A Practical Visionary
Growing up in western North Carolina instilled in Peyton Siler Jones (MA in Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning '22) an appreciation for the outdoors at an early age — and shaped who she is today.
Jones fondly recalls days spent playing in the woods with her family as a youngster. These simple pleasures soon evolved into something more complex: a recognition of how social and ecological systems are deeply connected to one another.
"I came to realize how climate change threatens certain communities more than others and how much this issue intersects with race," she said. "I wanted to be part of creating a healthier environment and to center people of color in my climate and sustainability work."
Since earning a Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Policy at Green Mountain College in 2015, Jones has devoted her career to climate policy and resilience planning. Her professional roles have included Program Coordinator for the Urban Sustainability Directors Network and Climate Resilience Project Manager with the City of Boston. In addition to her studies at Tufts University, she is currently a Climate Resilience Planner and Project Manager at Linnean Solutions
Balancing Work and Studies
Jones was working for the City of Boston when she began exploring graduate urban planning programs.
"I had been doing climate planning and policy work but wanted to go deeper on social justice and racial equity," she said. "Tufts was really strong in all these areas. I thought I could learn more about how climate planning can intersect with other considerations, like housing and economic development."
When Jones started at Tufts in September 2020, classes were completely remote. The virtual setting served her well from a logistical standpoint, as she was still working full time. But it also created challenges that she and her cohort have managed to overcome.
"The people in this program are incredible. Even though much of the program has been remote, we've built a very collaborative and supportive learning community," she said. "I know we'll always be able to call each other, talk through ideas, and grapple with things together."
Jones works part time with Linnean, a climate planning, regenerative design, and systems change-oriented firm that helps communities build capacity and transform systems. While balancing work and studies has been difficult at times, she believes it has been worth it.
"I let what I'm learning at Tufts inform my work at Linnean, and I let what I'm encountering at work influence the questions I ask at Tufts," she said. "Through this program, I've been able to go deeper on big questions that I've been dealing with in a professional context."
In the Field
Field work, which is central to the Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning program, has been a meaningful part of Jones' experience at Tufts. For Field Projects, she and four classmates helped the Boston Neighborhood Community Land Trust devise strategies for measuring their impact and make the case for their continued property acquisition in Boston. Through a course on land use planning, Jones also worked with Northern California's Sonoma County Land Trust to develop a model rolling easement to support coastal resilience.
Jones is on track to complete her thesis, which examines questions related to the implementation of transformative climate planning, in December 2022. She is excited to continue to work at Linnean and work collaboratively with others to transform systems.
"The tagline for this program is 'practical visionaries,'" she said. "Many of the faculty are practitioners who bring awesome experience from the field and really get it. I look forward to continuing to apply what I've learned from them. Special shout-out to my thesis advisor, Kate Davies, who is a total rock star. She's an incredible thought partner in asking tough questions!"