Master of Urban Planning, Design & Development, '01
Bachelor of Arts, Urban Studies, '99
Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs
"I was always very interested in the history and development of cities, whether studying ancient Rome, reading about Cleveland’s industrial era, or creating simulated cities on the computer. But, through my education I learned that cities are more than grand buildings and monuments. Cities are living, dynamic systems comprised of neighborhoods and people – each with their own story of success, tribulation, and culture."
Greg Zucca, appointed to serve as Economic Development Director for the City of Cleveland Heights, is a two-time CSU alumnus who will lead the City’s business development and investment initiatives. Just over a month after joining the team on June 9th, Zucca (pictured above) reflects on how his career experience and education have prepared him for his new role, and how he looks ahead enthusiastically to the exciting challenges he will face.
Q. Describe your new responsibilities and how you will face the challenges of your new role.
A. I will develop, implement, and manage a place-based development strategy for Cleveland Heights that will strengthen existing mixed-used business districts and improve business development, retention and expansion opportunities. Also, I will work with public and private local, state, and federal financial resources to facilitate commercial and residential development/redevelopment projects that will enhance the vibrancy of Cleveland Heights as a place for people to work, live, and prosper.
Q. It is obvious that you are very enthusiastic about the work that you do. How did you decide to study urban development?
A. I was always very interested in the history and development of cities, whether studying ancient Rome, reading about Cleveland’s industrial era, or creating simulated cities on the computer. But through my education, I learned that cities are more than grand buildings and monuments. Cities are living, dynamic systems comprised of neighborhoods and people – each with their own story of success, tribulation, and culture. As I came to fully understand the fundamental role and importance neighborhoods play in making cities great places, I knew I wanted to dedicate my career to the effort to help strengthen and sustain our neighborhoods and communities in the Cleveland area.
Q. Aside from the fact that the Levin College is ranked #2 in the U.S.1 please share why CSU was right for you in pursuing both your undergraduate and graduate degrees?
A. After attending Saint Ignatius High School, I knew I wanted to contribute to the revitalization of the Cleveland region in a meaningful way. I wanted to dedicate myself and career to strengthening neighborhoods and supporting the redevelopment of our community. After talking with Dr. Roberta Steinbacher 2 at the Levin College of Urban Affairs, I knew CSU was the best educational institution to help me achieve my goals and objectives.
Q. You were very successful here at CSU both as a graduate student and as an undergraduate student. How did the Levin College faculty help you in achieving academic success and in preparing for your career?
A. The networks I have built and the experiences I have gained because of CSU are remarkable. I continue to draw upon these connections and knowledge on a daily basis. The faculty at CSU were extremely engaging and committed to the advancement of students. It was an incredible experience to be surrounded by so many faculty and staff at the forefront in their field of study who possess a broad spectrum of professional experience. It proved to be a tremendous asset for my career development.
Q. Tell us why you chose to build your career in Northeast Oho.
A. First and foremost, this is my home and as a citizen of Greater Cleveland and Cuyahoga County, I want to support and strengthen my community. Professionally, I believe Cleveland has been and continues to be at the forefront of urban redevelopment and neighborhood revitalization. Our region is faced with challenges and the community has and continues to respond to these challenges, demonstrating its resiliency and perseverance. Being part of this vibrant response and continued evolution is a very inspiring and rewarding experience. Cleveland Heights is an excellent example of how a community comes together to work in a positive and forward looking way.
Q. Can you offer helpful advice to current graduate students about building and connecting with their professional network to help achieve their goals?
A. Because of the regard for the faculty and the high quality of students, several institutions and businesses seek out students from the College of Urban Affairs for internships. This proved to be an invaluable learning experience for me and I strongly encourage all students to take advantage of those internship positions available to them.
Q. You’ve been in your new job for a short time, but have you begun to set goals for yourself?
A. Yes, my goal is to listen to the people that live and work in Cleveland Heights and understand their vision for the community. My desire is to work with the community to build on the City’s core assets and leverage its strong, vibrant, neighborhoods and mixed-used business districts. The City’s most crucial asset is its residents and their commitment to the community of Cleveland Heights.
When asked about his greatest rewards at the end of the day, Zucca proudly spoke of his family and community: “The greatest reward is meeting people throughout Cleveland and working with them to revitalize our neighborhoods and communities across the county. I am inspired by people coming together to strengthen their communities and the long lasting relationships that result from working together. Cleveland Heights epitomizes this quality, which is why I am so privileged to work for the City.” Zucca also noted that he and wife Katie find it fulfilling to live and raise their son Leo (4 yrs.) and daughter Claudia (2 yrs.) while preparing for their third child in a region that values community.
Greg Zucca is a two-time alumnus of the Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs, Cleveland State University.
1 2015 edition of U.S. News & World Report’s Best Grad Schools, released March 11, 2014, again ranked Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs No. 2 in the nation for the specialty of City Management and Urban Policy and No. 12 for the specialty of Nonprofit Management. The Levin College is ranked No. 42 overall for Public Affairs.
2 Roberta Steinbacher is a Professor of Urban Studies in the College of Urban Affairs. She received her Ph.D. in Social Psychology from St. Louis University in 1967. Before coming to CSU, Dr. Steinbacher taught at St. Louis University and Marillac College. Dr. Steinbacher teaches courses in urban issues and public policy.
Photo courtesy of the City of Cleveland Heights