Published May 20, 2019
As a community planning and development representative for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's field office in Buffalo, Caitlin Donovan oversees a portfolio of affordable housing and economic development grants across the upstate region.
Working with a range of HUD grantees, from local governments to nonprofits, Donovan provides technical assistance in grant implementation and oversees usage of funds.
Donovan says she stumbled into urban planning. A student athlete on UB's track team, she started her undergraduate studies in the architecture program but preferred the balance of urban design and community development in environmental design. After earning her BAED she furthered her interest in neighborhood and community development as a student in UB's Master of Urban Planning program.
She jumped right into the field after graduation, working to bring affordable housing to Buffalo's lower West Side with Heart of the City Neighborhoods. Over the course of five years Donovan worked on more than 50 home rehabilitation and development projects, overseeing the distribution of more than $1 million in grant funds.
There Donovan learned valuable lessons in the management of large and complex federal grants. She credits much of this growth to her mentor and HOTC director Stephanie Simeon, also an alumnae of UB's MUP program. "I had a $700,000 grant to manage and had to figure out what to do with it. She told me to come to her with solutions, not just questions. She empowered me to be a leader."
In 2016, Donovan was presented with an opportunity she couldn't pass up. As community planning and development representative with HUD's Buffalo field office, Donovan administers a range of community development funds across upstate New York, serving a population of more than 10 million.
Donovan says her pathway into the housing and community development field demonstrates the range of opportunities opened up by a planning degree. "I had no idea the paths urban planning would open up. Working with nonprofits in housing? Some of it was luck, I fell into it."
I had no idea the paths urban planning would open up. Working with nonprofits in housing? Some of it was luck, I fell into it.