APA Foundation: Paying It Forward

The APA Foundation invests in future leaders through the Judith McManus Price and Charles Abrams Scholarships. Supporting students as they move through their planning education ensures that the best and brightest are able to contribute to the field of planning.

Max Sokol, AICP, was awarded the Charles Abrams Scholarship in 2011. Now a Supervising Planner with WSP (formerly WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff), Sokol has moved from scholar to leader, from student to president of the APA New York Metro Chapter.

National and Local Connections

While working for his county planning department in 2009, Sokol received a scholarship from the Long Island Section of the New York Metro Chapter to attend the National Planning Conference.

"It was inspiring to be surrounded by thousands of planners from around the country, all with a shared commitment to 'making great communities happen,' as underscored by the APA motto," Sokol said.

"With profound appreciation for the opportunity to attend the conference, I left Minneapolis with a renewed sense of purpose and a strong desire to 'pay it forward' by contributing to the work of the APA."

One year later, Sokol returned to school, pursuing his master's degree in urban planning at Columbia University. Nominated by the department chair for the Abrams Scholarship, Sokol won his second scholarship from APA.

"I will be forever grateful for the financial assistance, but the full value of the scholarships cannot be captured in dollars and cents alone. APA has invested in my future and opened the door to an extensive professional network, and I attribute much of my career advancement to the intangible benefits of my APA involvement, sparked by the generous scholarships."
Max Sokol, AICP

Building Partnerships

Over the next decade, Sokol continued to grow his involvement with the New York Metro Chapter.

Moving from vice president of committees to chapter president in 2017, Sokol's vision for his presidency was one of capacity building: How could the chapter and the national components of APA best complement each other? How could the chapter connect with peer associations to share expertise?

"I view my role [as president] as a liaison between the chapter and national — and as a real opportunity to both learn and share best practices from around the country, including through my role on the Chapter Presidents Council (CPC)," Sokol explained.

"Locally, we also devote time and energy to cultivating interorganizational partnerships with architects, landscape architects, engineers, public health professionals, and other allied professions. We don't operate in silos in our daily work, and thus we are striving to encourage cross-pollination with like-minded organizations through the initiatives of our chapter.

"We embrace the fact that we are strongest when we work together across disciplinary lines, while showcasing the unique lens of the planning profession."

Shaping Our Profession

Sokol hasn't stopped by just encouraging connections between the local and national levels of APA or with peer associations. He has taken action himself, joining the Foundation's Grantmaking Committee — and working to raise awareness about the philanthropic arm of APA.

Reviewing applications for the next round of the McManus Price and Abrams Scholarships, as well as the Foundation's first cohort of disaster recovery grants, is another way Sokol is paying it forward, shaping the next generation of planners and investing in communities that need the support of planning.

In his remarks at the APA Foundation's reception at the 2018 National Planning Conference, Sokol reflected on his appreciation for all that the Foundation has done and continues to do:

"All of us have a responsibility — but also a meaningful opportunity — to advocate for the planning profession and to shape the future of planning, and there is no better to do this than by demonstrating support for the APA Foundation."

Top image: Max Sokol, AICP, speaking at the Foundation Leadership Reception at NPC18, with Foundation Board Chair Mary Kay Peck, FAICP, and APA Board President Cynthia Bowen, FAICP. Photo by Riverview Photography. Used with permission of the American Planning Association.

About the Author
Elizabeth Hartig is a consultant for the APA Foundation.

July 13, 2018

By Elizabeth Hartig