Faculty + Staff

Q&A: Urban planner on the joy of teaching, watching cat videos

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Joan Ling
Aaron Salcido/Zocalo Public Square

Joan Ling is a lecturer in the department of urban planning at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs. A real estate adviser and urban planning policy analyst, she is a member of the board of directors of the Community Redevelopment Agency of the city of Los Angeles, a post she was appointed to in 2005 by former L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa. This year, she was presented with the Woman of the Year Award by L.A. County Supervisor Sheila Kuhl for improving public policy, legislation and government regulations that impact quality of life. Before taking part in a Zócalo Public Square panel discussing how transportation affects housing costs in L.A., Ling revealed a bit of her personal side.

What does it take to get you on the dance floor?
A few margaritas.

Who’s someone you’d love to be interviewed by?
Diane Sawyer or Barbara Walters.

When you were a kid, what did you want to be as a grown-up?
I had no idea. I’m not one of those people who wanted to be a doctor or a lawyer from third grade on.

What’s your favorite part of teaching, now that you’ve taken that up after years of urban development?
The freedom to teach whatever I think is important, and the students being interested in and getting excited about the work that I do.

What’s your least favorite part of teaching?
Grading papers.

What keeps you up at night?
I have no problem sleeping these days. When I was a developer, it was getting the community to say yes to my projects.

You were named an L.A. County Woman of the Year. What was the best thing about that?
I’m very grateful and honored that Sheila Kuehl recognized me. She’s one of my “sheroes.”

What’s the strangest job you’ve ever had?
Well, one of the most defining jobs that I’ve had was working as a laborer at a steel mill in Pittsburgh. I was one of the first waves of women to go work in the mills.

How do you procrastinate?
Watch cat videos. Or generally just be online.

This story was originally published at Zócalo Public Square.

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