Ann Forsyth's blog

Ann Forsyth is professor of Urban Planning at Harvard University.
Ann Forsyth's picture

Planning History: The Basics

Planning history is often taught in the first semester of planning programs. However, many students find that their interest increases with time and that with more knowledge they have more questions. Below I list some basic books and journals for finding out about planning history. In an upcoming entry I will discuss important plans, places, and programs that the historically literate urban planner should at least recognize.

Two books typically set in planning history introductory courses in the United States are an easy place to start:

Looking for Employment: Tips from A Recent Graduate

Students nearing graduation are wondering about employment. Some already have jobs lined but many do not. While it is good to start looking, best advice is to graduate first as finishing up after you have a job almost always creates a lot of stress and bother. Previous blogs have covered Finding a First Job in Planning, Tips on Gainful Unemployment for New Planners, and Defining the Planning Skill Set based on surveys of employers and graduates. Anna Read, a recent graduate from Cornell’s MRP program who found employment right away last year, has passed along these tips from her own experience:

Images for Planners: More Resources

Some time ago I noted a number of terrific image resources for urban planners. This blog highlights some additional sources.

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 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?