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masters planning programs

avisame

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I'm planning to apply to masters planning programs this fall, and would like to get opinions on top schools for a returning student (I graduated from undergrad 5 years ago) with no direct planning work experience interested in environmental planning/resource management (esp. water mgt). I'm in California now but would like to return back east (or, at least, more east; at least from Minnesota to Texas east). I'd like to go to a school with a strong reputation that will be respected nationally, since I'm not sure where in the county I'll end up. From the accredited list, I'm most impressed by UM-Ann Arbor & Cornell, but I'd like to get the views of those in the field before deciding where to apply. Any thoughts?
 

NHPlanner

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Schools with good rep's

I'm of course biased (since I'm an alum) but Ball State University has an excellent Urban Planning Program (http://www.bsu.edu/cap/planning/planning.html).

Other schools with good reputations: University of North Carolina @ Chapel Hill, Iowa State University, and you mentioned Michigan in Ann Arbor.

My advise is that regardless of the school you choose, make sure it is accredited by the PAB.

Good Luck.
 

maphead

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master planning programs

Though no real world ranking of schools may be readily available no applicant shold decide on a program without at least looking at the PAB and ACSP guides.
APA's (java heavy,slow) site offers some research starting points
http://www.planning.org/institutions/index.htm

A printed guide is published about every 3 years or so.

Look at what progress a school has accomplished in it's community.
Do they practice or just preach?

Look at publication by the faculty.
Are they available for office hours? Who is going to away on sabbatical for your time there - the person you wanted to study with? Remember it's your dime that they pocket every month. Grades or no - they work for you.

Look at obtaining and keeping RA or TA positions. It kinda sux to TA English101 when you need to have yr mind on concurrency planning goals in the 21st Century, etc.

What about out of dept offerings? Is there time in the curricula? Do they encourage cross pollenation or do the prefer that you do 'the program' and not get infected with ideas from the geologists, geographers, engineers, sociologists and others?


When selecting a school really consider your comfort in a place, your daily needs and then only some of what you see for a future. Programs are a boogar enough without going thru them in a place that for you is a cultural or outdoors or *fill in your need here* wasteland.

Last - if you possibly can: visit. Interrogate the bees outta the folks in the dept. If it's summer is it a ghost town? Makes it harder to finish fast if you can only attend in the fall and winter. Who runs th place? the Student?, the office staff? or the dean?
You are buying a culture, a motto and a piece of paper for the cube wall of your future.

Be aggressively pro self, brutally honest about YOU - only then put your money down.
 

Cardinal

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I'll offer a different perspective. Most planners (or the people doing the hiring) did not go to one of the 'best' planning schools. Many do not even have planning degrees, but degrees in geography, public administration or other similar fields. There is a lot of regionalism going on. The Chicago metro area is filled with grads of the Univ. of Illinois and Northern Ill. Univ. Minneapolis? - Univ. of Minnesota. People are familiar with the programs and know what students learn, and know the faculty members who are often references. Often the students worked internships in the area. They would also have more exposure to the particular statutes and environment of the state in whci they were educated. My point would be, if you know where you want to work, consider giving a little more weight to schools in the area.
 

Repo Man

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The University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee used to have a really good reputation, but I think that has faded a bit over the past few years. I have some major gripes about the program, but there are also some good things. My biggest gripe is that that they only spend 6 weeks on actual planning and zoning basics.

In my opinion, the school you attend has less to do with success in the Planning field than most people would think. I think you need to focus on getting a great internship that will give you a variety of experiences. Check with the schools you are interested in and ask them if they help students get internships. Also contact communities near the school and ask if they have internship opportunities. Inoticed that people in my graduating class that had internships were able to find jobs right after graduating.
 

gkmo62u

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Michael has it right, i think. The school really does not matter as long as its acredited. I mean sure, UNC may be more theoretical/policy oriented for instance, but just like undergrad its all about what you make of it.

The Internship is the key. When I am hiring I could care less about the school attended (lets face it Grad Planning Programs are historically not overwhelmingly difficult).

I want to see diverse internship/project experience, even generalist in nature.
 

Glomer

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my advice

my advice would be to look at the class list and description for each of the schools you are looking at. Many high and mighty schools just teach theory, theory, theory.......rather than hands on practical planning tools that are going to actually help you when you get a job.

Personally, I think grad school is a crock. I know you need the degree.......but 2 to 3 years of interning at different places and a few good books will teach you more than any snob nosed professor of planning theory.

I have two classes left of grad school before I can finally break away and get on with my life.
 

Glomer

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Sorry..........this was supposed to be a reply to the masters planning thread...........accidently started my own
 

NHPlanner

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Glomer's thread merged

This is where you wanted it, right Glomer?

:)
 

planasaurus

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I think that there are several types of planning schools.

A) the kind that jtfortim mentioned, that only spends 6 hours on planning and zoning basics, and mostly concentrates on public policy stuff. If you are undecided between getting a degree in public administration and urban plnning - this may be the school for you.

B) the design oriented school - lots of drafting, zoning, and planning classes, but not too many analysis classes - like stats, and policy analysis. This is sort of for landscape architacture folks.

C) the schools that do a good job of merging both of the above (not too many of these).

I think that the school that you go to should take into consideration the focus of the school. Since planning is so broad, there are many interpretations of what planners do (by professors who have never been planners).

All of that said, it probebly does not matter in the long run, as long as you get your degree and have a few good internships. As for Cornell and U of M - both have great reputations.

Good luck
 

Bullwinkle

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I agree with planasaurus' categorization of the different types of planning programs. I think the Ball State program mentioned by NHPlanner falls into the 'design oriented' category. Full disclosure: I am also an alum of the Ball State program. When I was there, I sought out classes in other departments (primarily economics and natural resources, but also poli sci) to try to 'round out' the degree with more policy/theory offerings. I would suggest that you look for a program that encourages - or at least allows - you to take courses outside the planning department.
 
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