Graduate Alumni Profiles - M.R.P.

Maria Chau, M.R.P.

Maria Chau wanted a change. A design engineer consultant working in New York City for four and one-half years, Maria was ready to move her career forward. Interested in pursuing transportation planning and geographic information systems (GIS) studies, she conducted a statewide search for graduate programs in urban and regional planning with a GIS certificate. That search brought her to the University at Albany.

Maria’s introduction to the university included meetings with a number of program faculty, including department chair and MRP director Catherine Lawson. These one-on-one discussions quickly helped Maria realize that UAlbany had exactly what she was looking for — opportunity.

“The very first week I was at Albany, I met with Professor Christopher Smith who ran the summer abroad program to China. After expressing interest in the trip, he invited me to become his teaching assistant.”

That TA position was just the first in a number of opportunities presented to Maria; she also earned several graduate assistantships and became president of the Graduate Student Organization. In her first semester, Maria was also introduced to the professional development program with the Federal Highway Administration that would shape both her graduate and professional careers.

“The more I learned about the program, the more interested I became. I immediately began working towards the credentials and experiences needed to get in.”

Maria entered the Federal Highway Administration program after her graduation in 2008. Eight years later, she is still with the agency working with top administration as the senior community planner on the Planning and Environment team in Albany.

“I put myself forward into every opportunity that was available. Whether it was a conference or an event, I went to everything to gain as much as I could and discover my strengths.”

Now an active member of the program’s successful alumni network, Maria is invited back to campus frequently to offer valuable insights to current MRP students. Not surprisingly, her biggest piece of advice is to get involved and be prepared.

“The University at Albany provides a lot of opportunities; if you are ready for them, you will do very well.”

Want to learn more about the MRP Program and opportunities at UAlbany? Contact Catherine Lawson, Department Chair and MRP Program Director at You can also click on "Request Information."