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Thread: City planning masters from San Diego State University?

  1. #1

    City planning masters from San Diego State University?

    So, I've been researching urban planning programs in Australia as I'd like to end up being a planner in Melbourne but unfortunately the more I look into it, the more that I see the approximate $100,000 for 2 years of a degree overseas might not be feasible ($100,000 including flights, visa, housing, food, transport, overseas health cover, and lastly tuition.) I really love San Diego, and have started thinking that maybe getting my masters in the states and then moving to Australia afterward wouldn't be a bad idea. I realize that SDSU's master of city planning program isn't accredited, but I spoke to an SDSU city planning faculty member and he said that their program is one of the top ranked on the west coast, accreditation isn't an issue for a field like planning, and that students wouldn't have a problem getting a job overseas from their program. This is the only advice I've gotten on the issue of accredited vs. non-accredited...so my question is, what do you think about this issue with accreditation?
    Last edited by TheInternational; 18 Jan 2011 at 7:18 PM.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian
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    I work with several SDSU MCP grads and while they say enjoyed the program, they have been quick to point out two things they did not like about it. First, the program is very small and elective choices are minimal. Basically you either have to specialize in traditional land-use and growth management planning, or take some classes in the civil engineering department and specialize in transportation. I don't think they offer many internationally focused planning classes except for a course or two on cross border planning. The second is that due to being a smaller program and lacking accreditation, the program is fairly regional. If you want to live and work in San Diego or the surrounding area, attending SDSU will probably give you a leg up due to it's connections with local agencies like SANDAG and the City of SD. If you want to go outside of the San Diego region your opportunities may be more limited.

    Something else to note is that the MCP program is set up to cater to working professionals, so all of the classes are offered in the evening. I've heard from my coworkers that there really isn't a lot of interaction with other students outside of class nor an active planning student organization which organizes networking or speaker events. Not sure if this is important to you but it's worth knowing ahead of time.

    My two cents, if you are looking to work internationally, name recognition and school prestige can be fairly important, especially in consulting sector. The big name schools in CA with strong international focuses are Berkeley, UCLA and USC.
    Last edited by NickSticks; 19 Jan 2011 at 3:25 PM.

  3. #3
    Thank you, this information is extraordinarily helpful. I'm definitely not aiming at land-use planning and being as though I'm looking to work overseas, it doesn't sound like the best fit. Although evening classes would be helpful...Anyway, thank you!

  4. #4
    Cyburbian
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    What sort of planning work would you like do? If you are interested in international development and economic development and want to go to school in San Diego you may want to look into this program at UCSD: http://irps.ucsd.edu/programs/master...-affairs-mpia/

  5. #5
    I've narrowed down my interests to international development and urban design. The MPIA program looks very interesting, although I wish they had a regional specialization in Australia. I'm just trying to weigh my options I suppose, International Development is of course centered around third world nations which I am interested in but I don't know how that would help me land a job in Australia, and urban design doesn't seem like a specialization that's as highly sought after as say land use or transportation planning...I am definitely looking for a program in Southern California, but I'm not sure of my chances of getting into USC or UCLA. I have a 3.8 GPA, some internships under my belt, but haven't taken the GRE yet and am not so sure how well I'll do on that, I'm not a great test-taker when it comes to mathematics. I've also looked into CalPoly SLO, they seem to have a well rounded program but since Cal Poly doesn't have the name that USC or UCLA does I don't know if that would hinder me from getting a job overseas.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian
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    Cal Poly has a pretty good reputation when it comes to Design (Arch, LA, Planning) and Engineering. If you go there I don't think you'll run into much trouble trying to get a job in Aus, especially since there are a lot (or used to be a lot) of American ex-pats working as planners down there.

  7. #7
    I've also looked into CalPoly SLO, they seem to have a well rounded program but since Cal Poly doesn't have the name that USC or UCLA does I don't know if that would hinder me from getting a job overseas.
    Cal Poly SLO is a top-ten architecture school nationally. So while I don't know how much this would help you overseas, know that just because its smaller than USC and UCLA, and less well known, it is still quite well known as the best architecture school on the West Coast. The planning program is under the School of Arch. and Env. Design, so the CRP Department does derive some benefit by being tangentially connected to the architecture program.

    During my senior year, we had an exchange student from Switzerland who seemed to love it in SLO, and I really enjoyed working with him on a few projects. I know that they would really value your international perspective at SLO.

  8. #8
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    SDSU City Planning Student - Graduating Spring 2015

    I am responding to this topic because when I was thinking of applying to SDSU, I came across this thread. I wanted to update the information provided on this board, and verify whether the information provided here was accurate or not. Hopefully, it will help future applicants of the SDSU Master of City Planning program. First, I want to commend NickSticks for his information he provided regarding the class size, lack of student engagement, and specificity to the program to the San Diego region. He was totally spot on in his assessment that the program's strengths lie within the alumni's regional connections and placement of San Diego agencies.

    Most of the classes are after 4PM, which mean students can still work or intern during the day and attend classes at night. While this is a strength for working professionals, there is a general lack of cohesiveness within the student body. In general, no one seems to take ownership of student organizations and there is a lack of faculty involvement to promote these organizations. Though I estimate about a hundred to two hundred city planning students, there are only 5 faculty members for the entire program, and they are absent from campus on the days they are not teaching. Even though they all have official "office hours," it is my experience that they are available for students maybe a quarter of that allotted time. Sometimes they are working on their own research, using those hours to plan for class and can't meet with students, or don't show up at all to them. Professor also highly discourage students from working on a thesis project rather than taking comprehensive exams, citing a need for a thesis "only if you want to get a doctorate." The truth is, they just don't want to have to advise them during their research.

    The program is unaccredited, and while SDSU tries to downplay this fact, it is evident in the quality of the classes and the program administration. The lack of accreditation means students are not eligible for certain AICP scholarships, competitions, and scholastic awards while they are in the program. After graduation, it will require an additional year of experience (as compared with their counterparts from accredited programs) to sit for their license. The lack of oversight is apparent in a few of our classes, as professors completely ignore the syllabus or teach what they are interested in rather than what the course offers. In a couple of our classes, the professor just assigns chapters in the book to "student teachers" each week, who then teach the class, while the professor sits back and observes, adding commentary here and there. While this teaching skill may be appropriate for 20 minute special presentations here and there, it shouldn't be used for graduate-level classes for the whole syllabus over the entire semester. Another professor assigns readings or exercises out of the book for students to do during class time, while he checks his email or works on assignments for other classes.

    In hindsight, I wish I looked elsewhere, maybe to USC, UC Irvine, or CalPoly. For me, I wanted to stay in the SDSU region and couldn't afford a $20,000/year program. Knowing what I do now, I probably would have continued working to afford a different program or taken one online.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian
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    There are six PAB-accredited public school planning programs in California -

    Cal Poly Pomona
    Cal Poly San Luis Obispo
    San Jose State University
    UC Berkeley
    UC Irvine
    UC Los Angeles

    There is one accredited private school planning program -

    University of Southern California

    Their degrees are widely recognized state-wide by employers.

    The SDSU planning degree. although not accredited, is actually respected by some public sector employers in San Diego and (especially) Imperial counties, especially in the sub-field of environmental planning for some reason, which is odd because there are very few environmental courses offered there.. I guess they're offered through other departments. Beyond those two counties, in my experience, it can be less well respected.. or completely unknown. So.. if you want to have confidence in the flexibility and portability of your degree, you might want to take some time to check out the other California programs.

    With respect, I've found the teaching quality at all three San Diego universities that offer planning-related classes to be mixed, with a heavy emphasis on rote learning.. which is not suitable for our field. The same people tend to teach those classes at all three schools so the same issue applies whichever of the three institutions you actually take those classes at.
    Last edited by Cismontane; 04 Dec 2014 at 4:32 PM.

  10. #10
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    Hi SDSU_Student. Thanks for the great analysis of the MCP program. This is my first post to the site and I am a complete greenhorn when it comes to urban planning. After years and years of playing Sim City designing perfect urban and suburban ciites, doodling street plans on paper, Google map 'vacations' and reading lots of blogs and articles on the subject, I'm convinced that this is what I'd like to do for the rest of my life. Just thinking about it is like having a cup of coffee in that it's energizing and exciting. That being said, I am a language/history/IT type of guy with not much experience in math and statistics - do you think this will be an issue?

    I have an undergrad from a large urban school in PA. My major was not challenging and somewhat of a disappointment so I understand what it's like to sit in a lecture with professors whose minds are absent and focused solely on trudging through the PowerPoint. It seems that this is the case at SDSU? Were there any positives at all? Would you really not recommend the program? I would like to stay in San Diego and not incur a large amount of debt. I'm relatively resourceful in making the best out of okay situations so I would try to make the best out of the school. I'm hesitant to go into a lot of debt for a private school. I have a good job at an IT firm in Sorrento Valley that I'd like to keep so the night classes sound appealing.

    Anyway, if you are still in the area and are interested in meeting, I would be happy to buy you lunch so I can pick your brain a bit. Thanks!

  11. #11
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    Response to SDSU Analysis

    Moltke,

    You really don't need a math or science background for the program, with the exception of one class, and that's for two basic statistics classes required for people usually in psychology, criminal justice, public administration, and city planning. The professors in these two classes (Rea & Parker) are fantastic and you don't have to be a math whiz to do well in that class. They break it down very easily - they literally wrote the book for that class and can teach. We have students in my classes of all backgrounds - geography, geology, public administration, architecture, environmental engineering, sociology, and so on. I think you could definitely continue to work while you take classes at night - most of my classmates work full time or part time jobs. The only issue may come when you have to get an internship as part of graduation requirements.

    I would not go so far to say there are no positives in the program, but I really felt like my professors were just not all that interested in being in the classroom. They seem more focused on their individual research projects, and just getting another cohort through the program. It's especially obvious in a couple of classes where the professors maybe teach 3 weeks out of the semester, and have the "student teachers" do the rest, as I noted in my previous entry. Another issue that has especially come up in the last few years is the fact that the "seminar" classes often have more than 25 or 30 students in them - WAY too many for a seminar. On the syllabus, and especially on SDSU's website, they tout small class sizes with lively discusses that upper level seminar classes offer. However, each semester, I have inevitably been enrolled in a 30+ person "seminar" where the professor is frustrated they cannot conduct the class as they want, but do not do anything about it (restrict it from first years, restrict it from undergrads, limit the number allowed to enroll, etc.).

    Since my last post, I have spoken with a few of first year students who share a similar philosophy as I do, and heard of someone who left the program after one semester for this reason. I know I'm not alone in my thoughts about the program's weaknesses. Again, feel free to write and I'd be happy to respond to you. To be completely honest, I think my response was really candid and I'd rather remain anonymous, at least until I graduate for fear or repercussions from my post. Feel free to direct any questions to me on here and I'd be happy to post my responses to them.

  12. #12
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    SDSU_Student

    I just moved to San Diego because my boyfriend is going to UCSD pharmacy school so I would like to get my masters city planning degree from the area instead of going to Cal Poly, etc. My main concern is that it will be difficult to get jobs once I move away from San Diego. To you happen to know if people have trouble getting jobs outside of Southern California? Obviously I plan on holding internships/jobs in planning during and after the degree for a few years in SD, so do you think having a masters from SDSU along with multiple years of experience in planning would be sufficient to get jobs elsewhere? Or do you think other areas wont recognize the program? I guess my thoughts are as long as I have professional experience along with the degree it would be ok. Do you know otherwise?

    Thanks for the help!

  13. #13
    SDSU isn't necessarily a powerhouse in regards to the top planning programs. But, with experience and a degree-I'm sure you'll find work and get to where you need/want to be. It's all about selling yourself and networking. Ensure that you get involved with the APA and attend a lot of events and collect a lot of business cards, I'm sure with these types of habits, the name of the school won't really matter. On the other hand, it also depends where you want to work. For example, LA is full of SC and UCLA grads, you'd have to compete with them (not saying it's impossible) but much of the LA market has alumni from those networks.

  14. #14
    Cyburbian dvdneal's avatar
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    You should have no problems. Planning tends to be more experience driven than college driven. If you get your internships and some experience in California you should be able to work pretty much anywhere. I think it's harder to go from outside California to in. The extra regulations like CEQA tend to do that.
    I don't pretend to understand Brannigan's Law. I merely enforce it.

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