For Raha Pouladi, working as a senior planner for a blank canvas like Celina is a blessing.
“I have the privilege of seeing all the changes and all the decisions that we make on a daily basis on that canvas,” she said.
The senior planner for the city of Celina defended her PhD on April 30, securing her ability to graduate from the University of Texas at Arlington on Friday with a Doctor of Philosophy in Urban Planning and Public Policy.
The degree process involved getting 48 credit hours and undergoing a dissertation process. Pouladi said the dissertation process is what provided the most value when it comes to her current job with the city of Celina.
“Over time, I realized that I need to be a better listener and be humble and at the same time strong,” Pouladi said.
Hearing comments from committee members on her work taught her the need for humility, she said, but there were also times when she learned the importance of standing her ground. That’s very important when it comes to what she does for the city, she said.
“Developers bring in plans, and we need to review them and give back comments,” Pouladi said, “and because of all the ordinances that we have, sometimes we get pushbacks.”
Her degree journey proved to be a six-year process that involved moving from Iran to the United States with her husband, who went for the same degree, and getting a job with the city of Celina in 2018, where she now works as a senior planner.
“Raha’s commitment to excellence is unparalleled,” Development Services Director Dusty McAfee said. “She has a genuine thirst for knowledge and solving difficult challenges. Although PhDs are relatively uncommon in municipal government, it is unsurprising that Raha finds new ways to provide value to the organization. About the only area she has not demonstrated mastery in is the ‘Mod Squad,’ which is the fantasy football team for The Annex, although she tries really hard.”
On April 30, she defended her dissertation and was able to do so without any revisions, a feat she was told only 3-5% of students achieve. All the while, her coworkers with the city of Celina watched the proceedings live online and cheered her on from a watch party.
“Raha’s PhD brings transferable skills to Celina and shows attention to detail, confidence, perseverance, hard work and determination,” Celina Planning Manager Madhuri Mohan said. “In addition to that, it brings her, the planning department and our city overall credibility and validates one of our core values of excellence.”
The main portion of Pouladi’s study focused on public policy and outreach, a topic she saw in action as the city worked through developing its comprehensive plan and downtown master plan.
“Honestly, my eyes were glowing when we were doing those meetings and the public would show up,” Pouladi said. “That was amazing.”
Since she has pursued her doctoral degree, Pouladi said many people ask her why she doesn’t want to teach.
“My answer to them would be ‘Because this position that I have is so fulfilling, and this time of year, I’m reviewing a plan, and I’m able to see the results next year. This is not something that you get when you teach.’”