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APUS Alumni Stories: Changing Lives through Urban Planning

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By Melanie Conner, APUS Student and Alumni Affairs Liaison and Samuel Snead, APU Graduate

Samuel Snead urban planning
APU alumnus Samuel Snead.

American Public University (APU) graduate Samuel Snead has a passion for urban planning and changing the lives of people through infrastructure enhancement and environmental development. Ultimately, this passion led him to a career as a Head Transportation Planner for the Baltimore County government in Maryland.

In his role, Samuel plans, directs and supervises the planning section of the Transportation Bureau Department of Public Works. This work includes the development of grant applications, management of capital/design projects and implementation of transportation program initiatives for the County Executive.

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For 2020, his focus in the role is to create an easily accessible public transit network managed by Baltimore County. That includes circulator buses, connected automated vehicles, rideshare vehicles, micro transit (paired shuttle vehicles serving three-mile radius zones), bike shares and scooter share initiatives that will allow people to seamlessly navigate the county.

Writing a Winning Federal Grant to Improve Local Transportation

A few weeks into his new job, Samuel wrote a winning federal grant. The grant was for a proposed Towson Circulator – a multi-passenger shuttle bus offering transportation to downtown Towson, local hospitals, Towson University and the Towson Town Center.

When Samuel found out that he won the grant in November 2019, he was elated and cites it as one of his major professional accomplishments. Samuel says, “Winning the $1.65 million Towson Circulator grant and garnering approval from the County Executive for over $412,000 in matching funds as well as an annual operating budget is my greatest accomplishment at the local government level.”

Gaining Expertise in Urban Planning

Samuel’s interest in urban planning and studies led him to seek degrees in these fields. He completed a bachelor’s in urban studies from Brown University in 2003. Later, Samuel earned a master’s in community planning in 2005 at the University of Rhode Island.

Samuel began working for the U.S. Department of Transportation in 2009 as a senior program manager. He worked there for close to a decade before transitioning to his current position in June 2019. Samuel made the career transition one month after completing his master’s in management at APU.

Samuel also attributes some of his business expertise to his nonprofit experience. Samuel says, “As an executive of my nonprofit, Feeling Yachty™ LLC (a nonprofit dedicated to outdoor nautical sports instruction), I prepared all of the articles necessary to become an LLC. I also submitted and was approved for a trademark so that I can sell merchandise.

“In addition, I developed a board of qualified people to contribute ideas and manage a nonprofit company. As the head planner for Baltimore County, I have used those capabilities to obtain grant funding, hire a team of qualified staff, and develop policies and strategies to achieve the goals established by the County Executive.”

Facing the Challenges of Urban Planning

Samuel notes that the biggest challenge for him in his current role is marketing a solution to business groups, the public, and decision-makers who will ultimately approve or disapprove the ideas and solutions to the issues his organization faces. He overcomes this challenge by using his expertise from past experiences.

Samuel says, “As a senior program manager at the U.S. Department of Transportation, I managed the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery [TIGER] Program. This was a half-billion-dollar infrastructure program initiated under the Obama administration in 2009.

“As this was a new program, I had to interpret and deliver it and did so with a 100% success rate while I was at the USDOT’s Federal Transit Administration. I was then hired to deliver the program at the Federal Highway Administration.

“My projects during this period included hundreds of projects nationwide. Managing scopes, schedules, and budgets was a challenge that required fortitude and communication capabilities.”

Samuel says that the courses he completed in leadership and crisis management from APU’s management program were integral when it came to developing solutions and setting realistic goals. Reflecting on these courses, he observes, “There were instances in my career where I had to implement a program quickly and administer guidance to the public under multiple leadership groups. Having my skills refined by the program allowed me to overcome challenges I faced when presenting to these groups and effectively obtaining buy-in and political support.”

Helping Others to Grow Professionally and Personally

Samuel enjoys giving back to his community. He started a scholarship for student-athletes and has provided it for the last seven years. His goal as a mentor is to increase exposure for youth to opportunities to which they may not normally have access, based on their socio-economic circumstances.

He says, “As a mentor to college athletes at my former university (Brown), I instruct and connect student-athletes to professional opportunities that they are not familiar with. I also instruct youth about nautical sports to which they would not normally have access to in their day-to-day lives.”

Samuel encourages others to grow their expertise and to search for new management solutions and technologies. He notes, “Repetitive, learned behavior is very rarely the best way to innovate and to solve problems. Developing strategies that achieve goals with measurable results consistently is a challenge that is integral to steering a ship in the right direction.”

Melanie Conner is a Student and Alumni Affairs Liaison at the university. Having worked in higher education for almost 10 years, Melanie enjoys cultivating relationships with students and alumni. She has undergraduate degrees in education from Germanna Community College and in sociology from the University of Mary Washington.

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