Tag Archives: Students

MURP Students and Faculty Head to 2017 APA Colorado Conference

October 12, 2017

This year’s American Planning Association (APA) Colorado conference was held in beautiful Telluride, Colorado, October 4 – 6, 2017. More than twenty MURP students, as well as several faculty members, attended the conference, which held sessions, workshops, mobile tours and receptions that addressed the challenges and opportunities facing the planning profession in Colorado.

APAS Student Representative Meghan Boydston said, “The students that attended, myself included, enjoyed hearing presentations from speakers from all over the world. We also love the opportunity to meet professionals with a variety of types of planning careers, all while appreciating the natural beauty of Telluride.”

The opening plenary featured Elizabeth Garner, who serves as the state demographer for the Colorado Department of Local Affairs (DOLA). At DOLA, the State Demography office produces population and economic estimates and forecasts for use by state agencies and local governments. During her talk, Garner discussed Colorado’s “demographic transition,” including how Colorado is economically and demographically maturing, as well as how the state is hosting an aging population that will continue to bring a demand for new workers.

Similarly, the conference’s other keynote speaker, Alan Mallach of the Metropolitan Policy Program of the Brookings Institution, talked with conference participants about today’s pressing affordable housing challenges due to changing demographics, economic conditions and housing costs. In addition to the keynotes, an awards ceremony and reception was held on Thursday evening to kick off Community Planning Month.

At this year’s conference, several CU Denver MURP faculty and adjuncts, including Assistant Professor CTT Ken Schroeppel and lecturer Donald Elliott, led sessions on topics such as table and chart design, form-based codes and housing. The sessions at the conference covered the gamut of planning-related topics, including on authentic community engagement; the common ground between public and private sector planners; rural downtown investment strategies; transportation challenges; recreational programming and public lands, and more.

Mobile tour workshops were also held, including walking tours on Historic Downtown Telluride, Planning for Healthy Forests, New Technologies in Ski Manufacturing, Telluride Cultural Arts District, and Telluride Affordable Housing.

Visit here for more information on this year’s APA Colorado Conference, and to read the full schedule of workshops, events and presentations.

MURP Program Hosts ACSP Conference, October 12 – 15, 2017

September 15, 2017

The Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning Conference (ACSP) is coming to Denver.

ACSP is an international membership organization of universities with departments offering planning programs and/or degrees affiliated with planning, in addition to individual faculty and student members. The organization publishes the academic journal, the Journal of Planning Education and Research, as well as hosts annual conferences, workshops and other services for the academic community and general public related to planning.

Its mission—which promotes planning education, research, service and outreach in the United States and internationally—includes recognizing diverse needs and interests in planning; improving and enhancing the accreditation process; and strengthening the role of planning education in universities through publications, conferences and community engagement to extend planning beyond the classroom and into the world of practice.

ACSP’s annual conference is being held in Denver and hosted by CU Denver’s master of urban and regional planning (MURP) program from October 12 to 15, 2017. This year’s conference theme, “Cities, Regions and Growth: Smart, Inclusive and Equitable?” seeks to use Denver as an example for many of the questions faced by planners today. Professor and MURP Department Chair Austin Troy and Assistant Professor Andrew Rumbach are serving as the local host committees’ co-chairs.

While growth in the Denver-metropolitan region has brought tremendous economic opportunity for residents, it has also brought significant challenges, including housing supply shortages and increasing housing costs; land consumption and loss of open space; increasing exposure to natural hazards; traffic congestion and delay; inability to scale transit to meet demand; lack of coordination between jurisdictions; inequitable public education; sectoral imbalance in the economy; gentrification; and congestion of amenities.

However, within these challenges, there is also tremendous opportunity for planning to impact how cities, including Denver, redefine, reinvent and revitalize themselves. For instance, in Denver, reinvestment in central areas has increased walkability, mixed use development and good urban design, among other characteristics that are leading to a more vibrant city. With careful management of growth and development—such as reducing gentrification-induced development and loss of public goods—planners can create a more inclusive strategy to leverage opportunities, such as sustainability and equity, spurred from growth.

This year’s conference will include a welcome reception; paper sessions, presentations and roundtables; mobile tours of neighborhoods such as River North, Sun Valley and downtown Denver led by Assistant Professor CTT Ken Schroeppel; a posters and exhibits reception; a student reception; and a book signing, among other events.

Please see the full conference schedule and stay tuned for further updates.

MURP Chair Presents on Green Infrastructure Research

In early March 2017, MURP Chair and Professor Austin Troy, PhD, gave a presentation on “Research on the Benefits of Urban Green Infrastructure,” which looked at his current and past work regarding the benefits of urban trees and other vegetation for heat island mitigation, shading, increases in property values and crime reduction.

Dr. Troy discussed how in one study, he looked at the relationship between tree canopy and crime index in the greater Baltimore region, and found that a 10% increase in tree cover equates to a 11.8% decrease in crime, with the effect 37% greater for public than private land trees. While the relationship between crime and trees varied spatially—as did the relationship between private trees and crime—the relationship between crime and public trees did not. Similarly, in another study that also used Baltimore as a case study, Dr. Troy looked at the impact of residential yard landscaping practices on block level crime.

Dr. Troy also spent time discussing the idea of causality versus association in research and within green infrastructure studies. For instance, while the association between green infrastructure and crime is well-established, can it be said that vegetation’s association with crime is causal?

Given the few studies currently available on this topic, Dr. Troy conducted another study—looking at San Francisco, Washington, D.C. and New York City—to examine whether crime actually drops more than it would otherwise after green investments have already been made. The results generated, he says, are mixed but promising, with tests within each study area suggesting likely causality.

Dr. Troy also discussed green infrastructure and urban heat, including how different surfaces’ absorptivity, reflectivity, transmissivity and emissivity can generate more or less heat in an urban environment. Dr. Troy has mapped urban heat in Denver, and examined the role of trees in mitigating its effects.

The presentation concluded with Dr. Troy previewing his current work, where he is looking at planning issues related to trees and water in the Denver area. His research questions center on how climate change, water supply and urban growth are affected by the high need for irrigation in the Colorado climate.

Each year, the urban and regional planning program within the College of Architecture and Planning, alongside CU Denver’s American Planning Association Student Chapter, host numerous lectures with faculty to discuss their current research.

MURP Students Participate in The Transit Alliance’s Citizens’ Academy

March 30, 2017

While MURP students have much to learn in the classroom about urban and regional planning, Denver itself also offers a vast network of resources, organizations and opportunities for students to engage in real-life planning scenarios.

The Transit Alliance, a local non-profit organization dedicated to empowering citizens to transform Colorado’s mobility future, provides such occasions through its Citizens’ Academy, which is a seven-week workshop that brings together Denver-based transit advocates. The academy serves to educate and motivate community stakeholders by encouraging their involvement to advance transit, active transportation and increased freedom of mobility.

Daniel Jennings, current MURP student, participated in the academy in Spring 2016. “I had just applied to the MURP program and was eager to get involved in the world of urban planning…participating in the academy allowed for me to be introduced to other planning advocates, and got me excited about the program,” Jennings said.

As part of The Transit Alliance, which focuses on policy and advocacy through its work, the Citizens’ Academy is an avenue for community members interested in Colorado’s transportation and mobility options to build leadership capacity, participate in forums of constructive dialogue about transit, and meet others who share similar and different viewpoints about where they see Colorado’s mobility future.

For Jennings, the Citizens’ Academy—which took place one night a week for seven-weeks—introduced him to different topics tied to transit, with the program often featuring speakers working in greater Denver’s transportation arena, including representatives from Denver Regional Council of Governments, Regional Transportation District and Metro Denver Economic Development Corporation. The academy also featured field trips to experience mobility options in Denver, including a trip to Denver International Airport to ride the University of Colorado A Line that recently opened to the public.

“Overall, the goal of the program was to connect you with other people that had similar interests related to transit, and to get participants thinking about how they could become transit advocates in their own community,” Jennings said. For instance, each participant created an action plan for their own community, which could range in ambition from simply taking your family for a ride on the light rail to investigating how to promote bus rapid transit in Denver.

Given his specific interest in increasing walkability within communities, Jennings’ project focused on improving walking conditions in Denver’s Lincoln Park-La Alma neighborhood. Through The Transit Alliance and work on his action plan, Jennings was also introduced to other transit and mobility-related organizations in Denver, such as WalkDenver and the Community Active Living Coalition.

“The Transit Alliance was a great introduction for me to the world I was about to enter with the MURP program,” Jennings said. “I was able to talk with and learn first-hand from planners, architects and other community members. Since a big part of graduate school is meeting people who are working in your desired profession, the Citizens’ Academy gave me a head start.”

Since beginning in 2007, The Transit Alliance’s Citizens’ Academy has graduated more than 800 community members interested in improving mobility throughout Colorado.

To learn more about The Transit Alliance, visit:  http://www.transitalliance.org/.

MURP Alumni Meet with Current Students On Capstone Projects

March 5, 2017

On February 23, the CU Denver MURP Alumni Association hosted its first Capstone, Cookies and Coffee, which is an opportunity for current MURP students working on their capstone projects to discuss their specific topic of exploration and progress with MURP alumni working in the urban and regional planning field.

The event was hosted at the College of Architecture and Planning, and was organized by specific urban planning-related topic areas and skill sets so that students could find alumni who best paired up with their interests and own work.

To become part of the CU Denver MURP Alumni Association’s annual schedule of activities, 2017 was the kick-off year for such an event that allows students to network with professionals in the field that also went through urban planning education at the same institution.

At this year’s event, approximately ten MURP students, eight alumni and three faculty attended, with the goal of providing alumni an opportunity to offer students advice on their capstone methods, approaches, data sources, contacts and case studies that may be useful in their research and work. Alumni also agreed to review students’ ongoing progress to provide feedback as requested.

Deemed a success, the CU Denver MURP Alumni Association plans to hold this event each spring as a way to support current students in completing these final projects; better integrate alumni into current happenings of the Department of Urban and Regional Planning; and provide increased occasions for alumni to interact with students for mentorship and networking opportunities.

Assistant Professor Carrie Makarewicz, the faculty liaison for the CU Denver MURP Alumni Association, and CU Denver MURP Alumni Association President Eric Ross were present to assist in facilitating the event.

Picture featured includes second-year MURP student Bryan Sullivan; Alumni Faculty Liaison and Assistant Professor Carrie Makarewicz; and Kevin Patterson, a dual-degree MURP and Master of Public Affairs Alumni who is the current director of the Colorado Health Exchange and former director within the City and County of Denver.

APAS Chapter Welcomes MURP Students Back for Semester

February 10, 2017

On January 30, CU Denver’s APAS held its first meeting of the Spring 2017 semester. As a student division of the American Planning Association (APA)—which is a national group of planners, public officials, educators and other dedicated citizens committed to creating vital communities—CU Denver’s chapter ensures that MURP students are engaged with activities, conferences and speakers shaping the future of the profession.

During the semester, APAS will be offering the following activities, engagements and learning opportunities for its student members:

Brown Bag Series – This series gives students the opportunity to meet over lunch with professors and lecturers, who will present and have a discussion with students on an area of interest.  This is a great way for students to hear a lecture on a planning topic they may be interested in but have not yet had the change to explore.  It is also an opportunity for students and faculty to hear about research and work happening within the MURP department.

Policy Series – This three-part series will provide students the opportunity to hear from practitioners on how planning policy gets developed, adopted and implemented from key points of engagement, including advocates, planning staff and elected representatives.

Colorado Planning Tour 
– During the 2017 spring break, APAS will be taking a road trip around Colorado to visit a handful of cities across the state.  While in various locations, the chapter will explore what towns and cities are doing from a planning perspective.  This may take the form of guided tours with planning staff, Q&A sessions with planners followed by independent exploration, conducting research on an aspect of planning in a particular locale, and more.

Job Shadow Program & Resume/Cover Letter Workshop – APAS hosted a successful job shadow program in the fall and is excited to host another round this spring.  The chapter’s focus will be on expanding the program by growing its list of hosts, especially those in high interest areas.  In addition, APAS will host a resume and cover letter workshop for students to make sure they are ready to look for internships and jobs this spring.

Happy Hours
 – APAS wants all MURP students to get to know and network with other people in the program! Happy hours will be planned throughout the semester.

Facilitation Workshop – Public engagement is critical for ensuring MURP students are planning for all members of the community and developing equitable plans. However, effective public engagement isn’t always easy to do, and facilitating those conversations requires skill and practice.  APAS will host a workshop designed to help students build their public engagement and facilitation skills.

Questions about getting involved in APAS as a student member, helping to serve as a volunteer for any of the mentioned events, or running for the APAS Board for the 2017-2018 school year (elections take place on March 27, 2017)?

Visit the APAS homepage, where you’ll find upcoming events and APAS board contact information.

January 2017: MURP Department, Faculty and Student Updates

MURP faculty are busy serving the planning profession, the community and our students through their leadership and participation in publications, presentations and media stories. Our students are also making great strides, with recent scholarship awards for their exemplary academic performance.

 Notable activities in January 2017 include:

Jeremy Németh, associate professor of urban and regional planning spoke at the University of Manitoba Faculty of Architecture’s Annual Lecture Series. In the talk entitled, “Just Space: Why public space matters now more than ever,” Németh spoke about how public space performs three critical functions for an increasingly divided nation: housing protests, making the marginalized visible, and encouraging encounters between people that are very different from one another. For more information on the event, which was attended by 100 participants and took place on January 12 in the university’s Millennium Library, click here.


Austin Troy, professor and urban and regional planning and department chair, has been working with the United States Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service (Forest Service) to plan for an “urban field station” in Denver, which would host and help organize research and activities related to management of the urban environment and urban ecological systems. The Forest Service currently hosts four urban field stations in Baltimore, New York, Chicago and Philadelphia, and the proposed Denver station would be the first official Forest Service field station in the West.

The proposed station is being developed in conjunction with the U.S. Geological Survey, as well as Denver Parks and Recreation Department’s Division of Forestry. To help fund the project, Dr. Troy received a 2016 Forest Service grant to facilitate the planning and potential setup of this station, in addition to providing support for a meeting attended by representatives from the Forest Service, the U.S. Geological Survey, Denver Forestry, the Environmental Protection Agency, The Trust for Public Land, The Nature Conservancy and academia. The grant also supports a trip by Dr. Troy and Forest Service personnel to tour the eastern urban field stations that will inform a startup strategy and business plan for the station.


Through the Women’s Transportation Seminar (WTS), first year MURP student Meghan McCloskey Boydston was awarded the 2016-2017 WTS Leadership Legacy Scholarship award. Launched in 2007, the Leadership Legacy Scholarship provides financial aid to an exemplary woman pursuing graduate studies in a transportation-related field. This award furthers WTS’ mission to “build the transportation industry through the global advancement of women can be realized by encouraging women to further their careers as leaders in transportation.” The scholarship also focuses on advancing students interested in sustainable communities and public transit, and seeks to reward women who bring ideas, innovation and new approaches to U.S. and international transportation challenges. Congratulations Meghan!


Last year, CU Denver College of Architecture and Planning’s Department of Urban and Regional Planning was written into an awarded $30 Million Choice Neighborhoods Initiative (CNI) grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to address the redevelopment of Denver’s Sun Valley neighborhood. The grant was awarded to Denver Housing Authority (DHA), with CU Denver’s to serve as the official data hub for the project. Austin Troy, professor and urban and regional planning and department chair, will coordinate CU Denver’s involvement in this project. To house the data, a server has been set up in conjunction with CityCraft Ventures, which now hosts a large database of publicly-available geographic information system (GIS) files for all of west Denver, the grant’s geographic area of focus. Ultimately, CU Denver will work with DHA and research partners at Colorado State University, Regis University, CU Boulder and University of Denver to develop a system of indicators that will be used to measure neighborhood well-being and health as the neighborhood transforms. The team will also conduct GIS analyses to quantify the natural and built environment of Sun Valley.

MURP Students Participate in Housing Charrette with Industry Professionals

November 4, 2016

In late September, MURP students in Assistant Professor CTT and Associate Chair Jennifer Steffel Johnson’s Urban Housing class participated in a community design charrette, which is an intensive, hands-on workshop that brings together numerous disciplines to explore architectural, planning and development options for particular areas or sites.

Urban Housing is an interdisciplinary class that includes urban and regional planning, architecture and landscape architecture students. “Design by Community Charrette” was conducted in partnership with professional architects, who serve as team leaders that organize the students and their progress on the project, as well with Housing Colorado, a statewide non-profit organization “working to educate, inform and advocate for affordable housing.”

housing-charette-2016-2

To solicit projects, Housing Colorado released a request for proposal for potential organizations to apply to be the focus of the charrette, with applications often coming from housing authorities, municipalities and non-profit housing organizations. With their proposal, applicants must have a real project and site in mind for which they want to implement an actionable plan.

For the Fall 2016 charrette, two applicants were chosen—Mile High Ministries’ York Street Project in Denver, and Fort Collins Housing Authority and City of Fort Collins’ Colorado Housing Project in Fort Collins. Fort Collins’ project consisted of a 60-acre site of undeveloped, city-owned land. The site was zoned for up to 204 units and sought to develop a mixed used and mixed income design to provide diverse housing choices for households of all types. Mile High Ministries requested assistance with the development of a mixed-used affordable housing community on blighted property in the northeast Denver neighborhood of Cole, which is located off of York Street.

During the class, students conducted precedent and existing conditions studies for several weeks on the actual sites to understand both the clients’ needs as well as their particular projects.  After the preliminary work was completed, the design charrette took place over three days on the designated sites, which included assistance from volunteer architects, landscape architects, planners, construction and finance professionals, market analysts and representatives from the client organizations. Together with the students, the teams assembled the designs for the projects.

housing-charette-2016-1

At the end of the three days, the project typically progresses enough so that the client can move forward in searching for funding to implement the final product. For instance, in past years, several charrette projects have been built or are currently under construction. It is estimated that the services provided by the students and volunteer professionals is worth upward of $60,000 per organization.

To conclude the design charrette, students presented their completed work at the Housing Colorado NOW! Annual Conference, which took place in Beavercreek, Colorado from October 5 to 7.

MURP Professor Lectures on International Planning in Asia

As part of its brown bag lunch lecture series, CU Denver’s American Planning Association Student Chapter (APAS) hosted College of Architecture and Planning (CAP) Assistant Professor Andrew Rumbach on October 11 to present a lecture on Marshes, Malls and Land Mafias: The Political Ecology of Flood Risk in Kolkata, India.

The presentation—which dovetails with Rumbach’s areas of research interest, including disasters and climate change, environmental risk, urban resilience, international planning, and small town and rural development—hosted about twenty students and faculty interested in learning more about his extensive work in south and southeast Asia.

During his lecture, Rumbach discussed how studying the root causes of flood risk in Asia drives his research, and examined three main sub-topics: how urbanization, flooding, and climate change affect Asian megacities; the specific case study of Kolkata in this context; and additional, in-depth information about the east Kolkata wetlands, which suffer from poor planning due to linkages between organized crime, local politics and real estate development.

Rumbach shared that by 2050, 6.4 billion people will live in cites, with 90% of this growth taking place in south Asia, southeast Asia, and Africa, which will contribute to the most radical shift in human settlement patterns in history. Due to this increasing global density, urbanization is becoming one of the main drivers of disaster likelihood in Asia, with the risk of environmental hazards—such as floods and storms—becoming more prevalent when a population’s level of vulnerability and exposure increases. Further, as urban governance through corrupt regimes plays a key role in the creation and distribution of resources critical to disaster risk reduction, much of the population often finds itself with unequal access to resources.

Rumbach further provided specific examples and photographs of these scenarios in Kolkata, India, and specifically the east Kolkata wetlands, which sits at the edge of the megacity and provides an estimated 50% of local demand for freshwater fish, but is subject to illegal land development that destroys this critical industry. Due to state power that is entrenched with the activity of local criminal groups, Rumbach’s presentation signified that a significant challenge to meaningful planning in the region remains.

“The brownbag was a great opportunity to share my research on Indian urbanization and environmental risk with students and colleagues. I look forward to future APAS organized events, which will greatly benefit the intellectual and research culture in the department and college,” Rumbach said.

For students interested in learning more about disaster and international development planning, Rumbach also noted the intersection between his areas of research and classes he teaches, including Natural and Built Environments, Disaster and Climate Change Planning, and Planning in the Developing World.

Brown bag lunch lectures are a part of APAS’ scheduled programming for the 2016-2017 school year. In addition to this lecture series, APAS offers opportunities for urban and regional planning students to participate in job shadowing, interdisciplinary walking tours, the annual Colorado American Planning Association conference, volunteer opportunities with non-profit organizations and more.  

Click here to learn more about APAS at CU Denver, including to visit their event calendar.

MURP Students Conduct Intercept Surveys During First Friday Art Walk

As part of an environmental and market research project that the College of Architecture and Planning (CAP) is managing for River North (RiNo) Art District, students from the Master of Urban and Regional Planning (MURP) program conducted intercept surveys to gather visitor perceptions of RiNo during the district’s First Friday Art Walk.

Nearly a dozen students dispersed to prominent intersections of the Denver neighborhood—which has experienced rapid commercial, business and residential growth over the last several years—to stop passerbys and request their assistance in completing a survey about their general experience in RiNo, their awareness of the First Friday Art Walk, and other perception and demographic questions that will provide a snapshot of visitors’ patterns and behaviors in the district. Housed nearby diverse art galleries, restaurants, boutiques and breweries, students collected a significant sample size of surveys from pedestrians.

The intercept survey, which is part of a larger project capturing trends taking place in the district in the midst of RiNo’s growth, will be one of several qualitative evaluation techniques CU Denver uses to inform its final report for the RiNo Art District. Other methods being utilized include a survey of the RiNo Art District members; one-on-one interviews with local residents, business owners and artists; and potentially the use of focus groups to gather group feedback on the neighborhood’s changes.

The First Friday survey distribution also provided many first-year MURP students the opportunity to practice their intercept survey skills, which is a qualitative evaluation technique frequently used by planners.

Earlier in the semester, Assistant Professor Carrie Makarewicz’s Planning Project Studio course, which focuses on teaching second-year MURP students how to design plans for real-world clients, toured the area with RiNo Art District Executive Director Jamie Licko and Communications Director Alye Sharp to learn more about the rapidly-occurring changes in the neighborhood.

RiNo Art District, alongside Create Denver—a division of the City and County of Denver’s Arts and Venues, which focuses on supporting Denver’s creative economy—are the two clients the students continue to work with throughout the remainder of the semester, with the goal of developing for their clients quality-of-life plans of the area and its surrounding neighborhoods.

In addition to leading the studio course, Makarewicz also serves as the CU Denver project director for the research being conducted for RiNo Art District.