I thought I’d start off the collective blog venture with some introductions. My name is Brandon, I’m 25, and this is my first semester at SFU in the Urban Studies program. I am currently doing the program part-time while I work full-time. I’ve been trying to get into a Grad program in Urban Planning/Studies since I graduated with a BA in History from UBC in 2009.
After getting rejected the first time around, I needed to know if this was a career path I wanted to go down so I started a blog and started volunteering around the city. My interest certainly hasn’t waned and I’m excited to see where it takes me in this program. Oh, I’m also on twitter at pre_planner.
If you’re interested, read on for a slightly updated version of my statement of interest that I submitted with my application to SFU.
Growing up in the suburbs of Vancouver, I always relished venturing into the city where everything was busy, vibrant, and where everyone seemed inherently connected. Being mixed-race and queer, the city became an important place for me. Within its diversity, it offered acceptance, support and a sense of community. By contrast, my suburban neighbourhood lacked many of the city’s livable qualities. My interest in planning stems from this disparity: the challenges that our cities face in creating inclusive, sustainable and livable places. I want to help redefine and revitalize our cities.
I intend to study the ways in which existing development can be retrofitted to incorporate sustainable design and Smart Growth practices, such as infill and mixed-use development. Similarly, I want to study how we can make our suburban communities healthier, safer, and less auto-dependant by providing more active transportation options through better environmental, land-use and transportation planning. Portland’s ‘Green Street’ strategy is an innovative example that incorporates many of these concepts. Projects and ideas like this ignite my passion for planning and reaffirm my commitment to this career path.
My academic and professional experiences have provided me an excellent platform from which to pursue urban planning. My undergraduate degree in history has taught me to passionately pursue my curiosity, to think critically but with an open mind and how to understand complex, interrelated issues. I directed my studies to analyze the history of the urban form; to better understand the forces that have shaped our cities. For planners, history gives them an understanding of the past, which can help them to anticipate how actions they take today may affect the future. Since graduating, I have become an active member of Vancouver’s community of urban professionals and enthusiasts.
In 2009, I joined the Vancouver Public Space Network, a grassroots collective that engages in outreach and education on public space issues. Through my volunteer work on matters such as the separated bike lanes in downtown Vancouver, I learned about the intricacies of advocacy through civic engagement and public consultation. I have also completed the SFU & City of Surrey Transportation Lecture program. I had the chance to learn directly from planning professionals and city staff about regional development issues, transportation planning and their day-to-day operations. I was chosen to make a presentation on ‘Complete Streets’, which also proposed a design to make Surrey’s King George Boulevard a more inclusive space for all road users. In addition, I maintain a blog (www.mastersplanning.blogspot.com) that has hundreds of posts on topics ranging from active transportation to urban design. It has become a useful and successful outlet for my interest in urban planning while also honing my writing, research and analytical skills.
I hope to use the skills and experience gained from a Master’s degree to bring innovative ideas and sustainable practices to cities across Canada and the world. I want to work with communities of all sizes to help them face the challenge of transforming their built environment to balance the needs of society, the economy and the environment.