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Thread: Advice of graduate school urban planning goal statement

  1. #1
    Nov 2012

    Advice of graduate school urban planning goal statement

    I know there maybe a few grammatical errors, but I am just trying to get feedback on the context of my goal statement for graduate school. I am applying for graduate school at the University of Illinois next year.

    Memorable is an understatement to describe my stay in Detroit, Michigan. The real-life experience of walking through the rubble and the debris of abandoned factories and homes was like nothing I have ever experienced. I traveled to Detroit to get a first-hand understanding of what a post-capitalist city really is like. When I arrived to Detroit for the first time of my life, I was astounded as to how a major American city, home of an industry that once defined the American dream – can be so dilapidated. I also wondered how Detroit, at one point less than a century ago, could be the fastest growing city in America, now the fastest shrinking city? My two-day voyage through Detroit led me to businesses owned and operated by locals who have a much better comprehension to what happened, and the future of the Motor City, by experiencing it first-hand. While talking, I learned the issues of Detroit are much more complex. [The locals] concluded that with very limited resources, they can only do so much to improve or re-develop the city/ neighborhood(s). That led to a vision that I figured was obvious; it wasn’t.

    Reading Jane Jacobs’ ‘Death and Life of Great American Cities’ challenged my ability to know the science of how the city works; rather than just what ought to be there. Although, on a large scale, there are obvious signs of decay and neglect in Detroit; I tried to imagine a city that can rebound. Not only did I begin to have a vision for the future of Detroit, but also a vision for a sustainable Detroit. This vision of mine faces palpable challenges such as social, economic and environmental impacts. Detroit has long been a poster boy for segregation, and known for being considered one of the most segregated cities in the United States. Here, Detroit has an opportunity to again thrive as a city – by doing that, I envisioned a Detroit that would have mixed-income housing and mixed-use zoning, alternative and cleaner modes of transportation, stable economic development and an overall improved quality of life.
    Though Detroit’s decay is more evident, other cities across the United States are facing a similar fate. The trend of decay is and will continue to spread to other cities and communities if appropriate, long-tern planning policies aren’t implemented. As an undergraduate student in Geography and Geographic Information Systems, as well as experience with my involvement in community, environmental and wellness groups has given me the chance to take the ideas I have learned, and apply them toward making Detroit and other cities, sustainable and thriving once again. Most all cities, including Detroit have become victim to sprawling suburbs. Detroit, in particular, has become victim to the industry that once allowed it to thrive – the auto industry. This eye opening experience of what state Detroit is in accelerated my interest in Urban Planning, particularly in design and redevelopment, as well as sustainability.

    Given my academic and personal experiences, I have been able to get a jump start toward a degree in urban planning. My time as Geography major/ an undergrad student, I have adopted the ability to critically think and become spatially connected with my surrounding environment. Courses in land-use planning, urban geography, and transportation geography, the urban community and GIS have given me a greater knowledge of the concepts and issues in planning and the urban community. Additionally, I joined a subcommittee that is part of an environmental committee for the city of DeKalb, IL. The members and I are in the process of writing a master plan for a sustainable DeKalb – which contains an exchange and implementation of ideas, interaction with the city council and other groups to make DeKalb a self-sustaining, healthier city. Ideas include: increasing walk ability and biking, higher density development, economic development and the reuse of vacant property with community gardens. Likewise, my time working with the subcommittee has built up my interest in long-term, sustainable planning for existing communities.

    The University of Illinois at Chicago’s Masters’ program of Urban Planning and Policy interconnects well with my academic and career interests and goals, as well as my academic and hands-on experience. The urban design specialization emphasizes on helping economic development in communities and neighborhoods, also adapting to modern energy and sustainability -- draw parallels with my interests in urban and neighborhood revitalization, reducing suburban sprawl and improving social equality. Associate Professor ___________’s work in green way development and river restoration projects in Miami Beach and in California parallels with my goals and interests to revitalize existing development and replacing lost space/ brown fields with green infrastructure and green building. Dr. __________'s work and research in green way projects also gives me an opportunity to build off my vision of Detroit, as well as my experience working with the city of DeKalb to write a master plan for sustainability. I find it very fitting for me to be able to live and earn my Masters’ Degree in Urban Planning and Policy, surrounded in an urban environment in a city that is a cultural melting pot and has a rich history in planning innovations.

  2. #2
    May 2012
    I think the content of your personal statement is good. Ditto the general flow. My only concern is that Detroit is almost a cliche in the urban planning world now; on the other hand, since you have first hand experience visiting there, that might not be helped.

    I would now work on refining the style of writing - avoiding overly colloquial language, fixing any typos, etc. Since you have a good base essay you can spend a lot of time refining, and refining some more. For example, your first sentence isn't very strong to me.

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