Noor Ismail

Roscoe Robinson Jr. Memorial Lecture Series Hosts Noor Ismail

The Roscoe Robinson Jr. Memorial Lecture Series on Diversity and Public Service recently welcomed Noor Ismail, Director of City Planning for the City of Pittsburgh, to speak about her experiences as an urban planner.

Ms. Ismail has extensive urban planning, design and management experience across sectors and has received numerous awards for her projects. Before coming to Pittsburgh, Ms. Ismail worked as a private consultant in Fort Myers, Florida, and served two years as President of her local planning and zoning association.

As Director of City Planning, Ms. Ismail has been a catalyst for developing PLANPgh, Pittsburgh’s Comprehensive Plan. In addition, her department created PghSNAP (Sectoral Neighborhood Assets Profile), a web-based neighborhood data and information resource, and PghGIS, an interactive mapping resource. Other ongoing projects include the development of new ordinances, web-based permitting, and multi-modal transportation planning. The end goal of the plan is to bring to cohesion to the city’s development. “We want to establish overarching policies for the City of Pittsburgh,” she said. 

Ms. Ismail explained that one of the challenges she has faced in the profession is negotiating outcomes. “As urban planners we have to do what’s best for the city. We are trying to create a good quality of life and urban fabric, and build community.”

Ms. Ismail explained that as a manger, she tries to lead by example. She believes a good leader should value teamwork, be a good listener, encourage innovation, motivate staff, encourage personal development, and be grounded. She added that managers should constantly be aware of the organization’s mission, staff capacity and resources, budget, stakeholders and potential partners. “Leadership is about knowing what assets you have and getting everyone to contribute to a common cause.”

Ms. Ismail’s career advice to students was, “Find your niche and focus on what experiences you bring to the table. Education and experience is essential.”  She added, “Be fair and consistent in all your dealings, and be passionate about what you do!”

Graduate School of Public and International Affairs
3601 Wesley W. Posvar Hall, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15260