UEP Colloquium Panel Discussion
| October 27, 2014 | 5:37 pm | Colloquium | Comments closed

Beyond Public Policy-Private Sector Responses to Climate Change

UEP students, faculty and community members convened Wednesday to hear from a panel of local representatives from private sector consulting firms working with companies striving toward sustainability. The guests briefly summarized their work and then took several questions from the audience.

Eleanor Ford is a policy consultant for Ceres, a non-profit that mobilizes private sector companies toward a sustainable global economy. Ford works to engage companies on sustainable investments and educate them on the risks resulting from climate change. Through the BICEP coalition within Ceres, companies and policy-makers work together to produce legislation that will stimulate a transition to a sustainable energy economy.

Christina Becker-Birck works in the Boston office of the Meister Consultants Group (headquartered in Germany), specializing in renewable energy policy and climate adaptation. Becker-Birck’s efforts have been directed largely toward governments, such as Boston, Saudi Arabia, and several island nations. She has aimed to lower barriers to investment in renewable energy sources, especially in developing countries where the business case for investment is not as clear.

Dan Von Allmen is a senior analyst at Sustainable Energy Advantage, which helps private, public, and non-profit organizations to access clean, sustainable energy. Their focus is largely on state level renewable energy markets.

When asked where someone can have the most impact in expanding the renewable energy market, all panelists agreed that there was a need for more representation across the board. All levels of companies and governments need to have a focus on sustainability, not just a sustainability office within a large organization. Ford gave the example of the U.S. military, which sees the climate as a security risk. Not coincidentally, the Department of Defense is one of the largest solar energy purchasers. Von Allmen emphasized the need to focus on implementation of clean energy policy.

Addressing the role of the private sector in shaping policy, Becker-Birck spoke to one of the main limitations of private sector approaches: If the goal is social justice related, the private sector will not participate at the same level. Ford agreed, adding that a policy will fail if businesses are not behind it. They suggested amplifying the voices of alternative energy providers and those working at the intersection of energy and social justice in order to drown out the powerful and moneyed voice of the fossil fuel industry.

Seeking advice on differentiating companies truly seeking sustainability from those merely conducting a greenwashing campaign, Becker Birck recommends investigating how far removed their sustainability officer is from the CEO. It would seem that any company trying to achieve real change knows that sustainability should be a top priority, one on which the CEO should be kept up to speed.

The panelists discussed natural gas markets in general, as well as in Massachusetts specifically, and how it has affected investment in renewable energy. Von Allmen stated that the northeast has a relatively successful wind market, but expansion of natural gas pipelines could diminish those benefits by lowering gas natural prices. Ford went on to explore the issue of oil and gas reserves. Fossil fuel companies use these vast reserves to inflate their stock prices (carbon bubble). Maintaining atmospheric carbon at agreed upon levels would forbid companies from fully tapping their reserves. Chevron, as one example, isn’t worried about this stopping their extraction, since developing countries will soon begin demanding full use of their fossil fuel reserves.

From a sector that can be viewed as the bad guy in so many environmental discussions, it is refreshing to hear from people and companies working toward sustainability. It is also important to keep in mind that the private sector is not likely to go far enough, and their idea of sustainability may not be the same as that of the surrounding community, whose voices are even less likely to be heard.

Be sure to attend next week’s UEP Colloquium: James Jennings – “Black and Latino Young Males in Boston” at 12pm in Sophia Gordon Hall. Lunch, as always, will be provided.

UEP Alumni Panel: Cultural Competency in Practice
| October 20, 2014 | 5:07 pm | Colloquium | Comments closed

The Tufts UEP Intercultural Practice Group (IPG) hosted this week’s installment of the Fall Colloquium Series on Cultural Competency in Practice. A panel of UEP alumni gathered to examine aspects of interculturalism in the workplace. Interculturalism, in contrast to multiculturalism, promotes dialogue across cultures rather than mere acceptance of other, separate cultures.

Libby Mahaffy, working with as the assistant director of conflict resolution at the MIT Division of Student life, brought advice and anecdotes from her experiences. She underlined the need for people in privileged positions to gain practice engaging in contentious issues, something they are not frequently obligated to do. In the context of racial issues, this term is referred to as white fragility.

Michelle Moon has worked with a range of organizations in the Boston area, including the Watertown Health Department and the Fairmount Greenway. She stressed the importance of developing strategies to keep people involved in dealing with issues in their communities.

Sarah Howard has worked on creating sustainable food systems, and emphasized the importance of communication across lines of gender, class, race and ethnicity, but also urban and rural lines.

All three panelists highlighted the need to work on negotiation strategies, especially in efforts to avoid backing people into a corner. It is important not just to point out the problems within someone’s statements or actions, but to provide a way of working on it and moving forward.

The next UEP Colloquium, Beyond Public Policy-Private Sector Responses to Climate Change, will take place at the Sophia Gordon Hall from 12-1pm on Wednesday, October 22.

Winning Hearts and Minds: Anti-Racism, Feminism, and the New Economy
| October 18, 2014 | 2:19 pm | Uncategorized | Comments closed

As part of the nationwide New Economy Week, Tufts welcomed organizer, educator and public speaker Chris Crass to explore what it takes to achieve a just and sustainable economy through inter-movement cooperation. With the goal of Collective Liberation, students at Tufts, MIT, along with interested community members, came together to discuss their shared experiences and frustrations with the status quo.

More importantly, Crass encouraged the audience to focus on individuals and movements in their lives and throughout history that have inspired them to seek change. The frustration and loneliness felt by many in the audience was channeled into small group discussions, helping to build a feeling of unity among the audience. Drawing from the history of anti-racist organizing, feminist praxis, and class struggle, Crass demonstrated the overwhelming similarities and overlaps between these movements and the power available to create change through their collaboration.

Crass emphasized the need for organizing people of privilege in the building of a movement, specifically white anti-racist organizing and bringing more men into feminist work.

Crass’s book, Toward Collective Liberation, can be found at his website, here.chriscrass

Securing Affordable Housing in Hot Market Areas
| October 11, 2014 | 2:07 pm | Colloquium, MassAPA | Comments closed

4P+MassAPA Annual Conference

The annual meeting of the four Massachusetts planning schools and the Massachusetts American Planning Association took place on Wednesday, celebrating the career of UEP Professor Rachel Bratt. Convening in the Cabot ASEAN Auditorium, professors and experts from the 4P schools and MassAPA discussed issues of affordable housing. 

Professor Bratt, who has devoted her career to housing and community development, outlined the roles of social justice and the public sector in housing markets.  Hot housing markets don’t “just happen,” according to Bratt, who claims that they are usually the result of some public investment. A public sector that is held accountable to their populace should have some stake in encouraging racial and economic integration, especially as economists increasingly document a growing wealth gap and its detrimental effects on the economy.

Professor Bratt suggests alternative forms of social ownership, such as co-ops and land trusts, and taxing new developments for community preservation funds as possible strategies for achieving greater social integration in a hot market. She also proposes better zoning processes for affordable housing, including even the controversial idea of reinstating rent control.

The keynote address was followed by a panel of representatives from each school and MassAPA:

Kristin Haas, a Tufts UEP second-year, spoke about her field project on Section 8 rentals and the difficulty that some landlords have with agency compliance, rather than with tenants.

Dr. James Buckley DUSP/MIT spoke about his time in San Francisco and the issue of tenant eviction for AirBNB rentals or through the Ellis Act.

Dr. Christopher Herbert, Joint Center for Housing Studies/Harvard, advocated for a better subsidy system for middle income communities, as current subsidies disproportionately benefit rich homeowners.

Professor Darrel Ramsey-Musolf, LARP/UMass, highlighted the need to seek solutions in addition to taxing the rich.

MassAPA representative Judi Barret, of RKG Associates discussed the political issues around affordable housing as the “third wheel” of planning. She mentioned how developers and governments alike are hesitant to construct affordable housing on the grounds that it won’t increase potential tax revenue.

UEP Colloquium: Fair Food Access Is Urban Planning
| October 3, 2014 | 4:42 pm | Uncategorized | Comments closed

The second installment of UEP’s Fall Colloquium series, hosted by the Food Systems Planning Coalition, featured Joan Squeri, founder of Healthy Communities Capital Consulting.

Bringing together farmers, urban planners, public health officials and business owners, HCC Consulting aims to work around the barriers of getting healthy, local food to urban communities. The opportunities and benefits, as well as the general excitement surrounding farmers markets, make working on this an important task.

Squeri touched on many of the barriers facing equitable food access:

  • Legal restrictions around food vendors on private property
  • Lack of municipal support
  • Burdens on farmers in transporting their products to the market
  • Lack of adequate planning in the implementation of farmers markets
  • Difficulty incorporating the SNAP program

Many farmers markets have waiting lists of vendors trying to bring their products to new customers, while hasty implementation of other markets have left some farmers worse off. Issues of perceived exclusivity mean that farmers markets are frequently seen by residents as something for foodies, not for “regular people” or the community at large.

HCC Consulting seeks to bring all parties to the table in an effort to spread the benefits of the farmers market equitably. Members of the audience discussed how Shape Up Somerville and ‘Reverse’ Food Trucks have been/could be influential in improving fair access to healthy food.

Next week’s colloquium (10/8) will be a special afternoon meeting of the four Massachusetts urban planning programs regarding affordable housing in hot market areas. The rest of the schedule can be found here:

Fall 2014 Colloquium Schedule

Tufts UEP Professor Julian Agyeman in Time Magazine
| October 3, 2014 | 3:08 pm | Uncategorized | Comments closed

A recent article by UEP professor Julian Agyeman and co-author Duncan MacLaren has been featured in the latest issue of Time Magazine. The article, titled ‘Smart Cities’ Should Mean ‘Sharing Cities’ highlights issues of inequality in cities’ attempts to develop technology and attract businesses.

“After researching leading cities around the world, we’ve concluded that truly smart cities will be those that deploy modern technology in building a new urban commons to support communal sharing.”

Cities that invest in modern information and computing technology without accounting for social externalities miss the point of urban living.

The physical nature of urban space demands—and in some ways, facilitates—sharing: of resources, infrastructures, goods, services, experiences and capabilities.”

As “sharing technologies” are increasingly co-opted by venture capital for rapid growth and competition, they lose sight of their original social purposes.

“Humans are natural sharers. Traditional, old-fashioned face-to-face sharing still happens in communities everywhere, but it has largely broken down in modern cities in the face of commercialization of the public realm, and of rapid, destabilizing economic and technological change.”

More on this topic can be found at Agyeman’s blog and in his and MacLaren’s forthcoming book, Sharing Cities (MIT Press 2015).

First UEP Colloquium of the Season – Alumni in Local Government Planning
| September 26, 2014 | 4:24 pm | Colloquium | 1 Comment

UEP Colloquium - Local Government Planning

The Fall 2014 UEP Colloquium series has officially begun! The Student Planning Association brought together four of the area’s UEP alumni working within local government planning offices:

Brian Szekely (2013) discussed his experiences in Winchester and Swampscott, MA, stressing the importance of land use planning and surveying public opinion.

Kristen Kassner (2007) has spent several years working in a range of capacities for the planning office in Burlington, MA . She emphasized the need for more recognition and representation of planning in government.

Alison LeFlore (2012) highlighted the need in Chelmsford, MA for communication with both residents and civil engineers, each with their own sets of jargon and needs.

Brad Rawson (2007) discussed his career in Somerville, MA and Burlington, VT. For him, success has come through achieving a balance between short- and long-term goals.

A question and answer session followed, giving current UEP students an idea of what to expect in the realm of local government planning. Come to the next presentation on Wednesday, October 1, from 12-1:15pm, at Sophia Gordon Hall for a talk on food policy.


UEP Wins National Planning Award — Again!
| March 5, 2014 | 12:17 am | Uncategorized | Comments closed

UEP second-year students Tida Infahsaeng, Ian Jakus, Denise Chin, and Valerie Oorthuys have won the 2014 American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP) Student Project Award for Application of the Planning Process. Their project, titled “Urban Farming in Boston: A Survey of Opportunities” and advised by Penn Loh, was part of the UEP Field Projects course in Spring 2013. It also won the American Planning Association (APA) Massachusetts Chapter Student Project Award in 2013. The AICP Award will be presented at the Annual Meeting and Leadership Honors Ceremony at the 2014 APA National Planning Conference in Atlanta in April.

Rebecca Schofield’s Competition Winning Proposal
| February 24, 2014 | 1:27 am | student papers | Comments closed

Last November, Rebecca Schofield, a second year UEP student, was named the winner of the Welcoming Communities Student Ideas competition, sponsored by the Expanding Opportunities Committee (EOC) of the Commonwealth Housing Task Force (CHTF). The competition was designed to generate ideas from students about how to make communities in Massachusetts more welcoming to people of color, people of low-income, and people with disabilities. Her research proposal is copied below:


This project will build on my previous research on fair housing issues and tenants’ rights with the City of Somerville’s Fair Housing Commission (2012-2013) and research on models for preserving affordable housing and empowering residents for the Coalition for Occupied Homes in Foreclosure (COHIF) (summer-fall 2013).  Working with these partners to remove barriers and explore opportunities for more inclusive communities in Somerville and Dorchester has been an important step in the development of my research idea for this competition.

COHIF is currently working with community and nonprofit partners and a developer to acquire and rehabilitate owner-occupied properties that have been foreclosed in the Greater Four Corners neighborhood. The majority of residents whose homes have been foreclosed are low-income and/or people of color; we have been researching housing models that will better enable these populations to stay in their neighborhood and avoid foreclosure.

When residents are displaced (due to the expiration of affordability restrictions, housing redevelopment, and high market costs), where can they go? If we’re aiming to empower residents and preserve the affordability and diversity of Boston’s neighborhoods, it is important to address both barriers to staying-in-place and barriers to movement.  The COHIF project addresses housing inequities at the site of displacement, but we must also consider housing policy options that 1) help displaced residents find quality housing and community resources and 2) support residents’ freedom of movement and neighborhood choice.

Research Proposal

Framework Development

I believe that we need a clear framework for identifying the needs, interests, and capabilities of people of color, people of low-income, and people with disabilities. This framework will allow us to better evaluate housing models and policies that address these needs, interests, and capabilities.  The concept of a “bundle of interests” (Davis 1996) is a useful place to start: this bundle includes our rights to use and exchange property and our obligations and resources related to property ownership and management. It also includes our core interests in property, which is linked to broader goals we have for our housing and our communities (e.g. protecting our family’s well-being, identifying with a city, town, or neighborhood, participating in civil society, etc.).  The bundle of interests (rights, obligations, resources, and core interests) that a given household has is quite different than the bundle of interests a private developer has. Community groups, community development corporations (CDCs), community development financial institutions (CDFIs), and policy makers are additional examples of the actors who shape housing options and accessibility in our cities and towns. Each of these groups has a different bundle of interests.

It is hard to identify reasons that communities throughout Massachusetts put up barriers for certain populations, but it is clear that these communities only meet a narrow bundle of interests. The purpose of this framework is to better identify the differences and similarities in each actor’s bundle, then consider housing options that will best suit the needs, interests, and capabilities of people of low-income, people of color, and/or people with disabilities.

Evaluating Housing Models

In order to advocate for people of low-income, people of color, and/or people with disabilities in Massachusetts’ communities, we must develop and implement strategies for effective resident control of housing. There is a broad range of options for community- or resident-based property ownership, management, and control, but each housing development must select the model that best suits the needs, interests, and capabilities of its residents.

Some examples of models for owning and/or financing housing that support more inclusive communities include: community land trusts (CLTs), mutual housing associations, cooperatives and limited equity cooperatives (LECs), individual development accounts (IDAs). Municipal support for resident control and community-based housing is also important: New York City and Washington, D.C. provide strong examples of legislative protection for tenants and low-income residents. Looking at case studies and interviewing experts will help determine which housing models will best protect a given population in a given community.

Common UEP questions
| August 25, 2011 | 12:00 am | Uncategorized | Comments closed

Updated Q: You mention Cities below, but what are requirements for the other core courses?

  • Everyone must take Foundations in their first semester, as well as Quant. You have to take Econ in your first spring semester. Those are the only requirements. You can get a waiver for either Quant or Econ if you majored in the subject or if you have significant work experience using those methods. Those are the only acceptable criteria for a waiver. If you want to try to waive Quant or Econ, contact Mary Davis or the folks at the office.

Q: How many classes should I take, and when?

  • A common courseload schedule for UEP is 4-4-3-1. For non-native English speakers and folks working a lot, three courses per semester might be more comfortable than four. UEP allows you to count your thesis as one credit instead of two, if you want to squeeze in another class for credit. But most faculty are also happy to have an enthusiastic auditor in their course, if you want to take a class but not for credit.

Q: When should I take Cities in Space, Place, and Time?

  • Cities is the only core course whose timing we get to decide. It’s offered in the fall, and you can take it during your first year or your second year. Last year, some people felt like they benefited from taking Foundations and Cities at the same time, that the two courses complimented each other. Foundations is more on the theoretical side of planning and policy (at least it was last year) and Cities is more on the historical side. Other people felt like that combination didn’t matter, or even that they’d prefer not to pair them. I liked having them at the same time, but it’s really up to you based on what other courses you want to take. Cities is also a good place to meet people who aren’t in your class year, because it’s about half and half usually.

    Barbara raises another factor: if you see an elective you really want to take this fall, then she recommends doing the elective in place of Cities. But if you don’t see something else you really want to take,  then go ahead and take Cities. That leaves you free the fall of your 2nd year for an elective.

Q: How many hours do UEPers normally study?

  • I always have trouble estimating this sort of thing, partly because it varies greatly depending on your personal learning style. Some people are good at skimming or reading only the important bits, and then it will take less time. Some people need to read every word closely, and for those people it will take more time. Also, it depends greatly on what classes you take. Some classes put more emphasis on the readings, and some put less. A figure the faculty sometimes cite is 10 hours per week per class, but that seems like a little high to both me and Ann U. Perhaps a good metric is this: for most people, working more than 15-20 hours per week and doing all their classwork is too much.

Q: How many people pursue dual degrees or other joint concentrations in each year?

  • Ann says about 8-10 students per year are enrolled in a joint or dual degree program. Typically about 2-3 with Child Development, maybe 1 in Economics, 2-4 in AFE with Friedman, 1-2 in Fletcher. There used to not be many Fletcher dual degrees, but there used to be 1-2 with Engineering. However, it’s all up to you. If everyone in the incoming class wanted to do a dual degree…that would be a lot. But the number could be a lot higher or lower; it’s up to you.

Q: What extracurricular activities do UEP students get involved in?

  • UEP has the Student Policy and Planning Association (SPPA), which organizes weekly socials (Thursty Thursdays) and other events for UEP students. The Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS) puts on a lot of events for grad students, as does the Graduate Student Council (GSC). Also, the Tufts Institute for the Environment (TIE) and the Office of Sustainability (OoS) host events that UEP students attend, as do Fletcher School (international relations) and Tisch College (volunteerism and citizenship). You’ll get emails for most of these events. People generally don’t get involved in clubs the way you do during undergrad, but there are lots of other fun things that happen. Last year, several UEPers were involved in HONK!fest, a festival of activist street bands that happens around Davis Square around the end of September. Other people get involved in organizations like Bikes Not Bombs in Jamaica Plain (JP). Some people work, which takes up a chunk of time. A lot of social activity, though, happens informally within UEP.

Q: Do you walk around campus or bike?

  • The campus is small enough and hilly enough that to get around campus, most people walk. However, a lot of students do bike to campus, and some hardcore people even bike to class in the winter!

Q: Where do people study around campus?

In rough order of popularity:

  1. Tower Cafe (in Tisch Library, snacks & coffee)
  2. GIS Lab
  3. Student Center (mediocre but plentiful food)
  4. Tisch Library
  5. White House
  6. Brown House
  7. Grad Student Lounge (snacks and printing and no undergrads)

Q: Where is there good food near campus?

  • Boloco, just north of campus
  • Nick’s Pizza, just north of campus
  • Yoshi’s, in Powderhouse Square
  • Tu y Yo, in Powderhouse Square
  • Sound Bites, in Ball Square
  • Istanbulu’u, in Teele Square
  • PJ Ryan’s, in Teele Square
  • Boston Burger Company, in Davis Square
  • Dave’s Fresh Pasta, in Davis Square
  • Anna’s Taqueria, in Davis Square
  • Blue Shirt Cafe, in Davis Square
  • Mike’s, in Davis Square
  • Redbones, in Davis Square

Q: Where are the good coffeeshops?

  • Danish Pastry House, just north of campus
  • Diesel Cafe in Davis Square
  • True Grounds in Ball Square
  • Cafe Rustica, near Porter Square
  • Simon’s Coffee House, near Porter Square (one of Julian’s favorites)

Q: What’s the deal with the internship?

  • Most people do their internship in the summer after the first year, but you don’t have to – you can do it during the semester as well. A lot of people count their job as their UEP internship if it’s applicable. And applicability is flexible as well: one of last year’s second-years got a summer job working at big music festivals working to make them greener, and it was fine. That topic then became his thesis. It’s never too early to start looking for good internships, but for our year the period between mid-March and mid-April was the most comfortable window in which to find one for the summer. Many people were still scrambling for internships after that, though.

Q: Where do I go for student services stuff?

Q: How do I get a refund on excess financial aid?

Q: Where is there a microwave that I can use to heat my (home-made, organic, totally delicious) lunch/dinner?

  1. Brown House, in the kitchen. Great if you want to hang out with other lunching UEPers or you want to wash your dishes.
  2. Mayer Student Center third floor. Go up the stairs where the banners, turn up the stairs to the right then turn left at the top of the flight.
  3. Tisch College basement. Enter the side door of Lincoln-Filene to the right just before the main entrance to Tisch College. Go down the stairs, then turn left. The microwave is on the left. Theoretically, this one is only for Tisch College staff, I assume. But everyone has always been friendly and welcoming down there.