Name Benjamin Scheerbarth
Hometown Berlin, Germany
Undergraduate school/major The University of Manchester (UK)/Organization Theory
What was your work experience/background before coming to the GSD?
I am one of the few students in our cohort who transitioned to the GSD straight from their undergraduate degree. Before starting undergrad, however, I spent a year volunteering in Cape Town, South Africa.
Why did you decide to pursue planning as a career?
Having lived in large cities all my life, ironically urban planning was one of the professions that I had been blind to for the longest time. Once ‘discovered’ though, I quickly came to think of it as a good vehicle for pursuing intriguing academic questions as well as having societal impact.
What made you decide to come to the GSD?
It’s a combination of the intense and stimulating work atmosphere, the very accessible professors, and the possibilities of the wider Harvard community.
What are your main interests in planning and concentration area?
Being relatively new to planning, I allow myself to be open to and inspired by the various planning fields I have yet to discover. The GSD is a great place to do that though, due to the large number of guest lectures, lunch talks, and the Loeb fellows. Since I am planning on returning to Europe upon graduating, I am specializing in International Planning, and potentially in social/critical concerns as well.
What was your impression of Harvard and the GSD before you came?
Coming from a country in which universities do not differ greatly in terms of quality, I was positively surprised how down to earth students actually were. Indeed, although I visited the school shortly before the final reviews, the planning students were very approachable and I had a good time.
How has your impression changed since coming to the GSD?
What I didn’t anticipate is the extent to which Gund Hall pulls you in and does not let go easily (it is telling that the GSD Tourism Club organizes so-called ‘getouttagund’ tours). In other words, the culture of the architectural pedagogy was more intense than I had imagined. This is not a bad thing, however, since the conceptual content is not frustratingly difficult. Rather, because creativity, which knows no clear borders here, is nurtured, time flies and before you know it, days, weeks, and semesters have passed.
Are you involved in any student groups? What have you gained from the experience?
Yes, I am involved in the GSD Student Forum as both an academic representative of my cohort and the infrastructure chair. Further, I joined the university-wide Harvard Graduate School Leadership Institute during my first semester. If time permits, I recommend both levels of engagement for they do have their perks. Regularly getting together with students of other programs and especially other schools reminds you that there is an ‘outside’ world and broadens the Harvard horizon.
What has been your favorite class or project? Why?
I am really enjoying the Kinetic City course. This research seminar lets small groups explore phenomena of temporal urbanism, map ephemeral cities, and grapple with conceptual questions and theoretical frameworks of the, perhaps overlooked, temporal dimension in urbanism. It’s a great experience to be involved in a wider, interdisciplinary, and very topical research initiative.
What are your career ambitions?
It is hard to say at the moment. However, I would very much like to be a part of the facilitation of more just environments, both in my hometown as well as on an international scale. This can take many forms, though, and certainly includes some level of engagement with the political sector.