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Thread: Rate my statement of purpose

  1. #1
    Cyburbian
    Registered
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    Rate my statement of purpose

    Here is a rough draft of my first attempt at writing a statement of purpose. Its specialized for the University at Buffalo, and supposed to be 500 words. Please give any criticism, suggestions, advice, etc. Thanks everyone!

    Once recognized as a cultural melting pot blended with many ethnic identities and musical influences, New Orleans rests in the eyes of many as wounded city with a ruptured infrastructure. In 2006, I traveled to the gulf coast on a hurricane relief mission along with ninety-nine other students from the University of Toledo who were filled with ambition and ready to make a difference, just as I was. Within a week, we had revitalized a house in the heart of the Lower Ninth Ward, a neighborhood initially scheduled for demolition.

    During my stay in New Orleans, I was not measuring up the amount of destruction but instead imagining how the city could be rebuilt. From my perspective, the disaster has created an opportunity to transform the paralyzed city into a flourishing downtown with integrated, mixed use neighborhoods. My restored vision of New Orleans, comprised of a mended urban fabric, prospering economy, and an improved quality of life, has sparked my interest in the field of urban planning.

    While New Orleans is plagued with bleak districts and crumbling infrastructure, many cities in the United States share a similar fate. My goal is to revitalize decaying, urban cores and fragmented neighborhoods by improving the built environment, utilizing lost space with mixed use and green areas, and implementing public transportation modes such as light rail and street cars. Because of suburbanization and its negative effects on the central city and surrounding environment, I have become interested in sustainability, the development of unexploited infill sites, and the use of urban design to create pedestrian friendly walkways, waterfronts, and urban plazas intended to concentrate activity within downtowns.


    My academic and professional experiences have given me a solid start in urban planning and design. Coming from a geography department, I adapted to not only critical thinking but spatial thinking as well. Courses in transportation, land development, human geography, urban design, and GIS have provided me with a basis for understanding planning concepts and issues. In addition, a course in applied GIS has allowed me to interact with a real client on a project aimed at improving unsafe intersections near elementary schools. An internship in transportation planning with the Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Governments has strengthened my analytical skills, professional etiquette, and has given me planning knowledge and experience within a professional environment. Moreover, the internship has amplified my interest in transportation planning concerns.

    The Masters of Urban Planning degree meshes well with my career goals, academic interests, and past experience. The hands-on, studio experience provides skills for simulating cities and creating plans as a team which is valuable for downtown revitalization. The specialization in urban design focuses on sustainability and landscape design which fulfils my interests in reducing urban sprawl and replacing lost space with public green areas. With that, Dr. Daniel Hess’s research on how the built environment influences travel behavior and his desire to add a light-rail system in Buffalo corresponds with my goal to create transit-oriented urban environments. Dr. Li Yin’s instruction on 3-D modeling and technology applications aimed at improving inner cities would build upon my GIS background. Earning a masters degree within an urban environment such as Buffalo reinforces my understanding of how cities work and how the community relates to the built environment.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian
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    I think you have done a fine job You also mentioned several faculty and their research interests, which is good. Personally, I think the New Orleans example shouldn't be used as your opening sentence (are you applying to Buffalo or New Orleans?). Your sentences flow naturally, although I did notice a few run-on sentences and prepositional phrases. Finally, I think your very last sentence needs to wrap up your letter and how you are the right student for their program.

    Keep up the good work.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian
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    thanks nrschmid...I didn't even think about how the New Orleans opening line doesn't match to Buffalo. I was trying to give a decent background on my initial interest in planning, but I may have exploited New Olreans a bit much. I know these statements of purpose are supposed to be about me, but I find it much easier to write about anyone or anything but myself.

  4. #4
    Member
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    I echo those sentiments, great job! It's a difficult call about New Orleans. I agree that it can sound a bit disjointed from Buffalo, but at the same time, it's hard to ignore such a personal experience so relevant to planning--especially if it's what helped convince you to get into planning. And if you are concerned with historic preservation, etc... it's one of the best examples you could have been involved in. In 500 words, it's tough to write a perfect statement in every way.

    Perhaps write up a separate intro using another example, and then take a step back and see which one feels better. Good luck!

  5. #5
    Cyburbian
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    Rate my personal statement?

    Sorry to hijack this thread rsmith 23. I hope it's ok to post my statement of intent for people to judge. Maybe this could be a continous thread for people applying for 2008-2009 who want to get their statements critiqued?

    Anyway, a bit of a background: I'm graduating next spring from UofT with a civil engineering degree with a transportation focus. Always had a huge interest in urban form and physical planning, so I'm looking at a number of programs with a design slant (McGill, UMichigan, Harvard etc.)

    So here it goes...hoping to hear your feedback, the more specific the better
    --------------------
    For three months after arriving in Canada in early 2001, my family and I lived in Toronto’s suburban Jane and Finch neighbourhood, a monument to mid-century “city-in-the-park” utopia and its colossal failure. What immediately struck me most as a young adolescent, however, was how vast and empty the place was. To someone who grew up on the comfortably crowded streets of Shanghai and Tokyo, such emptiness evoked, instead of freedom, desolation, loneliness, loathing; it also drew my attention for the first time to how differently places could be put together—streets, sidewalks, buildings, and the space in between.

    This nascent curiosity about the built environment and urban form became a much deeper and sustained interest over the years thanks to extensive traveling, and reading such planning canons as Jane Jacobs’s works and William H. Whyte’s City: Rediscovering the Centre. Whyte’s observation of how little elements—building facades, planters, even the steps in front of a city museum—change the way people act and feel about a place fascinated me, and led directly to my becoming an urban photographer. This evolving passion also led me to seriously contemplate a career in designing the built environment and helping to create high-density “urban” places of human-scaled buildings and vibrant public spaces. So while my undergraduate B.A.Sc program in infrastructure/civil engineering emphasized quantitative analysis and policy, I attended drawing studios to hone my visual communication and spatial thinking skills.

    Concurrently, I realized that physically improving the built environment could not divorce itself from the place’s history, its politics, laws, and regulations, the issue of equity, and the economics of city building; for me, “design” finally met “planning” and its workaday reality of statutory controls, public participation, and city hall meetings. A few of my undergraduate courses in transportation planning gave me the foundations in this respect, and the rest I made up as a writer for an New Urbanist issues blog and a member of Toronto Public Space Committee, whose citizen campaign against the Monster Trash Bin and poster bylaws I took part in. I also wrote an undergraduate thesis analyzing the impact of national policies, local regulations, and economics on the formation of Toronto’s own eco-industrial park.

    So although my professional experience may be limited, I have much personal and academic experience in urban planning and design as an itinerant observer, a student, and an active participant in its civic process. To further my interest in shaping mixed-use, high density, intensely-used built environments and remediating decaying fringe urban spaces such as Jane and Finch, a Master’s program in urban planning is the logical next step.

    The Program in Planning at the University of Toronto comes to mind, not only because its urban design option allows in-depth study of the theory and methods of influencing the urban form, but also because it affords the opportunity to branch out into development, social and economic policy, and other research (the Munk Centre for example) in the greater university community—essential in the planner’s toolkit.

    While in the long term my career plan includes further post-professional studies in urban design and working in private practice, in the short term I greatly look forward to studying under professors such as Professor Paul Hess, whose research on retrofitting Toronto’s suburban apartment ghettos such as Jane and Finch is near and dear to my heart; it will also be a fitting start for this nascent urban planner who, through my travels around the world, always kept my eyes open for global solutions but believed in starting out locally

  6. #6
    Cyburbian Emeritus Chet's avatar
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    If your first name is Richard I'm not touching this with a 21.5 foot pole.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian
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    Oct 2007
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    Cambridge, MA
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    Umm, no, not Richard. Is there a joke I'm not getting here?

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