Master of Urban Planning – Inspirations and First Impressions

My name is Alex Bergeron.  I have been working for the homeowners association (HOA) management company CAP Management since the beginning of 2013 and have loved each and every day of it.  The work really is quite exciting.  Over these past months, I’ve overseen the installation of a large community garden, the retrofitting of a large homeowners association’s interior plumbing and got to work with all sorts of interesting and engaged individuals to bring these initiatives to fruition.  The many other ‘in-the-field’ work experiences I’ve had this year along with these sustainability projects have one thing in common: they all deal with perfecting the built environment.  I did, after all, move to Denver from Providence, Rhode Island to explore the planning methods of the American West.  In New England, cities developed more organically than they do in this more recently developed region.  Western cities are very much planned and I want to discover how.  I am now taking my pursuit of this knowledge one giant leap forward by beginning my Master of Urban and Regional Planning (MURP) program at the University of Colorado Denver.

While I haven’t yet seen too many courses in HOA management listed in the curriculum, my degree will surely benefit any work that I do in this field.  CAP Management and its business partners do operate in the largest city within a 500-mile radius.  Metropolitan Denver is unique in this way making the regional aspect of my studies quite pertinent.  My specific interests in planning are regional in nature – particularly in regards to the preservation of the natural environment and the conservation of its resources.  Given the location of Denver and the Front Range metro area alongside the still very wild Rocky Mountain chain, there is so much to be learned in this ideal location to be a student.  Securing a balance between the built and natural environments, and really sustainable cities in general, is my motivation for wanting to become an urban planner.

While I haven’t yet seen too many courses in HOA management listed in the curriculum, my degree will surely benefit any work that I do in this field.  CAP Management and its business partners do operate in the largest city within a 500-mile radius.  Metropolitan Denver is unique in this way making the regional aspect of my studies quite pertinent.  My specific interests in planning are regional in nature – particularly in regards to the preservation of the natural environment and the conservation of its resources.  Given the location of Denver and the Front Range metro area alongside the still very wild Rocky Mountain chain, there is so much to be learned in this ideal location to be a student.  Securing a balance between the built and natural environments, and really sustainable cities in general, is my motivation for wanting to become an urban planner.

One week ago today was my orientation for the College of Architecture and Planning class of 2015.  Leading up to this date I was honestly very hesitant to return to school.  It has been over three years since I completed my undergraduate studies at the University of Rhode Island.  In the meantime I feel that I have been living the life, as some would say, here in Denver.  My quality of life has been supreme.  In addition to working for such a great company, I have been meeting new people of all sorts in this young and happening city and taking these new friends with me to the highest mountain peaks and most remote canyons to explore my new region.  I was a bit nervous that I would lose this lifestyle and revert to the days of captivity in the library unaware of if the sun was shining or not.  Much to my elation, I have realized that there will still be plenty of time on the weekends for recreation and during the week my social life would be shared with a great number of like-minded and equally impassioned young professionals.  In my MURP class of 50 students, I have not met anyone I thought was unapproachable or otherwise unpleasant.  Everyone has been so friendly and encouraging of my career path and it so comforting to know that we will be doing this together for next couple of years.  In addition, I am very excited to become involved with the Rocky Mountain Student Chapter of the American Planning Association.  With all of the great folks in my classes and the social opportunities before me with this organization, there is no doubt that the social butterfly within me will remain happily aflutter.  In addition, I think that I will run for the Sustainability Chair position on the organization’s Board of Directors.

So I may remain highly active in the happenings of CAP Management, and also to fund graduate school in a sustainable fashion, I will be working 25 hours per week on average.  Fortunately, I do not think that this first semester of mine will be terribly demanding.  Having received advanced standing for the course titled Planning Theory, due to my having a minor in urban planning from my undergraduate career, I am taking one class fewer than my peers in the program.  This will allow me to enjoy more the social aspect of Denver living without the unrelenting pressure to complete assignments.  I do already feel like I have my plate full with the class Planning Law and Institutions.  Law books are very large!  My first assignment includes about 300 pages of reading for the first week with four reports to accompany it.

The purpose of this blog is to document my experiences as a developing professional in the field of urban planning and studies.  I find that it is relevant to share these experiences with you all as to provide insight on the connections between urban planning at the municipal/regional and academic levels and HOA management.  Homeowners associations sometimes carry a stereotype of being very inclusive and perhaps ideologically isolated from the happenings of the larger urban environment.  While this may be true for gated communities that are ‘off the grid,’ one can see by looking at an aerial image of metropolitan Denver’s land coverage that most of us all live within the confines of a cohesive and unified urban area.  It is my goal to understand, make connections and share with you these discoveries about the links between private and municipal governance and oversight of urban issues because whether you rent in a downtown Denver apartment complex or own a condominium in Lakewood, we are all members of the same regional community and together we shall experience the issues that affect this core of the Front Range Urban Corridor.

The purpose of this blog is to document my experiences as a developing professional in the field of urban planning and studies.  I find that it is relevant to share these experiences with you all as to provide insight on the connections between urban planning at the municipal/regional and academic levels and HOA management.  Homeowners associations sometimes carry a stereotype of being very inclusive and perhaps ideologically isolated from the happenings of the larger urban environment.  While this may be true for gated communities that are ‘off the grid,’ one can see by looking at an aerial image of metropolitan Denver’s land coverage that most of us all live within the confines of a cohesive and unified urban area.  It is my goal to understand, make connections and share with you these discoveries about the links between private and municipal governance and oversight of urban issues because whether you rent in a downtown Denver apartment complex or own a condominium in Lakewood, we are all members of the same regional community and together we shall experience the issues that affect this core of the Front Range Urban Corridor.

Please check in soon to see how my graduate career develops and my discoveries unearthed doing it.  Thanks for reading!