A new energy in downtown S.A., how Sarah Esserlieu is helping to revive the city
It’s the lunch hour rush in downtown San Antonio, and amongst the businesspeople dining in nearby cafés is Sarah Esserlieu, an urban planning graduate student at UTSA and a consultant with the Center City Development Office with the City of San Antonio.
“Taking old buildings like this and repurposing them, giving them new life, that’s what we do at CCDO (Center City Development Office). We help facilitate bringing people back downtown,” said Esserlieu, as she pointed inside O’liva, a new restaurant in downtown San Antonio. “I’m very thankful to have received this position with CCDO, and I’m really enjoying it.”
At age 28, Esserlieu considers herself to be very fortunate. The California native is living out her dream of helping to revitalize downtown. Two years ago her story was very different.
Her journey to this happy place began after earning a degree in international studies and teaching English to children in Korea. After returning home she found work as a barista and questioned what she really wanted to do with her future.
“While in college I was interested in math and science so I started off as an instructional engineering major, but realized that I didn’t like it as much. Then I switched to international studies which is more policy,” said Esserlieu. “Urban planning combines those two very well, which is exactly what I wanted to do, so I started looking into earning my master’s degree.”
After being torn between two schools, Esserlieu chose UTSA, saying it was the financial aid package she was offered that solidified her decision. She packed her belongings, booked a one way ticket and nestled in a small apartment just blocks away from her classes at UTSA’s downtown campus.
While pursuing her master’s degree in urban and regional planning in the College of Architecture, Construction and Planning, Esserlieu quickly rose to the top of her class. She has been treasurer and vice president of the Urban Planning Student Association.
“Sarah is very hard working, and dedicated,” said Rebecca J. Walter, UTSA assistant professor in urban and regional planning. “She always comes to class prepared, energized and ready to learn.”
Through her involvement in the organizations, Esserlieu was awarded the Nungesser Scholarship, an award given to students pursuing the Master of Science degree in Urban and Regional Planning. She said the additional financial support allowed her to focus on school while gaining real world experience as an intern with CCDO.
It was through her internship where she landed her position as a consultant, and joined a team helping to revitalize downtown San Antonio.
“I finally have the job that I’ve wanted for years and I’m not even done with school. Before I came to UTSA former graduates told me not to worry about getting a job, if you put in a good amount of effort in your class you’ll get snatched up,” said Esserlieu, who recently received a promotion.
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