s MURP Alumni Profiles - Master of Urban and Regional Planning

MURP Alumni Profiles

Here are brief profiles of three of our MURP alumni:

Josh Olson, MURP 2006
Planner, St. Paul, Minnesota

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

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

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.