Ann Forsyth's blog

Ann Forsyth is professor of Urban Planning at Harvard University.
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Urban and Regional Mysteries: Not so Guilty Pleasures

With vacations upon us many students have been asking me what they should read over the winter break. Certainly it is possible to catch up with planning classics and thought-provoking books and several earlier blogs have highlighted these options. However,for those wanting to escape and learn something as well, a number of mystery authors write books that both investigate crimes and evoke a sense of place. The following list highlights just some of this range—there are hundreds more of course (and if you scroll for the bottom you will find links to other lists).

Planning Experience before Graduate School?

The short answer to the question about whether someone needs professional or activist planning experience before graduate school is yes!

Finding Planning Schools

Confused about where to study planning? Of course there’s the Planetizen guide but in the United States two free sources of information provide extensive lists of potential schools.

Visiting Planning Schools: What (Not) to Do

The fall is high season for school visits from prospective students. I am a great believer in doing this remotely—while some greenhouse gases are generated by a Google search it is far less than a plane ride to a distant campus. I suggest visiting schools only after you have been admitted (and not even then if you don’t have a really crucial question that can only be answered on site). However, if you can’t bring yourself to even apply to a school in a place you’ve never visited, and promise to buy carbon set asides, a tour may be worth it. The following tips can help you make the most of the school.

Making Sense of Information: Using Sources in Planning School

With the semester starting, students are beginning to focus on assignments and other project work. Today there is a great deal of information available for planners, but that can lead students to be overwhelmed (and use only a few available sources) or uncertain about how to use those sources that are available. Fortunately universities are coming up with resources to help students untangle these issues. My own institution just launched the very helpful http://digitalliteracy.cornell.edu/. The following tips are adapted from my guide for students doing final projects and theses (link at the end of this entry).

Applying to Graduate School in Planning: Writing a Good Statement of Purpose

Summer is the time to start thinking about graduate school applications typically due in the late fall and early spring. Previous blogs have looked at how to investigate if planning is for you, find the right program, apply, and decide which offer to take up. This blog looks in more detail at the statement of purpose or letter of intent, an important part of the application packet. The following tips will help you craft a compelling statement:

Finding Planners with Shared Interests: The Post-Graduation Experience

In recent months many planning students have graduated and are moving on to the next phase of life—jobs, internships, fellowships, and such. For many this will involve a move to a new place. Even those staying in the same metropolitan area will seldom make it back to their planning program, and besides their fellow students will have scattered. Graduate school provides a peer group of those with similar interests and training. How do recent graduates create such a network when they are no longer in residence at a university?

Skills in Planning: Writing Content-Free Planning Documents

For many students graduate school is the time to learn how to write professional reports and memos. One of the skills many planning students seem eager to master is writing the content-free document. This kind of writing is a little tricky to do. Accordingly, in this last blog in my series on planning skills I provide tips on how to create sentences, paragraphs, and whole reports and PowerPoint presentations that convey the absolute minimum of important information.

Titles

Titles should never reveal the actual content of the report. This is the guideline I find easiest to follow myself.

Tips on Gainful Unemployment for New Planners

In the United States the stimulus package will eventually kick in to create jobs for planners—in housing, transportation, design and such. However, in upcoming months students graduating from planning schools face a situation they typically had not planned on—where unemployment is relatively high and employers are hesitant about taking on new people. As I have been pointing out to my students, this is not the first time in the history of the world that such a situation has occurred. The following tips draw on my own observations of successful strategies for weathering such downturns.

Deciding if You Want to be a Planner

Not sure if you want to be a planner? Recently my colleagues and I have received a spate of emails from prospective students around the world wanting to know whether planning is a field they should pursue. Their extensive lists of questions show that this is a pressing issue for them. This entry answers some of the more common questions and aims to help prospective students come to programs with a shorter and more focused set of topics to explore.

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