s MURP Alumni Profiles - Master of Urban and Regional Planning

MURP Alumni Profiles

Eugene D. Howard, AICP, MURP 2013
Urban Planner, City and County of Denver

What have you been up to since finishing the MURP program?
Since graduating from CU Denver, I spent two years working on transit, transportation and mobility in Douglas County. While there, I focused on providing transportation services for vulnerable populations, including seniors, persons with physical and mental disabilities, and lower income individuals. I learned a great deal about the needs of diverse populations in mountain, rural and suburban communities, and had the great pleasure of working with peers in local jurisdictions, non-profit organizations and regional transportation organizations. For someone who imagined working in Denver right out of school, this was an overwhelmingly satisfying opportunity that exposed me to the needs of suburban communities.

After a successful stint in Douglas County, I was presented with the opportunity of working for the City and County of Denver. Being a Denver resident living within close proximity to downtown, this was a chance to serve the city that love and call home. I joined the Planning Services staff in the Spring of 2016 and have been enjoying my work on citywide, neighborhood and special projects. I revel in community engagement and thoroughly enjoy our work in shaping the future vision for the city through the help and guidance of our citizens and stakeholders.

What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishments?
First and foremost is the love and support of my life partner, children and family. Throughout my childhood, I wanted nothing more than to live my version of the “American Dream,” and I am thankful every single day that I have been granted that wish.

Professionally, I am happy to have become a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners, having secured my accreditation in 2017. I also view my time in Douglas County as a great accomplishment, having successfully resumed transportation services for those in need while also increasing Local, State and Federal grant program funding. Currently, I find success in strengthening trust and relationship between the City and County of Denver and the residents we are employed to serve. Being greeted with a smile or a hug from members of the community brings me the greatest joy, and the reassurance that planning is the career for me.

What would you say to prospective students considering the University of Colorado Denver MURP program?
Go for it! Serving the needs of citizens is one of the most challenging and potentially rewarding careers I can think of. We get to be visionaries, problem-solvers, solution seekers and participants in our future. It may be a slow process that takes time and resources, but in the end, I believe the rewards far outweigh the challenges. Don’t sit on the sidelines, jump in! No matter your areas of interest, you can make a difference and CU Denver’s College of Architecture and Planning programs are among the best!

Brandon Shaver,  MURP 2014
Planner, City and County of Denver

What have you been up to since you finished the MURP program?
After graduating from CU-Denver, I spent two years working for local firms specializing in land use economics and the creation of special taxing districts. This experience gave me new insight at the local level and ultimately became a stepping stone for my current position at the City and County of Denver.

As part of Denver’s Citywide Planning team, I focus on comprehensive planning and plan implementation. This work includes updates to the zoning code, zoning map, and the approval of comprehensive signage plans in the downtown area. Currently, my biggest undertaking involves being a part of the team to update Blueprint Denver, an integrated land use and transportation plan, that will provide policy direction to strategically guide growth and ensure that Denver remains a livable, diverse and inclusive city for the next 20 years.

In what ways has your MURP degree had an impact on your career and who you are today?
My MURP degree has had a profound impact on both my career and who I am today. The MURP program opened my eyes to key processes, policies and community relationships that are necessary to create and shape an urban environment that allows us to thrive. The MURP program contributed not only to my knowledge and understanding of the importance of planning, but it also showed me how to relay that information to residents from different backgrounds and experiences.

Do you have a favorite story about your time at CU Denver?
My favorite memory from CU Denver is my first day of the program. I was impressed by the diverse educational backgrounds of my cohort and the stories that led them to Denver to study planning.

What would you say to a prospective student that is considering a University of Colorado MURP degree?
While talking to prospective students, I would emphasize the quality and professionalism of the faculty, and the close attention and advice they offer each student. Additionally, the location of the campus, and the city itself, offer the perfect urban laboratory to explore the many facets of planning.

Here are brief profiles of our MURP alumni:

Josh Olson, MURP 2006
Planner, St. Paul, Minnesota
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What have you been up to since you finished the MURP program?
After graduation from CU-Denver, I spent a couple years working as a planner in the Community Development Department of Douglas County. Douglas County was a great environment to learn and find the areas of planning that I was passionate about.

I moved to Minnesota in 2008 and for the past 7+ years I’ve been advancing transit and redevelopment projects for Ramsey County in Saint Paul, Minnesota. I’ve spent the majority of that time working on transit projects, including the opening of the Green Line LRT, the A-Line arterial BRT corridor, and the restoration of the historic Saint Paul Union Depot into a modern multimodal facility

Last year, I transitioned into a leadership role in the County-led redevelopment of Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant (TCAAP). TCAAP is one of the last and largest undeveloped properties in the Twin Cities. It also happens to be Minnesota’s largest Superfund site.  With environmental remediation complete, TCAAP set to become a walkable, mixed-use and net-zero community.

What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishments?
I’ve been blessed to have worked on several large projects—carving a professional niche in publicly-led projects. The renovation of Union Depot in downtown Saint Paul has to be the most memorable accomplishment.  I had the opportunity to lead the economic development strategy and be involved in design decisions through the renovation. I also led weekly tours of the building before, during and after restoration. These tours often provided me with some of most rewarding moments. It is easy to get caught up in the day-to-day work but to learn of deep connections people hold for this special place was truly memorable.

What would you say to a prospective student that is considering a CU Denver MURP degree?
CU-Denver was a great program for me. While I was a Colorado native, I strongly considered other programs around the country. I felt at the time and believe to be true now, that CU Denver’s location and its faculty where its best assets. Faculty cultivated creativity and critical thought through issues and community challenges happening in real-time.

Sarah Doyle, MURP 2013
Associate, Norris Design, Denver Colorado
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What have you been up to since you finished the MURP program?
I am an Associate at Norris Design. Norris Design is a multidisciplinary firm that focuses on planning, landscape architecture, graphic design, and project promotion. At Norris Design, I focus primarily on design (all stages), residential planning, and city approval processes, to the completion of landscape architecture construction documents and construction management in the field. I would like to say I am an ace of all trades. I can wear the planning hat at one moment and then switch to the design and contracting hat as well. I work with city and county officials, developers, architect, engineers, and contractors to manage a project from start to completion.

In what ways has your MURP degree had an impact on your career and who you are today?
My MURP degree has impacted my career through educating me on how government and policy planning work in shaping our urban settings. I really enjoyed learning the planning history, planning policy and law, and urban design techniques that shape our communities. The MURP program helped grow my understanding of community development and social justice issues as well.

Do you have a favorite story about your time at CU Denver?
My passion in the industry grew at the Colorado Center for Community Development in grant writing, community development, schoolyard/playground development, and health care design. I also loved commiserating and studying in studio with my fellow classmates. I think some of my favorite memories come from the friendships I gained in studios working on projects together all night long as well as the pranks we would pull on each other.

What would you say to a prospective student that is considering a CU Denver MURP degree?
I would recommend you analyze why you are going into the program and really understand what outcomes you would like to achieve. Think about a few questions: Will the educational benefits outweigh the costs of the program? Is it a worthwhile return on investment and in your future goals? I would also recommend doing internships, networking, and working in firms while going through the program. Having a portfolio at the end of the program as well as networking will go a long way in getting your foot in the door at the end of the program. If you have a deadline but there is also a networking event, try to take some time out of your day to go the event. School is important but what is equally important is the outcome after you graduate. Use your college time to take chances on design and projects, work on things that cultivate your passion in the industry, and get you a step further in your career when you are all finished up.

Chad Reischl, MURP 2011
Planner, Jeffersonville, Indiana
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What have you been up to since you finished the MURP program?
After finishing the MURP program I had the opportunity to work for two years as the Long-Range, Flood-Recovery Planner for the City of Evans, Colorado. I’m currently employed as the Long-Range Planner for Jeffersonville, Indiana, a fast-growing community of 45,000 people across the Ohio River from Louisville, KY. In my current position I’m working on projects that expand and enhance our historic downtown, improve pedestrian and bicycle connections in the area and help grow our housing stock to support a large number of new industrial jobs that have recently been created our community.

What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishments?
Prior to getting my Master’s Degree, I helped found WeCAN, a neighborhood organization in the West Colfax Neighborhood of Denver. I served as president of that organization for three years and helped grow the organization from its humble beginnings to a 500-person organization that had a huge influence on development in that neighborhood. Our organization highly influential in bringing the new Rodolfo “Corky” Gonzales Branch Library to the neighborhood and influencing the design of the building. We also had huge say in the Sloan’s Development on the former site of St. Anthony’s Hospital and other neighborhood developments. I’ve always considered the formation of this organization one of my greatest personal accomplishments.

How did you become interested in your field?
I grew up several miles outside a rapidly growing community in central Minnesota. As a teenager I remember watching as suburban development crept ever closer to our family’s farm, meanwhile they kept tearing down all the old buildings in the Downtown area. I always wondered what forces were at play that caused perfectly good buildings to be abandoned and torn down, while viable farm land was getting eaten up by the same businesses and institutions who were leaving Downtown. I pursued an undergraduate degree in architecture, another interest of mine, but continued to be fascinated by the ways cities grew and developed. Architectural practice never really held my interest, and eventually I decided to pursue my Masters in Urban and Regional Planning at CU Denver.

In what ways has your MURP degree had an impact on your career and who you are today?
In the process of getting my degree, I had two opportunities to work on Health Impact Assessments, once as part of a class on “Planning for Healthy Communities” and again in my second studio. In my professional career I’ve found the knowledge of how development impacts public health to be very important. While we might not all agree about housing density, parking standards, building heights, downtown-vs-suburban development, or the location of a bicycle trail, health is a common denominator. When you can relate how decisions impact health there’s a great in-road in the conversation. Talking about health is also a great opportunity to broaden the scope of project funding. I recently got a $10,000  grant for the City of Jeffersonville, to plant trees along a designated walking route when I had a chance meeting an organization working to improve air quality for residents in the area. We are excited to put the $10,000 we’ll be saving on landscaping toward adding other amenities along the route.