University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill student Martha Isaacs has been awarded a prestigious Schwarzman scholarship, which funds a master’s in global affairs at Beijing’s Tsinghua University. Isaacs is Carolina’s 12th Schwarzman Scholar since the scholarship began in 2015.
Isaacs received a bachelor’s degree in geography from UNC’s College of Arts and Sciences in 2017 with a minor in city and regional planning. She was on the Dean’s List, an Honors Carolina Ambassador, a Buckley Public Service Scholar and a member of Phi Beta Kappa.
She also participated in a semester-long interdisciplinary study of urban planning, politics and development in New York City at the School of International Training’s International Honors Program.
Isaacs currently works as a project manager at the New York City Department of Transportation where she designs and implements urban design projects to improve safety and accessibility on corridors and intersections throughout the city.
“In my work as an urban planner, I frequently observe a disconnect between the people the government aims to serve and the projects it implements,” Isaacs said. She notes accessibility barriers cause gaps in public engagement and acts as a leader in her agency to develop toolkits for equitable outreach and to add accessibility features on public-facing materials.
Isaacs aims to create more equitable, participatory and inclusive urban planning processes and projects.
Increasingly, Chinese cities are utilizing public participation in planning decisions. “As a Schwarzman Scholar, I can gain a deeper understanding of the urban governance of Beijing and return to the U.S. ready to apply lessons learned on public participation practices in China,” Isaacs said. “Throughout my career, I will continue to advocate for more inclusive city planning.”
The Schwarzman Scholarship is designed to build a global community of leaders who will deepen understanding between China and the rest of the world. The annual award is given to up to 200 scholars worldwide.