Designing a better home

Taking a pre-university gap year between 2013 and 2014 proved to be a fruitful exercise for Ms Rachel Liu. This led her to discover her interest
in urban planning, and eventually land her a job in the field.

Says Ms Liu: “I was just out of junior college and I had some inclination that I was interested in urban planning. So I spent the (gap) year doing internships in architecture, urban planning and real estate — with various architecture firms, a private developer and the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) — to better understand the field.

This helped me to clearly define my interests and expectations of what it was like to work in the field of urban planning in Singapore.”

Having first-hand experience on how land developments were being planned opened her eyes to what the industry had to offer.

Now a manager in the Strategic Planning Division at the Ministry of National Development (MND), Ms Liu helps to oversee land use and urban development in Singapore, as her division reviews land policy issues.

Her role involves helping to coordinate efforts of various stakeholders, including government ministries and agencies, the private sector and local community, to bring various projects to fruition.

No two days are ever the same for the 25-year-old. On one day, she could be working on how to ensure the built environment supports an ageing
population and on the next, on exploring the possible use of underground space.

Even though the issues on her plate may vary, the end goal is always the same: To build a better Singapore for everyone.

Great learning ground
Ms Liu subsequently decided to take up the MND EDGE Scholarship programme, as policy work was where she could tackle issues at the most fundamental level, and thereby push for change.

I became more open to the idea of taking up the scholarship offered by the ministry after having a taste of what real working life was like in the industry,” say Ms Liu.

She liked, in particular, the flexibility of the scholarship — as it presented opportunities for her to work in different agencies within the ministry after graduation.

Scholars like her have to take on different roles and responsibilities as part of the bond — as opposed to staying in a single division for the duration of their service with the ministry.

Through her scholarship, Ms Liu obtained a Bachelor of Science in Urban and Regional Studies at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. Her time there, especially her off-campus semesters spent learning from industry players in New York City, Rome and São Paulo, deepened her interest in
urban planning.

She also spent her last summer interning at MND, which made her more excited about being able to apply the knowledge she learned in school to the real world.

Even though her current role at MND is already paving the way for her to be further involved in urban planning, Ms Liu says she still has a long way to go.

“I am very passionate about creating a high-quality living environment for Singaporeans,” she says.

“But more than the end goal, it’s about the process of getting there — of creating a sense of belonging for the people who call this place home.”