opportunity that keeps me engaged in important issues, these events present a community that inspires me to stay passionate about my beliefs and interests. And there’s usually free food.

Q. What skills have you developed in your time at Price?

A. Price has helped me make sense of the environment I live in. Through my education at Price, I can understand how cities developed to be the way they are, what caused some of the systemic failures of society, and why there are advocates and adversaries of certain planning and development decisions. I believe being able to understand the world is an indispensable skill to solving its biggest and deepest problems.

Q. Tell us about your internship experience.

A. I interned in nonprofit development, and I have found that the wealthy people who give big bucks to these nonprofit organizations also happen to be the ones with a lot of power in shaping development. This made me realize how political planning really is. I familiarized myself with the people that city officials interact with, just in a different context, which presents a unique perspective. I’ve also learned a lot about how to communicate a message to make people believe that what you’re doing is worth their money.

Q. What class have you enjoyed most at Price and why?

A. My favorite class was RED425: Designing Livable Communities with Professor Falletta. In addition to feeding my interests in urban design, this class was when college finally stopped feeling like a continuation of high school. Highlights include: regular studio sessions and critiques, field trips to sites with design significance like Tongva Park and the Village Green, and an open space design project, developed and examined through the lens of livability, community, and sustainability. It also brings together urban planning, architecture, real estate development, and geodesign majors — an interesting mix of people.

Q. What are your future career plans?

A. I think what would be a good fit for me is something like designing public spaces that are successful in both serving the public and establishing or reflecting a distinct identity. I’m open to different paths, but my hope is that I do something that doesn’t conflict with my values. Someday, I’d like to work internationally on issues like the refugee crisis. It would be exciting and rewarding to be a planner of refugee camps, which are starting to look more like cities.

Q. What is the best advice anyone has given to you regarding your education?

A. Go talk to people in the field. Professionals are almost always willing to share their experience and insights with students if they’re reached out to in the right way. Recently, I had the chance to do this for a class project and was pleasantly surprised at how open they were to talking about their work and offering career advice.