'Where Are They Now?' features the words and wisdom of previous Agora staff as a thank you for their contribution to the journal. Without them - their leadership and their commitment - Agora would not be where it is today. In preparation for Preview Weekend Friday, March 28th, we invited them to share their story with Agora and with prospective students. We asked: What was most memorable about your experience with Agora? How did your role with Agora influence your career as a planner? If you could make one recommendation to the journal what would it be?
Kelsey Johnson was the Founder and Managing Editor of Agora. She is now a community planner with Gulf Coast Community Design Studio, Mississippi State University in Biloxi, Mississippi.
It is so exciting to follow the progress of Agora! Our first issue back in 2007 developed very organically and, as with your current issue, the theme only became clear as we started receiving submissions. Trusting the collaborative design process is sometimes unnerving, but often results in some truly amazing pieces of work. This is one of the things I love about my job as a community planner. The community engagement process can be scary and can make planning work messy at times, but the outcome is well worth the uncertainty and one of the lessons I learned early on in my career from working with Agora.
After graduating from TCAUP, I joined the Gulf Coast Community Design Studio and love my work as part of this public interest design studio and outreach program of Mississippi State University. I’m currently the only planner on staff and work in close collaboration with architects, landscape architects and community members. My work has focused on assessing housing priorities on the Mississippi Gulf Coast and developing recommendations as part of a three-year regional plan as part of a Sustainable Community Planning Grant. I’m currently developing a Watershed Implementation Plan for Rotten Bayou Watershed as part of the Coastal Nutrient Reduction Strategy for the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality. In addition, I’m continuously working on various smaller projects with communities and organizations along the coast on planning and public engagement.