Alana Motley (CAS ’24) Awarded the 2024 Initiative on Cities Student Prize

The Initiative on Cities (IOC) is elated to announce that Alana Motley (CAS ’24) has been awarded the IOC Student Prize for the 2024 school year. The $1,000 prize is presented annually to one BU senior graduating with a minor in Urban Studies. We asked Alana to introduce herself and describe her experience as a Terrier and as an Urban Studies minor:

Introduce yourself! What did you study? What were some things you were involved in as a college student? What do you like to do for fun?

Hello! My name is Alana Motley, and I am from Maui, Hawai`i. I am graduating this May with a dual Bachelor’s/Master’s degree in Economics alongside an Urban Studies minor.

I started my degree here at Boston University when I was sixteen, driven by a strong interest in Economics and a desire to understand inequitable economic landscapes and what could be done to combat these disparities. However, as I began my studies, it became immediately apparent how essential the deeper context of the planning and policy choices that had shaped our cities was to address these issues, leading me to discover my passion for Urban Economics. To pursue this distinct subfield, I took on a dual BA/MA in Economics alongside an Urban Studies Minor, enabling me to gain robust quantitative training without compromising my interests in Urban Affairs. My ultimate ambition is to become an economist in the Urban Planning and Policy space and contribute to efforts to create more livable, sustainable, and equitable cities. 

Eager to continue learning and working towards these goals, I sought an array of professional opportunities in the Boston area over the past few years! From a summer role at the National Bureau of Economic Research to an internship at Built Environment Plus, funded by the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, these opportunities allowed me to expand upon what I was learning in the classroom. A position at the FDIC in the Depositor and Consumer Protection division allowed me to participate in the Fair Lending and Community Reinvestment Act work. These topics are of tremendous historical importance, and I am very passionate about them. Alongside my academics, I have spent my final semester at BU as a Public Policy Researcher at ICF Consulting, alongside an additional position as a Research Assistant for Danielle Graves Williamson’s project focusing on educational inequity within the Deep South. These roles align precisely with my interests, and I am so grateful to have been able to contribute to work in the Urban Economics space with such positive impacts!

Outside of work and school, I enjoy dog-sitting, trying out new recipes in the kitchen, and surfing (when I’m back home). I also love to explore different neighborhoods of Boston, travel, weightlift, and garden! My passion project this past summer was filling a mulchy plot in front of my apartment with plants, and it has been so satisfying to see so much of it come back to life this spring! 

Why did you decide to minor in urban studies? What inspired you to add urban studies, and what have you learned from your urban studies minor?

I was inspired to take on an Urban Studies minor to bridge the economic framework of my major to the city issues I was passionate about and to explore applications like housing and transportation further. This minor introduced me to courses across disciplines, such as a Hub Co-Curricular focused on Environmental Justice and Urban Tree Canopies, along with a course on Boston’s People and Neighborhoods that examined topics like gentrification and microsegregation, unraveling the sociological evolution of the city I had called home for the past few years. Last spring, the Urban Studies component of my degree extended my exploration to a global scale, leading me overseas to study abroad in Berlin, Germany! This Metropolitan Studies program immersed me in Political Science, Architecture, and Urban Affairs classes. It gave me a chance to experience everyday life in a city outside of America and continue learning German, which remains a work in progress.

What are your plans after graduation?

Following graduation, I will move to New York City and start as a Research Associate at NERA Economic Consulting in their Antitrust practice. I could not be more excited to work alongside this talented team and further expand upon the abilities and knowledge I have developed throughout my degree! Further down the line, I plan to continue my education and am considering either a Master’s of urban planning or a Ph.D. with an urban economics focus.

Do you have any advice for students considering the urban studies minor?

I have nothing but wonderful things to say about the Urban Studies minor, so I would highly encourage anybody interested in city topics to pursue it! The interdisciplinary nature of this program brought vibrance and variety to my coursework, exposing me to new topics and ways of thinking that I may not have stumbled upon within my major. I am very grateful for this and would wholeheartedly recommend this minor to other students here at BU.