To highlight some of Project Cities star students and faculty, PC staff sat down to interview Jade Bravo. As part of the culminating experience for her Master’s of Public Policy, Jade worked with Peoria’s Water Services Director, Cape Powers, to research tiered water pricing as a water conservation strategy. Jade conducted extensive research into peer communities to determine if tiered pricing is an effective tool for water conservation. While the initial project scope started with determining ideal tiers, Jade took a different approach, “Well, when I first approach problems like this my first step is to question if the solution, tiered water rates in this case, is actually the best solution. Sometimes we can be very bought into the status quo and our own assumptions, so I try to challenge myself by questioning everything." Through a multi-dimensional approach, Jade arrived at a different expected conclusion at the end of the project, “Doing so in this project led me to learn so much about tiered rates and ultimately, I found that an alternative pricing structure might better suit both the financial and conservation goals of Peoria. Even though I deviated from the original goal, I was able to answer my research questions in a way that I hope helps the water department determine better ways to increase water conservation.” The following dialogue and summary come from an interview with Jade about her experience in the Project Cities program. Question: Is there something else that maybe you didn't touch on in your project that you'd like to see the community doing to continue fostering sustainability? Answer: “My project focused on water conversation, but I am passionate about sustainable urban development that incorporates mixed zone development. Since the city is looking to expand and grow, I would love to see plans to create diverse neighborhoods with better a work/play balance like the Peoria envisions. Even though I’m not a city planner, I think there’s a lot of opportunities for Peoria to truly lean into having a sustainable city by being intentional in its future development plans.” Question: What were some of your key learnings/takeaways from your experience in terms of professional development and educational outcomes? Answer: “One of the biggest takeaways of this experience is to not be afraid to explore and question expectations. I truthfully, didn’t know much about water pricing and had to do a lot of research and learning just to have a working foundation of knowledge, so it was easier to keep an open mind. However, the expectation was that I find a better tier structure, not toss it out or say it might not work. It can be intimidating to present findings that contradict your supervisors’ assumptions but I think more often than not, you’ll find that kind of thing is what they want. Monolithic thinking impedes progress so if your research is taking you somewhere else, follow it! I know it’s something we’re told all the time, but it doesn’t mean making some groundbreaking evolutionary changes. In my own educational and professional development experience, I learn it can be as simple as asking a question.” Question: How has studying at ASU prepared you for your career field? Answer: “The opportunity to apply the skills and knowledge to real life situations in nearly all of my courses have made me confident in my abilities. Even in area where I felt less experienced in, like statistics, I learned so much that I found myself looking at the world differently. In a more direct way, my program pushed me to develop the analytic skills needed to analyze, evaluate and recommend public policy and programs at the professional level. Because of that, I feel more than prepared to take on my position at the Bureau of Reclamation.” Project Cities is a member of the Educational Partnerships for Innovation in Communities Network (EPIC-N) and is administered by ASU’s Julie Ann Wrigley Global Futures Laboratory and the Sustainable Cities Network. Stay up to date with Project Cities and the Sustainable Cities Network by following us on social media or subscribing to our newsletter.