Research Assistant



Start Date


End Date


Time Commitment

Part time (10-30 hrs/wk)


Short-Term (few weeks/months)


140 S. Dearborn St.
Suite 1400
United States


Since 1934, the Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) has been dedicated to shaping a more equitable, sustainable and prosperous greater Chicago region. As an independent, nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, MPC serves communities and residents by developing, promoting and implementing solutions for sound regional growth.For more information on MPC, please visit our website:

We are now accepting applications for Fall 2018 volunteer Research Assistants. The priority application deadline for Fall 2018 is August 22, 2018, but applications will be accepted on a rolling basis until all positions are filled.

Current needs: 

Research assistants (RAs) play an important role at MPC, offering essential support for our projects, working with staff on a daily basis, attending meetings, and learning about how urban planning/policy works in the real world. We especially like RA applicants who are talented writers, investigators, communicators, and/or GIS users.

We’re currently recruiting RAs for Fall and/or Winter 2018, particularly for the following priority projects:

  • Great Rivers Chicago. This project is working to implement an exciting vision for the next 100 years of Chicago’s rivers. Community engagement, GIS, research, writing, and design skills needed.
  • Cost of Segregation. This project is looking to quantify the negative impacts of our economically and racially segregated region. Phase III projects include support in launching campaign to develop an a communiyt-informed equity platform for the 2019 mayoral election, support in coordinating a diversity, equity, inclusion cohort as well as supporting the advancement of other Oure Equitable Future recommendations led by MPC. Community outreach and project coordination, qualitative and quantitative research and strong writing and communcation skills needed.
  • Transportation. MPC works on a wide range of transportation issues and advocates for strong regional policies. This RA position will work on projects including a report on universal accessibility of transit, advocacy related to sustainable transportation funding, and research and a launch event on the relationship between business and transit.
  • Government Effectiveness. This project is identifying ways to make our governmental bodies more effective by streamlining delivery and consolidating services, both through advancement of state-level enabling legislation and through local technical assistance projects. GIS, qualitative and quantitative research and writing skills needed, and a strong interest in policy making and the legislative process is desirable.
  • Equitable transit-oriented development. Equitable transit-oriented development (eTOD) prioritizes the land around transit as model locations for holistic community development partnering with locals leaders to shape projects that are responsive to the social, cultural, economic and environmental needs of the neighborhood. This project works to encourage more of the region’s development to occur in areas near our public transportation lines, so as to reduce congestion, eliminate pollution and boost economic development. We are currently conducting an analysis of TOD development since the TOD ordinance passed in 2013, preparing to lead a community engagement process in East Garfield Park and Washington Heights. The RA will support MPC's Elevated Chicago work and general TOD education and outreach. Skills needed some knowledge of community development principles, data analysis, GIS, research and writing skills, community outreach and logistics coordination .
  • Stormwater management. MPC works to prevent flooding, improve water quality and foster social, economic and environmental benefits within communities. Through our work at state, regional and local levels on stormwater management, we are helping build resilient communities through green and grey infrastructure improvements. This RA position would support facilitation of the Calumet Stormwater Collaborative, as well as advance our research on stormwater policies, planning and funding mechanisms. Skills needed include some knowledge of stormwater solutions, urban planning and or environmental policy/law/economics, qualitative and quantitative research and writing with GIS skills a plus.
  • Research. MPC's Research Team works to collect and analyze data in service of programmatic areas, as well as other relevant topics of interest for the region's residents. We are looking for research assistants with a strong interest in furthering work related to affordable housing/land use, and are also interested in analyzing key demographic trends with a specific focus on racial equity. Strong data collection and analytical skills needed, including experience using quantitative/spatial analytics platforms like ArcGIS, Microsoft Access, and Microsoft Excel.
  • Government outreach and legislative tracking. Supports work to develop relationships with policy makers at multiple levels, develop and advance legislative initiatives, and increase overal organizational capacity for policy change.
  • Urban development monitoring (to be combined with another project). MPC monitors and reviews high-impact real estate development projects on an ongoing basis in order to be more fully informed, positioning us to take a proactive stance at opportune moments. We are looking for an RA to dedicate part of their research assistantship to overseeing and updating the development tracking database, analyzing trends, and convening briefings to staff.
  • Climate change/resiliency. MPC works on a range of issues that intersect with environment, sustainability and climate change. We are looking for research assistance on local, regional and state policies, programs and partnerships to help us strategically prioritize our efforts on climate resiliency. 
  • Productive lands. This project is working to plan for productive reuses of underutilized land. Current work includes exploring opportunities for land acquisition or reuse for parks, conservation areas, renewable energy, etc. Strong GIS, research, and writing skills necessary.

Overall program: 

MPC’s volunteer research assistants are a vital part of the organization’s success. Depending on the project at hand, RAs conduct original research, write blog posts and case studies, organize community meetings, perform GIS and quantitative analysis and a range of other work.

You may apply for an RA position at any time, but as a general guideline new RAs start around May 1, September 1 and January 2. Candidates receiving school credit or compensation through a fellowship program will receive preference in staffing decisions, but all are welcome to apply. Fall and winter RAs are expected to commit at least two full days of work per week, and summer RAs at least three.

How To Apply

How to Apply: 

The priority application deadline for Fall 2018 is August 22, 2018, but applications will be accepted on a rolling basis until all positions are filled. If you are interested in a position, please send the following materials by e-mail to

  1. A current resume;
  2. A cover letter articulating your specific interest in MPC, the current projects you have the most interest in and what you believe you can add to them, and a proposed schedule; and
  3. A short (2-3 page) writing sample, and if applicable, examples of geospatial analysis or design work.

No phone calls please. For more information on MPC, please visit our website:

MPC is proud to be an equal opportunity employer.