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What school? Narrowing list for schools to apply

ARG

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I'm applying this fall for a master's in urban planning but I'm a bit all over the place in selecting which schools I want to apply to. I've known I wanted to work within an international context but I'm realizing that I'm not really sure what I want to work on after grad school. I just know I'm interested in building cities for women, sustainable cities, mixed used neighborhoods, public transit, mapping and art as part of the city. So I guess I can also work more locally but I've always being drawn to work abroad. I've spent 3 years after college living in Latin America so I've come across things like water/electricity shortage, informality, public health concerns, etc. So I'm not sure anymore if I should only look out for programs with an international planning concentration or also include programs that focus on transportation, housing, or community development (not sure which concentrations meet my interests). I've mentioned to some people that I want to study international development/planning and they freak out a bit since they assume I'm talking about the white savior complex so I'm concerned that maybe I'm not understanding if I can actually do international work without participating in this (i.e. couldn't work for USAID since rn it's only concerned in fulfilling the special interest of the US)

I guess these are my questions:
1) what kind of jobs does someone that studies international planning get after grad school and that don't partake in the white savior syndrome?
2) what concentration(s) fit my interests the best? How feasible is to have more than 1 concentration?
3) what are the benefits of going to a design-oriented school vs. one focused on policy
4) these is my list for now in no particular order: Harvard, Columbia, Cornell, MIT, Berkeley, UCLA, NYU, UMichigan, USC and Rutgers. Anything else I should consider? Should I eliminate something from my list? My goal is to apply to only to 4-6 schools that I really really like
 

luckless pedestrian

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As a late #okboomer #getoffmylawn type of gal, I would say if I knew someone getting into planning right now, I would tell them to focus on disaster/emergency planning along with climate change - I think you can factor in international studies and community development into that academic work but I think those skills will be useful and resume worthy to find work once you graduate

I don't know who has the best program for that right now but the list you have is very good in general - I think design plus policy is important but there's only so many credit hours in a day so take a little of both

I am a SUNY-ESF/SU grad myself - their Landscape Architecture/Planning program does have an off-campus element to it so that would support a semester in another country
 

JNA

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As a late #okboomer #getoffmylawn type of gal, I would say if I knew someone getting into planning right now, I would tell them to focus on disaster/emergency planning along with climate change - I think you can factor in international studies and community development into that academic work but I think those skills will be useful and resume worthy to find work once you graduate

I don't know who has the best program for that right now but the list you have is very good in general - I think design plus policy is important but there's only so many credit hours in a day so take a little of both
I am a mid #okboomer #getoffmylawn type, and I agree with lp's suggestions. I would add if I knew back when given our current circumstance, I would suggest some public health.

I did not graduate from any of the schools you listed & that was nearly 30 yrs ago - so of course I don't know who is best.
 

glutton

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@ARG: As a more recent grad, I will say that getting a job in international planning overall is difficult (see the Reddit urban planning (r/urbanplanning) education thread for more of this), let alone finding non-White-savior type of agencies in a recession. I was in a program that was decently well known for its international planning concentration and hardly anyone from my class or the classes immediately above or below me who originally wanted to do international work really ended up doing it, unless they were international students to begin with who went back to their home countries or to other countries to get PhDs. I'll try to tackle some of your questions one by one:
  1. 1. Other than agencies like USAID, World Bank, other development banks, international work is usually all concentrated in DC/NYC at think tanks and non-profits that get funding from the agencies I listed. Or you could try to get an international role at a big consulting firm, but that usually requires a lot of seniority and often military based or working on projects in rich oil countries like Dubai/UAE.

  2. Totally possible to have more than one concentration - concentrations are usually super loose

  3. Design vs policy. Pros of design is that you gain hard skills and get to build portfolio samples. And it's not like there wouldn't be policy content at all - it's not a design degree after all. Pros of policy is that you get more time to take electives in different subjects (or even study abroad or take an international workshop class) without all your time being spent in studios. You also get to work more on your writing and research skills. Overall for international planning most people tend to go the policy route.

  4. In regards to narrowing down your list, geographically they are all very spread out. Think about where you want to live long term and target schools geographically. If you don't know, then target based on cost, course offerings, cohort size, and what alumni end up doing after graduation.
Hope that helps. Good luck!
 

kjel

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@ARG: As a more recent grad, I will say that getting a job in international planning overall is difficult (see the Reddit urban planning (r/urbanplanning) education thread for more of this), let alone finding non-White-savior type of agencies in a recession. I was in a program that was decently well known for its international planning concentration and hardly anyone from my class or the classes immediately above or below me who originally wanted to do international work really ended up doing it, unless they were international students to begin with who went back to their home countries or to other countries to get PhDs. I'll try to tackle some of your questions one by one:
  1. 1. Other than agencies like USAID, World Bank, other development banks, international work is usually all concentrated in DC/NYC at think tanks and non-profits that get funding from the agencies I listed. Or you could try to get an international role at a big consulting firm, but that usually requires a lot of seniority and often military based or working on projects in rich oil countries like Dubai/UAE.

  2. Totally possible to have more than one concentration - concentrations are usually super loose

  3. Design vs policy. Pros of design is that you gain hard skills and get to build portfolio samples. And it's not like there wouldn't be policy content at all - it's not a design degree after all. Pros of policy is that you get more time to take electives in different subjects (or even study abroad or take an international workshop class) without all your time being spent in studios. You also get to work more on your writing and research skills. Overall for international planning most people tend to go the policy route.

  4. In regards to narrowing down your list, geographically they are all very spread out. Think about where you want to live long term and target schools geographically. If you don't know, then target based on cost, course offerings, cohort size, and what alumni end up doing after graduation.
Hope that helps. Good luck!
I agree with this excellent response. I also agree with lp's and JNA's suggestion at disaster/emergency planning and climate change.

I have both planning and policy degrees, you will get much more mileage out of public policy in the international space than you ever will from planning; bureaucracy exists everywhere. As glutton mentioned, NYC & DC are the major centers for NGOs and government entities doing international work. From a pragmatic standpoint, not a lot of work in the international space pays very well so I would definitely consider the cost to attend and the likelihood of financial support as a factor in my choice. Don't just focus on planning programs, look at policy programs as well.

Also think about what you would do if you didn't work internationally.
 

ARG

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Thank you all for your comments! They've been helpful. I began drafting my personal statements so I'm getting to think through in more detail why I want to get a master's in UP the first place.

It definitely makes sense to go into environmental planning but with an international scope (climate change is global). But I think what I actually want is something that combines the environment and public health (ex. pollution). I guess writing my essays has helped me see that I what to focus on 'healthy places/cities'. I could also further focus on migrant communities in the US/Europe so that I can add an international component.

I'm now just not sure if I should also try to get a dual master's in UP and public health or environmental science.
 

kjel

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Thank you all for your comments! They've been helpful. I began drafting my personal statements so I'm getting to think through in more detail why I want to get a master's in UP the first place.

It definitely makes sense to go into environmental planning but with an international scope (climate change is global). But I think what I actually want is something that combines the environment and public health (ex. pollution). I guess writing my essays has helped me see that I what to focus on 'healthy places/cities'. I could also further focus on migrant communities in the US/Europe so that I can add an international component.

I'm now just not sure if I should also try to get a dual master's in UP and public health or environmental science.
There are several programs that offer dual Master Public Health and MCRP or MPP options. You can always take environmental related courses as electives.
 
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