Mary Cash (J.D./M.C.R.P ’25) is passionate about two things: historic preservation and the southeast. Her love of the southeast comes from growing up in Alabama, but her love of historic preservation developed only a few years ago after becoming a volunteer historical docent at Piedmont Park.

“When I’m in the park, I feel invited to consider alternatives to how we think of space,” Cash said. “I can think about large themes in history, how individuals impacted those themes, and how those lives continue to live unknowingly in our day-to-day lives.”

Cash decided to pursue her newfound passion for historic preservation by applying to the Master of City and Regional Planning program at Georgia Tech. She learned through her professors she could earn her law degree through the dual-degree partnership with Georgia State University College of Law.

Karen Johnston (J.D. ’08), associate director for the Center for the Comparative Study of Metropolitan Growth is an advocate for the program.

“Georgia State Law students are very fortunate to have Georgia Tech’s School of City and Regional Planning, a top-ranked program, just down the road. This wonderful opportunity to pursue a dual JD/MCRP degree with just one extra year of study provides our students with a solid foundation to work successfully alongside the variety of professionals they will encounter in careers such as real estate or community development,” said Johnston.

In the city of Atlanta, real estate developments are increasing.  The city ranked No. 5 for the most active real estate market in the U.S. within the last decade, in total new construction.

“With exciting new developments in Atlanta as well as the city recently grabbing national media’s attention, I realized there’s a need for lawyers with a background to help plan for unprecedented growth in the city.” Cash said. “There’s a lot of great planners coming out of the program at Georgia Tech, but there needs to be more of a bridge to the legal system.”

Cash believes with exciting new developments in Atlanta and the fact that the city has recently garnered media attention, there is a need for lawyers with a background in planning to help prepare for unprecedented growth in the city.

Now, in her first year as a part-time student at Georgia State College of Law, Cash is already exploring that intersection between urban planning and law. She recently received the Daniel J. Curtin, Jr. Fellowship through the American Planning Association’s division of Planning and Law.

“I thought it was a long-shot when I applied for this fellowship, but I wrote in my application about what I actually know about, which is historic preservation and my love for Atlanta,” Cash said. “I think what made me stand out in the pool of applicants was my dedication to a specific planning area in a specific city.”

As part of the fellowship, Cash will be hosting a webinar open to all APA members. Her focus will be on cemeteries with three panelists, including Doug Young, the historic preservation assistant director for Atlanta.

While she’s still early in her studies, Cash hopes to use her degree to stay in the southeast for a career that is related to historical preservation in urban areas. She believes Atlanta is a great city to learn about the intersection of urban planning and law and hopes more people take advantage of the dual-degree program.

“I can’t think of a better place to study urban environments than our resurgent city,” Cash said. “There’s a lot of great people in urban planning and there’s a lot of great lawyers; both working hard to make Atlanta shine. But if we want cities to have long, healthy lives, we need to integrate law and planning diligently.”

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