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Public Policy vs Urban Planning


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Hi all,

I've spent the past few months researching MPA/MPP programs, and have been looking specifically for schools with more of an Urban Policy focus.  Now all of the sudden I'm starting to second guess myself and I feel like I should have been doing more research on urban planning degrees this whole time!  

What put me off initially when looking into MURPs was that a some of the programs I looked at were located in the arts schools of universities.  I guess I'm looking for suggestions for urban planning programs with more of a policy focus and less architecture/design.  Does this exist? What is the split like usually?  How practical are dual MPP/MURP degrees? Any other advice for someone having a last minute freak-out?  

I'm particularly interested in community and economic development/housing/density if that helps.

Thanks!

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On 11/14/2016 at 6:14 PM, bummerman said:

I'm particularly interested in community and economic development/housing/density if that helps.

 

What is your career objective? Ivory Tower? GOV type job? Developer? Consultant?

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On 12/3/2016 at 0:23 AM, Sigaba said:

What is your career objective? Ivory Tower? GOV type job? Developer? Consultant?

I think in a dream situation I'd do consulting, but I wouldn't be opposed to doing government work.  Actually, since writing this post I've decided to go completely in on urban planning.  I'm interested in the cross section of development and equity, and the schools I'm planning on applying to are UIC, Minnesota, USC, UNC and Pitt's MPA program (urban planning and affairs major).  Also hoping to add one NYC area school to the list.

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17 hours ago, bummerman said:

I think in a dream situation I'd do consulting, but I wouldn't be opposed to doing government work.  

[...]

I'm interested in the cross section of development and equity[.]

I recommend that you start looking at consultancies near the schools to the one's you're applying that do the kind of work that you see yourself doing so you can compete for internships during the summers.

Focus on developing your people skills--consulting is as much about interpersonal relationships as any thing. Develop skills that will allow you to communicate effectively to stakeholders who will range from disinterested to fingers in ears NIMBYism. If you're a perfectionist, you're going to have to teach yourself that in many cases, good enough is better than great. You're going to need to know how to stay under budget and on schedule.

You may also want to think ahead. Artificial intelligence is going to change the way professional service firms work within the next twenty years--don't get caught on the wrong side by hanging your hat on work that robots will be doing within twenty years. 

If social justice is very important to you, you may find yourself getting kicked in the teeth a lot as America meanders through the Age of Trump. It may not be too soon to start thinking of an indirect approach to getting what you want. (Did you see the segment in tonight's 60 Minutes on the Golden Triangle in Mississippi?;))

ETA: FWIW, I work in the planning department of a boutique  A/E consultancy. These days, we're finding that a lot of planning issues are actually policy issues because planning sensibilities are changing as developing and new technologies come more and more to the fore.

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17 hours ago, Sigaba said:

I recommend that you start looking at consultancies near the schools to the one's you're applying that do the kind of work that you see yourself doing so you can compete for internships during the summers.

Focus on developing your people skills--consulting is as much about interpersonal relationships as any thing. Develop skills that will allow you to communicate effectively to stakeholders who will range from disinterested to fingers in ears NIMBYism. If you're a perfectionist, you're going to have to teach yourself that in many cases, good enough is better than great. You're going to need to know how to stay under budget and on schedule.

You may also want to think ahead. Artificial intelligence is going to change the way professional service firms work within the next twenty years--don't get caught on the wrong side by hanging your hat on work that robots will be doing within twenty years. 

If social justice is very important to you, you may find yourself getting kicked in the teeth a lot as America meanders through the Age of Trump. It may not be too soon to start thinking of an indirect approach to getting what you want. (Did you see the segment in tonight's 60 Minutes on the Golden Triangle in Mississippi?;))

ETA: FWIW, I work in the planning department of a boutique  A/E consultancy. These days, we're finding that a lot of planning issues are actually policy issues because planning sensibilities are changing as developing and new technologies come more and more to the fore.

Awesome, seems like some very sound advice.  Anything in particular within the planning field that I should avoid with regard to AI? Haha.

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On 12/5/2016 at 5:50 PM, bummerman said:

  Anything in particular within the planning field that I should avoid with regard to AI? Haha.

Skill sets centering around the collection and analysis of data, and presenting findings are anticipated to be replaced by AI within twenty years. There will be fewer jobs for bean counters, number crunchers, researchers, cartographers, graphic production types, fieldworker types, and technical writers. There will be jobs for people who have an eye for nuance as they watch drones and software perform these tasks. (I am not bitter.)

Managing relationships with clients, stakeholders, and customers (internal/external) and other "soft skills" are anticipated to remain tasks performed by people. MOO, there will also be jobs for people who can think through the policy implications of emerging technologies. 

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On 11/14/2016 at 9:14 PM, bummerman said:

H guess I'm looking for suggestions for urban planning programs with more of a policy focus and less architecture/design.  Does this exist? What is the split like usually?  How practical are dual MPP/MURP degrees? Any other advice for someone having a last minute freak-out?  

I'm particularly interested in community and economic development/housing/density if that helps.

Hi bummerman. I have a background in transportation engineering/planning (I have 3+ years work experience in the area and a MSCE) but I am also very interested in public policy (especially transportation policy, which is tied pretty closely to land use). Hence, I've looked into a lot of programs that combine urban planning and public policy while looking to further my formal education. .

For urban planning I would recommend checking out the list Planetizen has every year. Planetizen is a great resource for planners and has everything from planning jobs to planning resources to recommendations for top planning schools. 

Planning programs generally fall into either a university's architecture school or a university's public policy school. Because of my interests I only looked at the latter. Here is my short list:

- University of Southern California 

- UCLA (Planetizen top 10 planning school)

- Rutgers (Planetizen top 10 planning school; NY area, has double degree in MPP/MCRP)

- NYU (NY area)

There are of course many other 

I'm not sold on the idea of doing a dual MPP/MURP because people with MURP degrees still often get jobs in policy. It may be a little more difficult to get a job in planning with an MPP but it's certainly not impossible. One of the best transportation planners at my old firm only had a degree in biology. However, the two areas are really complimentary and would tie in well together. 

I would also not worry about choosing a university because of where consultancies are located. Without much experience in the field you're not likely to know who the biggest players are and a lot of places have offices in several locations anyway. As long as you're near a city there will be plenty of good opportunities for good experience in planning. When I completed my MSCE I studied in PA but took an internship in San Francisco in transportation planning/engineering. The internship program there had people from planning schools in California (e.g. Berkeley), New York (E.g. NYU), Pennsylvania (e.g. Penn). So don't think geographic location will constrain you. 

I hope this has helped. 

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