This week will be my first full week of classes at MIT; however, I have actually been here for three. I arrived into Cambridge at the end of August to attend the weeklong department orientation, which was as orientations are – full of very important yet-easy-to-forget information. Alone, the pressure of learning nearly 65 names can induce periodic episodes of amnesia.
The orientation itinerary included, but was not limited to, a great presentation on Boston's neighborhoods, a discussion about the Department of Urban Studies and Planning's (DUSP) traditions and frontiers, and a city-wide scavenger hunt in Boston. There were also housekeeping sessions such as math and economics reviews, a discussion on studying GIS (Geographic Information System) and a Q&A called "Anything but Financial Aid." By the end of the orientation, I think we were all tired of asking and answering the same three questions: what is your name, again?; what is your group?; and, what kind of work did you do before you came here?.
In regards to the second question, there are four program areas or areas of specialization in the department; applicants must apply to one of these program areas as part of the application process. These programs are City Design and Development (CDD), Environmental Policy and Planning (EPP), Housing, Community and Economic Development (HCED) and International Development Group (IDG). I am in HCED (pronounced H See D), and yes we are pretty acronym heavy. I also have some interest in City Design and Development so I will take some classes in that area in addition to my classes in HCED. The programs do not constrain students to a narrow set of courses; however, we must fulfill the core requirements and any requirements for our program area. The core comprises Gateway: Planning Action, Gateway: Planning Economics, Microeconomics, Data Managementand Spatial Analysis (GIS), an introductory class for our program area, and a practicum. The practicum is a course in which students work with real clients to analyze and create a solution for a planning issue. It is just one of many great courses here. Sadly, I will not be able to take as many as I would like; we are on a semester system and there are four semesters in the program. So many options and such little time!
This semester, I will fulfill the lion share of my core requirements and take two electives: Economic Development Finance and Urban Design Skills. I am very excited about these courses; I love the financial aspect of the Economic Development Finance and the creativity of Urban Design Skills. Balancing this load of classes, however, should be interesting. I have been out of school for ten years – I think many of my classmates graduated two to three years ago – and so I am slowly remembering how to ride this bike. Anyone has a helmet I can borrow?