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Youngest grad blazes own trail in urban planning

June 2, 2004

Photo of youngest grad Dominique McAfeeWhile most 19 year olds will be looking for a summer job, preparing for summer school or going on vacation this month, Dominique McAfee is embarking on a career in urban planning.

The youngest graduate in SFSU's class of 2004, McAfee tested out of high school and entered Butte College at age 15 because "high school was boring." Fascinated by architecture and land-use planning since childhood, the Chico native already had her career goals set. In 2002 at age 17, she moved to San Francisco and enrolled in SFSU's Urban Studies Program.

"I was interested in architecture at first, but then I realized I could make broader decisions on zoning and design through land-use planning," said McAfee, who says goodbye to her teens on Dec. 3. "Plus, I'm really terrible at math."

McAfee graduated cum laude with a bachelor's degree in urban studies.

Deborah LeVeen, director and professor of urban studies, has worked closely with McAfee the past two years and is astounded by her maturity and initiative.

"She has changed my concept of age," LeVeen said. "I look at Dominique, and say, 'Gee, maybe you don't need to be 25 to be mature and poised.' She’s just amazing."

McAfee has had no problems making friends at SFSU. She said most people assume she is older and generally does not discuss her age unless she is asked.

An only child raised primarily by her mother, McAfee initially visited San Francisco and found her apartment, which she shares with roommates, before she was old enough to vote or buy a lottery ticket. Although her mother helps pay for her room and board, she said that likely won't be the case for much longer once she finds a full-time job in the Bay Area.

While attending SFSU, McAfee interned at Muni, where she focused on public transportation planning at Mission Bay, and the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency, where she worked on housing manuals and data input for a variety of low-income developments.

Her experiences at SFSU and the city agencies have reinforced her belief that most areas should be developed at a high density because it leaves more area for open space, as opposed to suburban sprawl.

In her spare time, McAfee enjoys traveling around San Francisco on public transportation. She particularly likes to ride buses at random and wander through the neighborhoods. Her favorite neighborhood is Noe Valley, with its Victorian architecture, shops and restaurants. Her favorite bus is the 15 Third, a cross-town route that begins at Fisherman's Wharf and ends at City College of San Francisco, making its way through North Beach, the Financial District, South of Market, Bayview-Hunters Point and Visitacion Valley.

McAfee plans to attend graduate school at either New York University or Hunter College, but isn't sure if she is ready yet. Her long-term goal is to be a land-use planner, preferably in the Bay Area.

-- Matt Itelson
Photo: William Morris


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Last modified July 27, 2004 by University Communications