A Semester in Review, New Year Resolutions, Building Blocks and Toy Cars

Tamika Camille Gauvin's picture

In the dawn of the New Year, I cannot help but reflect on my pivotal moments in 2008, and look forward to 2009. I wrapped up – no, survived – my first semester in the Master of City Planning program at MIT. I am being a little dramatic here, but the program is really very rigorous. One thing I learned was that with such a rigorous program there is no need to make it unnecessarily more challenging. When I arrived in Cambridge, I was very excited to be in school again – I graduated from college ten years ago – and I registered for five and a half classes. Three and a half of the classes were required and two were electives. It was recommended that we take only one elective, but I was psyched and I was going to take MIT by storm! Things were good in the beginning of the semester when the work load was still light, but oh, right around midterms my world was rocked. I was stretched too thin and had to drop a class. Alas, my storm became a light shower. However, my course load became more manageable and I was able to actually learn instead of gloss over material. The grades are coming in and they look good.

Also around this time I started to connect the dots. This was particularly true for my Gateway: Planning class – a class in planning theory and history. The history, challenges, theories on alternative planning methods and the role of planning in creating and dissolving communities, neighborhoods and cities began to crystallize.

I also had more poignant moments ofdiscovery and self-discovery. One came early in the semester when I realized that I was drawn more to the study of city form and function and the bricks-and-mortar aspect of affordable housing than to housing policy. I switched from the Housing, Community and Economic Development to the the City Design and Development program group. This was a big decision given that I do not have a background in design. However, in talking to my academic advisor, instructors, and other MCP students, I have learned that many urban planners without design backgrounds work in urban design – though they might not actually draw up the plans.

I was also reminded that learning does not only happen in the classroom. Yes, most students hear this repeatedly during their educational careers, but we sometimes have to be reminded of this when we have papers and projects and nonstop reading to complete. For me, my challenge was getting to the myriad lecture series offered in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning and the School of Architecture and Planning in general. A couple of lectures that I attended peaked my interest in landscape architecture and its relevance in urban design, particularly in this time when we face mounting environmental and energy crises. Looking forward to '09, I plan to learn more about landscape architecture, taking at least two classes that are in theMIT Landscape Urbanism curriculum.

This brings to my new year resolutions – no new year would be right without them. In 2009, along with the standard eating better and exercising more, I will learn more about landscape architecture, attend more department lectures, and continue to develop my language and knowledge base of urban planning and design through coursework, reading and practice.

For now, during a much needed vacation, I will play with building blocks and toy cars with my 19-month old son and put in some QT with my husband (he has been Mr. Mom here in Baltimore while I am away at school), and maybe, just maybe, I will go out for a run.

Happy New Year!  

Tamika Camille Gauvin is a candidate for the Master of City Planning from the Department of Urban Studies and Planning at M.I.T.



Right on

Hey Tamika, I'm in my first year of planning school too, and it's about the same here. I went into it with a heavy focus on Community/Economic Development, Public Policy, etc. and now I'm absolutely enamored with urban design. I used to think that urban design was more for architects and that I couldn't do it because I wasn't much of an artist (at all). But I've realized just how much DESIGN MATTERS - no matter how good the theory or policy is behind it (not to mention CAD has leveled the artistic playing field slightly).

So, this quarter I've got a Site Planning course and Social Functions of Urban Form to go along with Land Use Law, and I'm definitely going to try and maintain a better balance between policy and design in the future.

Tamika, you mentioned that

Tamika, you mentioned that "many urban planners without design backgrounds work in urban design – though they might not actually draw up the plans." Can you elaborate on that, based on your experience up to this point? Thanks!

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