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USC Price valedictorian plans his future in Oahu

by Robin Heffler
Bradley Furuya appreciates the environment. (USC Photo/Tom Queally)
Photo: Bradley Furuya appreciates the environment. (USC Photo/Tom Queally)

Growing up in Hawaii, Bradley Furuya was exposed to both paradise and purgatory.

It was a scenic, 15-mile commute from his family’s home in Waipahu, a suburb of Honolulu, to Punahou High School — the highly regarded college-preparatory school attended by President Barack Obama — nestled in the lush green Manoa Valley. Yet that twice-daily trip had a profound influence on him.

“Every day, the blue sky and green mountains made you appreciate the natural environment that is so much a part of Hawaii,” said Furuya, this year’s USC Price School of Public Policy valedictorian, who received a Bachelor of Science in policy, planning, and development. “But it was an hour commute each way. It made me wonder how we could create a better, more efficient transportation system.”

Upon entering USC in 2009, Furuya was intrigued by environmental planning, a joint minor with USC Price and the Environmental Studies Program at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences. He decided to take the USC Price course “Introduction to Urban Planning and Development,” taught by Todd Gish, adjunct assistant professor in architecture and planning, and became hooked on the field.

“He [Gish] explained what the field of planning is all about, has given me advice about internships to look for and shared his own personal work experience,” said Furuya, who in 2012 began taking graduate courses in planning and is scheduled to receive his master’s degree, with a concentration in economic development, next spring.

Gish, in turn, found Furuya “extremely intelligent, hard working and diligent. He’s also pretty quiet, but over time I’ve seen him become more extroverted. He always had the stuff, but it’s nice to see him become a confident young professional.

That confidence was on display May 17 when Furuya delivered his valedictory address. The honor was a reflection of Furuya attaining the highest grade-point average in his class, according to David Sloane, USC Price professor and director of undergraduate programs.

Sloane, who was a sounding board for preparation of the address, echoed Gish’s assessment of Furuya.

“He is reserved but incredibly capable,” Sloane said. “The best USC undergraduates are great critical thinkers — warm and generous human beings — and can articulate and assert their ideas. Bradley is all of those.”

The key message Furuya articulated at commencement was to encourage his fellow classmates “to measure their future success not by others’ standards, like how much money you make or your job title, but by your self satisfaction and peace of mind.”

Last summer, Furuya served as an intern in the Kamehameha School’s commercial real estate division in Hawaii, where he wrote property reports and developed a tenant resource manual while witnessing the intersecting roles of landowners, tenants, developers and government officials.

“It was a great real-life application of planning practice,” he noted.

Another important learning experience, Furuya said, was a group project on waterfront developments in urban areas for a master’s class in comparative international development.

“My focus was on a redevelopment of Sydney’s Darling Harbor, which was driven primarily by economic factors to stimulate tourism and commemorate the city’s bicentennial,” he said. “The planning process was very top down, didn’t incorporate community input and neglected the natural environment.”

Before resuming his studies in the fall, Furuya will spend this summer working at a local planning consulting firm on the island of Oahu. It’s where he eventually wants to relocate as a planner and consultant for a developer or a private planning-development firm, where he would work on commercial, residential and office projects.

“I find it exciting to know that I could have a major impact on the built environment where I and my family spend the rest of our lives,” Furuya said. “I’ve seen how planning decisions have shaped my growing up in Hawaii. If I can have a positive impact on others growing up and living in Hawaii, it’s something I want to do.”

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