Profiles of the Next Generation of Planners V

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In the fifth and final edition of our ongoing series profiling urban planning, development, and design students from across the country, masters students from Rutgers University, Cal Poly, and the University of Maryland, share their aspirations of furthering the goals of planning through academia, political participation, and applying U.S. planning ideas to communities in one student's home country of Mexico.

 Justin HollanderJustin Hollander
Degree Objective: Ph.D., Urban Planning
Expected Graduation: May 2008
Rutgers University, Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy

What compelled you to attend planning school?
I have always seen planning as the best way for me to apply my analytical problem solving and creative skills to real, pressing problems in the built and natural environments. After college, I worked as a planning intern, then got a job as a regional planner, returned for a Master's in Planning, worked again as a community planner for the federal government, and now am back in school to pursue a Ph.D. in Urban Planning. I am returning now to further enhance my substantive knowledge of planning theory, history, and techniques, as well as to develop the ability to teach and conduct research on planning topics.

What do you hope to pursue after graduation?
After graduation, I will seek a position in academia where I can continue to practice planning in addition to teaching and conducting research. I hope to develop a non-profit, action-research center within a university where I can provide consulting and support to local planning efforts. My research interests lie primarily in the areas of land use and environmental planning, specifically urban decline, growth management, transit-oriented development, new urbanism, brownfields redevelopment, and military base closure.

What do you see as the future of planning?
In the future, planning will continue to offer guidance and support to managing change in cities and regions, but will be less heavy-handed. Rather than dictating the future to the public, planning will empower locals with the tools they need to envision the future and plan for it. Utilizing powerful computing tools, planning will paint pictures of the future and describe paths to it but will leave decisions to the people who need to live with the result. The extent that the planner can marry her forward thinking skills and techniques with her ability to help people see their own futures will largely determine the future of planning.


 Cuauhtemoc PerezRoman Cuauhtemoc Perez
Degree Objective: B.S. City & Regional Planning
Expected Graduation: May 2006
California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, College of Architecture and Environmental Design

What compelled you to attend planning school?
I was studying architecture in Mexico when, in my second year, I felt that the single thing that most interested me about architecture was its relationship to the urban form; the city. My father, a successful developer in Mexico, told me about planning, which I had never heard of, and suggested that I look for programs in American universities. There are no undergraduate planning majors in Mexico, so I searched the Internet and found several, not many, undergraduate programs in the U.S. What really got me to transfer to a new school and into a new major was my desire to gain knowledge about master planned communities and the lack of long-range planning efforts that I observed in Mexico. I have a vision for cities in Mexico, especially those growing immensely, and I want to have the right tools and the right support to realize my vision.

What do you hope to pursue after graduation?
After graduation, I hope to be very well equipped with my B.S. in City and Regional Planning, and a Real Property Development Minor as well, to join some great international firm of planning or a housing and commercial developer. My goal is to work internationally on major urban projects to gain wide experience. I also plan to pursue a Masters from a highly recognized American university, either in real estate development or an business. I am intent on using the private sector as my means to improve and develop communities and cities. I believe that in the case of Mexico, the process for the public and government to acknowledge the need for long range planning and sustainability is barely starting in certain places. Therefore, through the private sector I could create new master planned communities, I could redevelop or improve existing urban areas, I could promote infill and density, and many other opportunities that I could grasp, while creating better spaces in cities for community and economic development, and most importantly, creating social capital as projects are developed with public and governmental involvement. I realize that I have huge expectations after graduation, but they are necessary for the immense challenges south of the border.

What do you see as the future of planning?
I believe that planning will take a more important stance in the public opinion of the United States and elsewhere. Planners outside of schools are discovering how their profession has impacts on economics, politics and social patterns on all levels, and how the profession has a direct effect on people's lifestyle. As people become more concerned with their resources and environment, they will turn to planners for support. I personally believe that Smart Growth, New Urbanism, Transit Oriented Development, Community Design and any other approach that seeks to uplift the individual and sustain our political, economic, social and environmental threads will prevail in the future of planning. I see huge challenges for my generation of planners, which will turn to personal opportunities to take on bigger responsibilities and accomplishments. I definitely see myself in this great future for planning.

 Ethan BindernagelEthan Bindernagel
Degree Objective: Master of Community Planning
Expected Graduation: May 2005
University of Maryland, School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation

What compelled you to attend planning school?
Believing there is no more admirable nor honorable a profession to pursue than one dedicated to the service of my fellow citizens, I left a lucrative position with a financial firm in Chicago, IL in the fall of 1999 to pursue a career in politics in Washington, DC.  One year out of school and armed with a degree in public policy from the University of Chicago, working as a congressional aide on Capitol Hill seemed like the logical next step for me.

Though I spent an active, enjoyable four years in the House of Representatives with Vermont's lone independent, progressive Congressman, at day's end I felt disconnected from the public on the federal level, and so I decided to re-evaluate my career path.  I thought long and hard about a profession that would allow me to meld my love for cities, government, and public service, and urban planning became the obvious choice for me. 

What do you hope to pursue after graduation?
When I graduate in May 2005, I am going to pursue a position with a local government as an urban designer or physical planner dedicated to revitalizing and reinvigorating our nation's urban cores.  I strive to follow in the footsteps of a trailblazer like Norman Krumholz, an advocacy planner from my native Cleveland, OH, who dedicated himself to the betterment of his fellow man through planning.

What do you see as the future of planning?
I have two visions for planning in the future...

First, I believe that the future of planning is deeply rooted in politics and that success ultimately depends upon having those in the field run for public office.  A thorough understanding of what it means to plan and why it is important to plan is lost upon politicians without resident-expert colleagues in the chamber or planning-savvy aides on payroll.  Planners need to run for public office so that they can influence the political process from the rulemaking to public funds appropriation.   

Second, despite assurances by some in political circles that the United States will be able to drill its way out of any potential crisis, I think the future of planning will also be centered on energy and adaptation to a world in which fossil fuels are either too expensive or too non-existent.  In either case, adapting to a world in which fossil-fuel-burning engines and petroleum-based plastics are akin to vinyl records and Beta-tape VCRs is going to be a large, bitter, unpleasant pill for our society to swallow, and it presents planning with a daunting task.

I look forward to the challenge of providing my fellow citizens with alternatives to gas-guzzling SUVs, highway congestion, and obesity-inducing sprawl in the form of high-density, walkable communities located near light rail stations within an urban growth boundary.  Oh wait, Portland, Oregon already exists!  Well, regardless, in my estimation the future will be dedicated to combating the immenent energy crises that our cities, states, nation, hemisphere, and global community will face, and as a well-educated planner from the University of Maryland, I invoke--albeit in a completely different context--the words of an oil-baron-turned-president, "Bring it on!"

Tell us why you got involved in planning...

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