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.