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Thread: The worst planning program in US/Canada?

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    Cyburbian The Terminator's avatar
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    The worst planning program in US/Canada?

    Lets have a little fun here!

    I want to see people's thoughts on what is the WORST Planning program in North America! It could be Graduate, Undergraduate or Certificate.

    Ill put a name in the hat: the undergraduate Specialization in Urban Planning at Concordia University in Montreal. Not accredited with any professional body (CIP, PAB or OUQ), this programs emphasis is on post-colonial studies and Marxist Geography. The intro studio is called a "representation methods" class and you spend allot of time doing artistic architectural renderings as if you were an M.Arch student and Internship opportunities for students in this program are so limited they recently made an internship no longer mandatory. How do I know all this and why am I qualified to judge? This is the program I graduated from!! On the flip-side I am a pretty Left wing guy who had always planned on doing a MUP so it wasn't too bad of an experience for me. Many of my less radical friends, however, came out of it pretty disillusioned.

    What are your thoughts on the worst Planning program? Dont be afraid to come out swinging

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    Cyburbian dvdneal's avatar
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    I can't say my undergrad at Arizona State was one of the best programs. At the time the master's was the same thing with just a little more work. I know they've changed things around, but my program felt like no one really cared since it wasn't architecture and none of the professors seemed to have much real world experience. Mine was very design based and focused on new urbanist crap for every solution with no practical view on how to implement your new found market square design or whatever brilliant theory you just came up with. At the same time I got my master's in public admin and that program kicked ass. One of the best in the nation. For those looking to pick a college, make sure GIS is part of your course work so you learn a little bit on how to use the program. Seems a few programs like my old one and apparently Oklahoma are missing that (I recently talked to some OU students).
    I don't pretend to understand Brannigan's Law. I merely enforce it.

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    I also did my undergrad in urban planning at Arizona State. There tends to be too much theory and not a lot of practice. At the time, in the mid-2000's, they had several courses that would essentially teach/profess the same information. If you wanted something more, say, in GIS or other areas, you'd have to seek that outside of the program. When I was going through the program, perhaps the best courses experience-wise were the studio courses in which they'd get a developer or a municipality involved in a project for the semester. For at least the last five years, however, they've done away with that and have absorbed the program into the Liberal Arts college. The program originally started out with the School of Design and no matter what was always seen as the degree for failed architecture and design students.

    I'm not sure about the program now other than it seems to have more emphasis on geography and GIS, and heavy emphasis on sustainable development. I do know they have done away with studio courses and some of the better professors have been relegated to teaching those theory courses rather than any hands on ones. If you're going there to focus on GIS with urban planning on the side, then maybe that would be a better approach, but I don't expect they've improved since I left for urban planning as a degree. As dvdneal mentioned, the graduate program was basically the same as the undergrad, at least back in the mid-2000's. I'd be in a class with graduate students for, say, zoning, and all they'd have to do is write a couple extra paragraphs or something to that affect. They could have been in that same exact course the prior year as undergrads. I can't emphasize enough that a majority of this is based on my experiences from the mid to late 2000s.

    For making students aware of job and internship opportunities they have significantly improved in that area.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian Masswich's avatar
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    Most any program can be good if you approach it correctly. The worst program is the one you don't take seriously while you are there, no matter how good its reputation is.

  5. #5
    Cyburbia Administrator Dan's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by The Terminator View post
    Not accredited with any professional body (CIP, PAB or OUQ), this programs emphasis is on post-colonial studies and Marxist Geography. The intro studio is called a "representation methods" class and you spend allot of time doing artistic architectural renderings as if you were an M.Arch student and Internship opportunities for students in this program are so limited they recently made an internship no longer mandatory. How do I know all this and why am I qualified to judge? This is the program I graduated from!!
    Hoo boy. Is this a recent thing connected to the rise in identity politics and the like?

    I'd say there are programs that are good and bad fits for one's interest, and the kind of work they want to do. For example, Cleveland State has a highly acclaimed planning program, with very well-respected faculty. However, their curriculum more closely resemble an urban studies program. If you're interested in nuts-and-bolts current or comprehensive planning, urban design, and the like, it doesn't seem like a good fit. If your interests lie with community or economic development, or housing, it's the place for you.

    I got my MUP at Buffalo, when the program had a much different focus - economic development. Maybe not the best fit fo my interests at the time, but it was in my hometown, and the program's focus gave me a new perspective about the relationship between land use and market forces. It's something that brings your pie-in-the-sky ideals down a lot closer to earth.

    A lot of guides focus on the "best" program. However, planning is a broad, multidisciplinary field. A program can't be the "best" at everything. Nothing seems to delve into what might be the best fit for one's interests. If you're a policy wonk, go to Cleveland State. A number-crunching, tech-embracing geek? Georgia Tech. Navel-gazing theory? Pick an Ivy. And so on ...
    Growth for growth's sake is the ideology of the cancer cell. -- Edward Abbey

  6. #6
    Cyburbian dvdneal's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Dibone View post
    I also did my undergrad in urban planning at Arizona State. There tends to be too much theory and not a lot of practice. At the time, in the mid-2000's, they had several courses that would essentially teach/profess the same information. If you wanted something more, say, in GIS or other areas, you'd have to seek that outside of the program. When I was going through the program, perhaps the best courses experience-wise were the studio courses in which they'd get a developer or a municipality involved in a project for the semester. For at least the last five years, however, they've done away with that and have absorbed the program into the Liberal Arts college. The program originally started out with the School of Design and no matter what was always seen as the degree for failed architecture and design students.

    I'm not sure about the program now other than it seems to have more emphasis on geography and GIS, and heavy emphasis on sustainable development. I do know they have done away with studio courses and some of the better professors have been relegated to teaching those theory courses rather than any hands on ones. If you're going there to focus on GIS with urban planning on the side, then maybe that would be a better approach, but I don't expect they've improved since I left for urban planning as a degree. As dvdneal mentioned, the graduate program was basically the same as the undergrad, at least back in the mid-2000's. I'd be in a class with graduate students for, say, zoning, and all they'd have to do is write a couple extra paragraphs or something to that affect. They could have been in that same exact course the prior year as undergrads. I can't emphasize enough that a majority of this is based on my experiences from the mid to late 2000s.

    For making students aware of job and internship opportunities they have significantly improved in that area.
    Sounds like we may have been there at the same time. I was an '06 grad for what it's worth.
    I don't pretend to understand Brannigan's Law. I merely enforce it.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian The Terminator's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Dan View post
    Hoo boy. Is this a recent thing connected to the rise in identity politics and the like?
    Yep. Identity politics, radical Queer-oriented and ultra politically correct organizing for "safe spaces" where closed minded White students can be safe from ideas they don't agree with. Most of the Social Justice Warriors on my former campus are White and come from upper middle class backgrounds and very hardly give the time of day, or seek to involve in their organizing, the many many students of color who make up a significant population at Concordia.

    Concordia has been a politically active university on the Left since its founding in 1974. Our students are notoriously rowdy (check out this documentary about it: https://www.nfb.ca/film/discordia). All of the professors except for one (Pierre Gauthier, our architecture guy) come from some type of radical left or environmentalist academic background. In 2012, the only land use planner on staff left to take a position in China and they replaced him with....you guessed.... a Leftist geographer with NO practical background. The Planning Law course that is supposed to be about Quebec's planning and development charter is taught by a Feminist-Communist who makes it about critical race theory instead. I actually took that course at one of the French universities to avoid that specific terrible prof.

    There have been calls from the students to bring on more relevant planning faculty as adjuncts (I have a friend who is a land use planner and economic developer, who is constantly turned down for courses) but the part-time faculty union has such a stranglehold over hiring that terrible terrible adjuncts with "seniority" get priority over candidates with relevant field experience.

    I went there because I wanted to live a radical bohemian lifestyle in Montreal. I was a wide eyed young Anarchist when I entered the program, it caused me undue stress that made go into therapy, and I left it a pragmatic social democrat. Once I realized that Land Use Planning was a career I wanted to pursue, I was brought much more down to earth.

    Concordia is great for Urban Studies and theory, and I have to say it was a good springboard into Grad School. I had some professors who I loved who I owe allot to (Norma Rantisi, the Economic Development specialist is incredible) but it should not call itself Planning because the majority of students will come out filled with knowledge on post-colonialism and radical left geography and thinking that is what Planning is. Im not trying to knock that type of theory and I will defend its value, but in a Planning program, it has to be mixed with real practical Planning practice so you can understand how to apply these theories in a real world setting. Concordia does not provide that real world setting. That's why I vote for it as the worst Planning program in North America.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian Plus
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    For me the best program was

    in-state tuition
    accredited
    they accepted me
    they helped placing me in an internship/parttime job

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    Cyburbian The Terminator's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by JNA View post
    For me the best program was

    in-state tuition
    accredited
    they accepted me
    they helped placing me in an internship/parttime job
    Thats pretty much why Im going to Hunter!

  10. #10
    Cyburbian
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    I'd say the worst program is any Ivy League program. Why? Because I went that route and took out $90,000 in student loans, and almost nine years after graduating, I've only reduced my debt load to $80,000. (Granted $10,000 of the current debt is a car loan, but I would've been able to save up and pay cash for the car if I wasn't paying off the student loans!)

    Actually I had an amazing, irreplaceable educational experience at my planning program and I'd wholeheartedly recommend it to any student looking for a firm grounding in planning practice, theory and history, IF and only if they receive a very generous financial aid package and/or have a rock solid plan for paying off the debt within 3 years upon graduation (and stick to it!). In general, however, I would strongly caution anyone against taking out more than $40,000 of debt for a planning degree.

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    Quote Originally posted by bentobox34 View post
    I'd say the worst program is any Ivy League program. Why? Because I went that route and took out $90,000 in student loans, and almost nine years after graduating, I've only reduced my debt load to $80,000. (Granted $10,000 of the current debt is a car loan, but I would've been able to save up and pay cash for the car if I wasn't paying off the student loans!)

    Actually I had an amazing, irreplaceable educational experience at my planning program and I'd wholeheartedly recommend it to any student looking for a firm grounding in planning practice, theory and history, IF and only if they receive a very generous financial aid package and/or have a rock solid plan for paying off the debt within 3 years upon graduation (and stick to it!). In general, however, I would strongly caution anyone against taking out more than $40,000 of debt for a planning degree.
    PROOF of our broken record advise, since 2010 http://www.cyburbia.org/forums/showt...t=Don%27t+debt
    Don't go into debt over a name.

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    Cyburbian The Terminator's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by JNA View post
    PROOF of our broken record advise, since 2010 http://www.cyburbia.org/forums/showt...t=Don%27t+debt
    A semester into a very well respected program at one of the best public schools (IMO) in New York City and I cant agree enough.

    Debt is not worth it over a name.

    I compare notes with a local friend who is in Planning at Columbia and in most aspects our experiences are on par.

    Im loving the in-state tuition I can actually pay for myself!

  13. #13
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by The Terminator View post
    The worst planning program in US/Canada?
    Trump University

  14. #14
    Quote Originally posted by dvdneal View post
    Sounds like we may have been there at the same time. I was an '06 grad for what it's worth.
    Quote Originally posted by Dibone View post
    I also did my undergrad in urban planning at Arizona State. There tends to be too much theory and not a lot of practice. At the time, in the mid-2000's, they had several courses that would essentially teach/profess the same information. If you wanted something more, say, in GIS or other areas, you'd have to seek that outside of the program. When I was going through the program, perhaps the best courses experience-wise were the studio courses in which they'd get a developer or a municipality involved in a project for the semester. For at least the last five years, however, they've done away with that and have absorbed the program into the Liberal Arts college. The program originally started out with the School of Design and no matter what was always seen as the degree for failed architecture and design students.

    I'm not sure about the program now other than it seems to have more emphasis on geography and GIS, and heavy emphasis on sustainable development. I do know they have done away with studio courses and some of the better professors have been relegated to teaching those theory courses rather than any hands on ones. If you're going there to focus on GIS with urban planning on the side, then maybe that would be a better approach, but I don't expect they've improved since I left for urban planning as a degree. As dvdneal mentioned, the graduate program was basically the same as the undergrad, at least back in the mid-2000's. I'd be in a class with graduate students for, say, zoning, and all they'd have to do is write a couple extra paragraphs or something to that affect. They could have been in that same exact course the prior year as undergrads. I can't emphasize enough that a majority of this is based on my experiences from the mid to late 2000s.

    For making students aware of job and internship opportunities they have significantly improved in that area.
    Quote Originally posted by dvdneal View post
    I can't say my undergrad at Arizona State was one of the best programs. At the time the master's was the same thing with just a little more work. I know they've changed things around, but my program felt like no one really cared since it wasn't architecture and none of the professors seemed to have much real world experience. Mine was very design based and focused on new urbanist crap for every solution with no practical view on how to implement your new found market square design or whatever brilliant theory you just came up with. At the same time I got my master's in public admin and that program kicked ass. One of the best in the nation. For those looking to pick a college, make sure GIS is part of your course work so you learn a little bit on how to use the program. Seems a few programs like my old one and apparently Oklahoma are missing that (I recently talked to some OU students).
    As a student in the Master's program at ASU right now, I can happily say things have changed - and for the better. I've spoken with several professors about how the program has changed over the past 10 years, and they mention leaving the Design school as being probably the best thing that has even happened to them. The program has brought in several new professors in the past 2-3 years with practical experience as well as diverse interests. From my perspective this seems like a great place to do a Master's degree, especially given the wide availability of TA and RA positions to help offset some of the cost. The department is in the same school as geography, so a lot of the focus is on environmental issues as well as spatial issues, including GIS. The urban planning department itself, however, definitely has a strong transportation bias (which benefits me, but I can't speak for others).

  15. #15
    Cyburbian The Terminator's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by SpartanPlanner View post
    As a student in the Master's program at ASU right now, I can happily say things have changed - and for the better. I've spoken with several professors about how the program has changed over the past 10 years, and they mention leaving the Design school as being probably the best thing that has even happened to them. The program has brought in several new professors in the past 2-3 years with practical experience as well as diverse interests. From my perspective this seems like a great place to do a Master's degree, especially given the wide availability of TA and RA positions to help offset some of the cost. The department is in the same school as geography, so a lot of the focus is on environmental issues as well as spatial issues, including GIS. The urban planning department itself, however, definitely has a strong transportation bias (which benefits me, but I can't speak for others).
    Kudos to ASU for disaffiliating with the design school. Ive always thought being part of a design faculty hurts a Planning progams overall well-roundedness in skewing it towards the design/artistic side too much.

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