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Walle Brown
Walle Brown

MASTER OF URBAN AND REGIONAL PLANNING

Planned Graduation Year: 2020 

 

Why did you choose to pursue a graduate education in planning at Portland State University?

I chose to enter planning because the profession - in America, has routinely been a vehicle for enacting economic, political and social violence upon my demographic, African-Americans. Quite frankly, I think the intricate players - who are system builders and participants, discriminatory broadly range from overtly racist to radically equity-minded activists, and yet the median is neglectfully complicit in supporting oppressive structures. From transportations systems that neither use straight lines or geometrically efficient shapes - due to non-topographical methodology, or political and social participation structures that value 'historic' home ownership in areas that have raciallyrestrictive covenants written into the deeds, planners of the past have often been white men with the power to make others follow their decisions. Furthermore, these same individuals who drew lines around who received access to capital and who didn't, provided a framework of inequity while remaining personally immune from accountability for the negative externalities of their actions. From Flint, to Savannah, and Portland to Atlanta, I am in planning because I am tired of being a victim - and I know that I can do a better job than my privileged predecessors. Only time will tell. However, in the meantime, I am confident that 1. employing data-driven decision-making together with a 2. fiscally/environmentally sustainable lens and a 3. participative practice that prioritizes transparency will bring about more efficient, democratic, equitable and sustainable outcomes. 

What impact did the PPDA have on your ability to enter graduate school/obtain your MURP degree at PSU? 

I would not have come to Portland or this program without the additional funding provided by the PPDA. It has been paramount to my experience within the Toulan School & Portland outright. 

What connections and experience did you gain from your PPDA? 

The PPDA broke the ice for me getting work within the city. Before I was qualified, but after being qualified with a reference, now I get jobs. The PPDA provides a necessary foot in the door for marginalized students to become viable for jobs they are already qualified to do. 

What aspects of planning do you like best? Or, what is your favorite part about being a planner? 

I appreciate how I am able to bridge abstract city policy with residents 'on-the-ground'. Basically, the implementation and continuous translation of plans is the best of this field for me. In five words: The Participative Practice of Co-Production. 

What planning subarea (or class topic) most interests you? Explain. 

Active Transportation, Housing, Water, Sewage, environmental sustainability, environmental justice, public health & FINANCE 

What do you hope to do after you obtain your degree?

Solace. 

I want peace after this degree. I am fortunate enough to have gained professional experience during my program on the basis of being magically qualified because I was admitted to the program.... The program gave me exposure, but it was on me to actually pick up skills, talk to people and constantly apply to new job applications. Now it is paying off and finishing my degree is personally more important than anything that is left to learn within the program. Returning to earlier, know your reasons why you are about to invest your time, attention, peace of mind and sense of self-respect into these demanding programs, and make sure that you get exactly what you wanted - and then some, from your investment. 

What advice would you offer someone considering a master’s degree in planning? 

Set your goals before coming into the program. Apply for internships while you are inside of the program as early as possible. Design and print your own business cards before coming in - networking is important. For me, most of the valuable information I learned about planning and the built environment did not come through my classes, but through connections that were made possible because I take classes. SO take time to go to community events, demand scholarships from your program to attend conferences and get involved with your local community if you are going to be serious about planning. Also, talk with people who have to actually implement plans...the city workers, the contractors and non-for-profits.