Blair Schaeffer-Bisht MURP 2009, Nonprofit Manager, Worksystems, Inc.

What is your current position, place of work, and daily duties?

I am a Senior Project Manager at Worksystems. Worksystems is the local workforce development board for the Portland Metro area. My daily duties include working with contractors to manage the WorkSource Oregon Centers in our region. WorkSource Oregon is the state’s public workforce system that helps people get a job, increase their skills, and explore training options. In addition, I apply for, plan and manage grants to increase opportunities for local residents to enter occupational training and gain career track employment.

What did you gain from your time in the MURP program and how did it help get you where you are now?

During the MURP program I learned about local government decision making processes and focused my studies in community development and affordable housing. In the summer of 2008 I had an internship at the Public Policy Institute of California, where I worked on a research project about the foreclosure crisis in Central California. The experience prepared me for my first job after graduation at NeighborWorks Orange County (NWOC), where I learned to manage federal grants. That skill has been invaluable for me as I have continued to grow in my career.

Why did you choose the MURP program at UCI?

I was trying to decide whether to get a Masters degree in International Relations or Urban Planning. I ended up choosing Urban Planning because I thought it would be more versatile and allow me to pursue a career in community development, both in the United States or abroad.

What were some of your favorite classes and why?

Scott Bollens’ Introduction to Urban Studies class provided me with a better understanding of planning and a really good foundation for the rest of the program. Victoria Basolo’s Housing Element class is where I became interested in focusing my studies in affordable housing. The department has so many amazing professors. One professor even developed a course curriculum for another student and I who were interested in international development. I also lived in Vienna for a quarter while working on my professional report through the NEURUS program. I found this experience to be really valuable to my professional development and is an experience that I have spoken about in job interviews.

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