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Grad Finds Right Fit in Urban Planning


Lance MacNiven ’14 is modest when discussing his achievements. The way he tells it, he’s not done yet, so he doesn’t see the point of celebrating – yet. Part of that trait comes from his Navy training, and part of that comes from the fact that he has a clear view of his next step.

He will build on his B.A. in urban studies from LMU when he begins the Master’s in Urban Planning program at UCLA in the fall 2014.

Loyola Marymount University honored MacNiven in April as one of the recipients of the annual Sister Raymunde McKay, R.S.H.M. Award. The McKay Award is given to graduating seniors for outstanding leadership and service throughout their undergraduate years at LMU.

MacNiven, a native of Long Beach, California, enlisted in the U.S. Navy and shipped out to basic training the week he turned 18. His goal was to earn the privilege of a G.I. Bill education, but he also wanted to see the world.

During his four years as an information systems technician, MacNiven was stationed in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and was deployed to the Persian Gulf. He also saw Guam, Palau, Timor-Leste, Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore, Bahrain, Dubai and Oman.

When he returned to civilian life, MacNiven earned an A.A. degree and then landed at LMU. While working on his bachelor’s degree, he was vice president of the Student Veterans Organization, which is dedicated to creating awareness of the different transitional issues that student-veterans, active duty personnel, and reservists often experience.

“My experience was definitely different,” he said.  “As a veteran, older, being married, my priorities were different – every class matters, and I felt I had to work harder. I felt that there was not much time and room for error.”

While studying for his classes – MacNiven graduated magna cum laude – he was also working as an intern in the planning department in Culver City.

Urban planning wasn’t his first course of study, but he found the major at LMU and it is a good fit. “I want to be a change agent in our public transportation system and lower our reliance on private vehicles,” he said. “I want to create more access for people with lower incomes to get around the city. It amazes me that some people in the inner city have never been to the beach.”