Ann Forsyth's blog

Ann Forsyth is professor of Urban Planning at Harvard University.
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So You Want to Change the World, Part 2: Finding the Right Planning Program

Many students choose planning over business school because they want to serve the public and change the world. However, saving the world is a complicated task. What kind of school will prepare you? As in many parts of life there isn’t a simple answer but a few key points can help frame your search. And remember, you don’t need to answer all these questions before you apply—get a good enough list and then investigate them some more once you have real offers.

Graduate School 2008: Nuts and Bolts of Applying

With the summer coming to a close new students are making their way to graduate planning programs. For those thinking about applying for 2008 it is time to start preparing. The deadlines can be as early as December, now only a few months away. These tips, based on my experiences on several admissions committees, can help you make sense of the application process.

What Admissions Committees Look For

Planning schools consider up to six different elements in admissions to masters programs: letters of intent, experience in activities related to planning (paid and volunteer work, internships, and activism), letters of reference, previous grades, GREs, and work samples.

Truly Great Teachers: Remembering Peter Marris

As an educator who also enjoys practice, I periodically weigh up where my efforts are best spent. Is it making a difference via educating students in the classroom, and through my research and writing, as they use this knowledge in their work in the distant future? Or can I make a difference more directly though practice now? It is hard to know which path is best and the path of teaching is a riskier choice. Truly exceptional teachers and scholars, however, can make an enormous impact.

So You Want to Change the World, Part 1: Networking for Students (and Others)

Some people choose to work in planning because they see it as a relatively interesting and stable job. Others have dreams of being the equivalent of an all-powerful SimCity-style mayor. However, many choose planning as a career because they want to make a difference in the world. They want to do good and to help those who are the least advantaged. They are attracted by the potential, if limited, for planning to foster environmental justice and social equity.

Summer Academics: Finding Faculty Blogs

With the coming of summer, students finish courses, faculty head off to do research, and practitioners think about vacations. However, for those interested in keeping up to date with academic issues in planning, a number of bloggists provide useful insights into the politics and hot issues in planning education. For students they are a window into the work of educators and for practicing planners they are an easy way to keep up to date with what’s happening in the schools.

Moving Pictures of Planning History: Education Online

Constantly updated, the internet has created an important tool for accessing up-to date information—text, still images, and video. Increasingly it also provides a window into aspects of history, including planning history, that have previously been difficult to find. Documents, indexes to archival materials, and the photographic and map collections of historical societies are accessible online. Less well known are film and video resources—resources that can be played online or downloaded. The Library of Congress, Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division now boasts an outstanding collection of hundreds of videos relevant to urban issues.

Some examples illustrate the range:

If Paul Davidoff has Email Should I Write?

Information Strategies for Answering Fundamental Planning Questions

In universities in the northern hemisphere, April and May are months for completing work and moving closer to graduation. Assignments are due. Exams are looming. Students are too tired to write well and professors are too tired to notice. In the crunch for time, enterprising students look to the power of new information and communication technologies to reach out beyond their harried contexts to experts who can help them answer important questions. If Paul Davidoff (now dead) had email, they reason, he would have been happy to respond.

Decision Time for (Prospective) Graduate Students

For those admitted to graduate planning programs in the U.S., March is the season of choices and decisions. Offers appear. Decision deadlines approach. Wait lists are formed. Even those who thought they knew what they wanted may be tempted to change their minds. Having been affiliated with seven vastly different planning programs, and having worked both as a faculty member and practitioner, I can attest that the choices aren’t simple.