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The Importance of Educating a New Generation of Urban Planners

Photo: Courtesy of Farrel Nobel

For over 40 years, The University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) has been a leader in preparing students for planning careers in the public, private, and non-profit sectors. Using Chicago as a living lab, its many research centers garner the contextualized knowledge about what makes successful and viable urban environments.

Urban planning

What do urban planners do? They make sure that the new technologies are implemented in service of functional urban spaces and infrastructure and their users — urban residents, employers, and visitors alike. They consider how to integrate sensors, big data and social media into the existing structures and how to use the information derived from these sources to address urban challenges and improve the quality of life for all. Smart energy, smart transport, and smart social services jointly contribute to smart urban development and management.

Planners play an important part in efficient, smart and transparent urban governance that is enhanced by timely and easy access to information and open communication channels. Planners put people before technology to ensure that the goals of sustainable and resilient cities are met through an appropriate use of new tools and data sources. Their definition of smart is broad; it includes technology but is not confined to gadgets. For planners, green is smart, clean is smart, affordable is smart, economical is smart, diverse is smart, healthy is smart, and accessible is smart. Smart is achieved by all means.

Educating planners

Located in one of the world’s great cities, UIC’s professionally accredited Master of Urban Planning and Policy (MUPP) is dedicated to equipping students with the experience and skills necessary for building successful careers as planners and addressing the complex dilemmas facing modern cities. Grounded in social equity and sustainability, UIC’s MUPP program trains planning students to use innovative concepts and state of the art technology to analyze problems, conduct simulations, craft solutions, and evaluate programs.

Courses such as the ones on ‘complete streets’ and ‘sharing economy’ are on the cutting edge of urban trends and practices. All students gain real-world planning experience through professional internships, and students concentrate coursework in an area of their choosing, selecting from one of five well-honed specializations: Community Development, Economic Development, Environmental Planning and Policy, Spatial Planning, and Urban Transportation. Well-prepared by the program’s renowned faculty, large network of community partners, and contemporary curriculum, MUPP students graduate ready to shape smarter, more sustainable cities.

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