Master of Urban Planning – The End of My First Semester

Urban Housing Structures

This week marks the end of my first semester as an Urban and Regional Planning graduate student at the University of Colorado Denver.  This semester has been a challenging one and with many ups and downs.  As I reflect on the semester and its entirety, what comes to mind first is the pure excitement that I was feeling during the first couple of weeks.  I was so energized by the new faces and opportunities before me.  This enthusiasm led me to make very good impressions on the faculty and my peers, become the social chair for the student chapter of the American Planning Association at my school and create a general image of myself as one who can do it all: work many hours a week, take a full course load and still be present at events of all kinds.  Today, I fear that this image may have been compromised by the stress that I so outwardly expressed during the middle of the semester and the dilemma I had to deal with that I spoke of often.

The challenge I accepted on day one certainly got the best of me at times.  On one occasion I was so stressed that I questioned what I was even doing in the program.  This stress was due, at this point in time, mostly to my cumulative workload.  It did not help that I was experiencing quite a bit of internal strife regarding exactly what I wanted to do with my career in urban planning for much of the semester.  Prior to relocating to Denver I was set on the physical planning of downtowns and the policy that supports a thriving built environment.  After I moved to Colorado, I began to spend the time that I would otherwise have spent exploring the urban environment camping and hiking and exploring the wilderness instead – much to my heart’s content.  My passion for the natural environment began to overshadow my passion for the built environment.  Being someone who is guided by their passions, I felt lost because of this.  What kind of urban planner stares dreamily at Longs Peak out of a window during a lecture on urban revitalization?  Much of my semester was filled with what psychologists would refer to as cognitive dissonance.

Today, with just one final exam to go (a presentation on transit options for disabled older adults in Adams County), I feel a little better about the program and my role in it.  The fact is that there exists no better program for a developing urban planner with my specific interests.  I could specialize in regional sustainability, which I think I will do, and even more specifically in wilderness preservation.  Taking relevant classes that lead me towards this specialized degree will in the process allow me to better define exactly what I want to do with my career.  I already know that environmental sustainability will be the outcome.  I am practicing that now working at CAP Management.  In fact, our company won the CAI-RMC HOA of the Year Award for the work we did (under my guidance) to increase water efficiency and create a community garden at one of our largest HOAs.  It is clear to me through such success that sustainability in the built environment is for me.  Beginning next semester, with the course aptly titled The Built and Natural Environments, I am sure to feel better about the profession.  My classes this year simply were too broad and unrelated to my specific career interests to do me much good with my semester-long dilemma.

Many years ago I realized that a critical way to protect the natural environment is to enhance the built environment.  As with all things, the best results come from balance.  This passionate understanding has carried me to where I stand today.  I will continue with my career in urban planning, more focused today than I was a month ago after having time to sort my thoughts.  I intend to stay at CAP Management through graduate school and likely beyond.  With that in mind, I hope that all of our homeowners and Board members will consider me a resource.  Providing community support can take many forms.  If discussing my experiences can benefit you or someone you know, please feel free to give me call at 303.832.2971 ext. 102 or email me at AlexB@capmanagement.com.  I’d be happy to share my experiences to assist another in resolving their cognitive dissonance or any concern related to graduate school or the field of urban planning.  I’m here to help – and so is the rest of the team at CAP Management – for this and all of your HOA needs.