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Name Alice Brown

MUP 2013

Hometown Baltimore, Ohio          

Undergraduate school/major The Ohio State University/Math and Philosophy

What was your work experience/background before coming to the GSD?

I taught middle and high school math in the Bronx, New York, and Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Why did you decide to pursue planning as a career?

I was in love with Central Park when I lived in New York, but, when I moved to Ethiopia, I noticed a definite lack of green space. There weren’t many maps of the city, so it was hard to explore without a car until I got a good map of the mini-bus system. Then, I went in search of all the parks in Addis Ababa and discovered more than 20 that I catalogued and started taking people to visit. After that, it became clear that urban planning was my real passion, so I decided to switch fields.

What made you decide to come to the GSD?

By offering a design component and not only policy, I was excited that the GSD could teach me how to represent creative ideas about cities without needing to speak the same language as everyone in the room as long as the visualizations captured people’s imaginations.

What are your main interests in planning and concentration area?

My concentration is in Transportation. I started out interested in transit systems and have also branched out into cycling and walking for transport.

What was your impression of Harvard and the GSD before you came?

I liked the feel of “the trays” (tiers of studio desks) and the creative, interdisciplinary feel that they produce. While I’ve spent most of my time with planners and late nights just combing spreadsheets, the vibe I initially got continues to draw me back to work at my studio desk and to really enjoy the GSD.

Are you involved in any student groups? What have you gained from the experience?

I am the Loeb Liaison for the Harvard Urban Planning Organization, which has given me unique access to the nine Loeb Fellows who are spending the year at the GSD. Loeb fellows are urban focused scholars who don’t fall neatly into the categories of architecture, design, or planning, but still shape the built environment and the city experience in unique ways. I’ve enjoyed organizing meals where they talk about their projects with other urban planning students because each one has given me lots of creative and new ways to reflect on projects.

Are you writing a thesis? What is your topic, and why did you choose it?

I am writing a thesis about the allocation of street space to non-automotive uses. While most transportation planning looks at large scale maps and focuses primarily on the rate of flow, I wanted to look at recent changes to street design through a new lens. Bike lanes, parklets, and summer street closings for community events are showing new purposes for Boston streets for the first time since cars came to dominate.

What has been your favorite class or project? Why?

My favorite class has been Urban Politics and Planning. I took it in my first semester and it continues to shape my thinking about the potential for planners to shape lives through design, policies, and which stakeholders they commit to working with. It was also a blending of critical case study readings, explanatory lectures, and vibrant class discussions.  

What did you do over the summer? How did that add to your education and goals?

Last summer, I worked for the City of Boston’s bicycle program. I got to work on a plan for the bicycle infrastructure network for the next ten years. It felt like I was putting many aspects of my studio courses into practice. This opportunity made me think more broadly about the different departments in city government that I could contribute to after getting a planning degree.

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