PLAN 590 is a Special Topics course, which means that the topic changes every semester, and there may be several sections of PLAN 590 offered in the same semester, each covering a different subject. Our current PLAN 590 Special Topics offerings are below:

Spring 2018

590.001 Professional & Career Development (1.5 credits)

We plan our cities and communities, but can we actually plan our own careers? This special topics seminar provides DCRP students with a unique opportunity to become more active in planning their own career journey. Throughout the semester students will hear from notable planning professionals about their own career experiences, including their response to unanticipated opportunities or challenges. Students will also learn to identify resources and build networks that can help them enhance the quality of their first planning internship or job, better prepare for promotion or sudden career shifts and improve their ability to advocate for further career opportunities and greater professional recognition. Students will complete a series of written and research-intensive assignments, ranging from conducting informational interviews and evaluating prospective employers to customizing cover letters and developing skills assessment frameworks. In addition, the class will leverage existing resources from University Career Services to help with resume writing, interview preparation, and professional profile development. This class meets once a week and is 1.5 credit hours. Priority is given to current MCRP students.

590.002 Complete, Safe, Equitable Streets (3 credits)

Streets are an essential, if often invisible, part of communities. Streets can be vibrant parts of the urban realm, sites for children playing and neighborhood gatherings, loci of physical activity opportunities, or places of fear that fail to safely accommodate all users. Streets provide mobility—allowing us to travel—and accessibility—allowing us to reach destinations. Streets, therefore, serve a complicated and often conflicting set of goals and users. This course will interrogate the role of streets in communities, paying particular attention to how streets contribute to mobility, accessibility, economic vibrancy, social cohesion, and safety from crime and traffic danger. In all conversations, we will consider how different people—different by income, race, gender, dis/ability, and travel mode—are affected by streets and transport policy. We will also discuss ways planners and other professionals can work to develop a systems-thinking approach to building safety, equity, and accessibility into street design and transportation policy.

Through a combination of lectures, guest speakers, and experiential projects, this course will systematically address these topics and provide extended opportunities for reimagining today’s street environments as safer, more equitable, and more useful spaces for a wider variety of users. The course will draw on examples from the US, as well as northern Europe, Latin America, Oceania, and Asia in order to better understand design and policy solutions that are possible in the US context. As “completing the streets” requires coordinated efforts across planning domains and related fields, this course should be of interest to a wide variety of students, e.g. planning, public health, public administration, environmental studies, environmental science. No prior coursework is required.

By the end of the course, students should be able to:

  • discuss the theories and motivations behind, and barriers to, complete streets
  • discuss the role of systems thinking in supporting safer, more equitable streets
  • explain the competing needs and priorities for road space and discuss tradeoffs among them
  • recognize shortcomings in street designs and barriers to the safe, productive use of streets by various types of users
  • discuss the fundamentals of geometries and design of complete streets
  • collect and perform basic analyses on data on the use of roads by alternative modes
  • understand the principles of equity and accessibility analyses
  • understand roadway design standards common across the globe and critically assess design standards in use in the US
  • evaluate and critique bicycle/pedestrian plans or complete streets plan
  • develop and defend a complete streets concept plan

Students are expected to be active participants in this course. Learning will be assessed through a combination of small individual assignments, in-class participation, and a large group project.

Fall 2017

590.001 Personal Finance, Wealth Building, and Public Policy

This course has three primary goals:

  1. Help students develop a firm understanding of basic financial principles in the context of managing their own finances wisely. Students will develop an understanding of various aspects of personal finance. They will explore the way personal principles, values, and risk tolerance relate to many aspects of personal finance. They will engage in hands-on exercises related to their own finances and financial planning. Specific topics will include a math/financial primer, budgeting, measuring financial health, managing credit, identifying good and bad consumer and mortgage loans, understanding debt, choosing insurance products (all types), beginning investing, and others.
  2. Help students gain sufficient familiarity with financial markets, banking, and investment concepts to make sense of market and financial news and related political and public policy discussions. Students will consider these matters and their implications with respect to their own financial well-being.
  3. Help students consider and explore community-based and public policy efforts to help lower-income individuals and families build wealth through better financial decision-making and access to appropriate financial services and asset building opportunities.

590.002 Urban Growth & Inequality in the American Landscape

Cities hold an ambiguous image in the minds of scholars of political and social history. On the one hand cities are considered engines of freedom—as the phrase “city air makes one free” indicates. Through the medieval period, the industrial revolution, and up through today, urban areas continue to draw immigrants and new workers seeking new economic opportunities and the chance to build a better future. Contrasted with the rural opportunities of serfdom, isolation, or boredom, cities, in this light, do indeed seem like places of relative liberty and greater economic opportunity. Moreover, cities are intellectual reservoirs for freedom as key events in the development of modern democracy can be interpreted as “urban social movements” as attested by the Boston Tea Party and Paris Commune.

However, cities are also the spaces where rich and poor stand in starkest contrast. In addition to creating jobs and sharing ideas, cities have also spawned segregated neighborhoods, hyper-violent enclaves, and spaces of deep exploitation. Some scholars argue that the patterns of urban growth development (especially under capitalism) are inextricably linked with inequality.

Today, inequality is back on the political stage. This course will explore inequality through a variety of perspectives by examining causes and debates from their fields of economics, sociology, geography, and urban studies. What makes this course unique is its focus on the linkage between inequality and the process of urban growth and development in both the historical and contemporary contexts.

Prior Semesters

590 Introduction to Housing & Urban Planning and Policy

This course is an introduction to contemporary housing/urban problems and public planning and policies designed to overcome these problems. It focuses primarily on the United States, with a few sessions devoted to placing US problems in an international context. The central intellectual theme of the course is that effective problem diagnosis and policy prescription depends on an understanding of how the metropolitan housing/urban market operates. By the end of the semester, students will be able to identify the general historical patterns of housing and urban development in the United States, identify major milestones in the history of housing and urban policy, develop a basic understanding of the workings of the housing market, and investigate and critically analyze housing and urban problems and their solutions in the context of a particular place.