Shaping the 21st Century Urban Strategist

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Urban living can be a blessing and a curse; you have amenities like ease of transportation, the ability to learn from multiple cultures, food and technology…but those pot holes are awful. Why does it take a thousand years to fill them? The ice that falls from skyscrapers—is actually life threatening. However, according to the U.S. Census Bureau cities are home to 62.7 percent of the population and comprise just 3.5 percent of land area. So they must be doing something right!

As cities continue to grow and evolve, so do the challenges they face. The question of “how do we sustainably and equitably support a diverse population of city-dwellers” will fall on the shoulders of a new generation of urban thinkers – a convergence of knowledge in architecture, public he

Urban living can be a blessing and a curse; you have amenities like ease of transportation, the ability to learn from multiple cultures, food and technology…but those pot holes are awful. Why does it take a thousand years to fill them? The ice that falls from skyscrapers—is actually life threatening. However, according to the U.S. Census Bureau cities are home to 62.7 percent of the population and comprise just 3.5 percent of land area. So they must be doing something right!

As cities continue to grow and evolve, so do the challenges they face. The question of “how do we sustainably and equitably support a diverse population of city-dwellers” will fall on the shoulders of a new generation of urban thinkers – a convergence of knowledge in architecture, public health, economics, design and more will guide the ever-changing shape of the urban landscape and continue to improve it.

It’s with this narrative in mind that Drexel introduced its first interdisciplinary Master of Science in Urban Strategy (MSUS), a program built out of Drexel’s university-wide urbanism think tank, the Lindy Institute for Urban Innovation in partnership with the Westphal College of Media Arts & Design’s Department of Architecture, Design & Urbanism.  The Lindy Institute created the MS Urban Strategy program as a multidisciplinary -year master’s degree designed to prepare students to become 21st century urban strategists, equipped to collaboratively and creatively address multifaceted urban challenges on all levels: locally, nationally and globally. The program, the first of its kind in the United States, was co-developed by faculty from multiple schools at Drexel.

Why invest in the field of 21st century urbanism? 

“Drexel is at an important milestone in its development as a world-class institution and as a world-class campus. Drexel’s commitment to the twin imperatives of innovation and inclusion as the drivers of 21st century urban change demands new multidisciplinary ways of thinking about urban development. The MSUS program will leverage our work in University City to create a dialogue with national and international partners who are facing similar challenges. MSUS students will have a front row seat to real-world problem solving locally, nationally and globally,” says Harris Steinberg, FAIA, executive director of the Lindy Institute for Urban Innovation and distinguished teaching professor at Westphal College.

“Take climate change, which is a challenge that will not be solved by scientists, economists or architects alone, but by a coalition of thinkers and doers who can collaborate and question settled patterns of thought, who have the tools and skills needed to re-think urban responses to the challenges that climate change poses for cities,” says Andrew Zitcer, PhD, the inaugural program director of the MSUS and assistant professor of Arts Administration in the Westphal College.”

“The problems of urban living have clearly magnified in the last 50 years. If we are to make the most of the opportunities that urban living affords, complex urban problems must be met with complex solutions that invariably require sophisticated system thinking,” says Alan Greenberger, FAIAthe department head and distinguished teaching professor of Architecture, Design & Urbanism in the Westphal College and a Fellow of the Lindy Institute for Urban Innovation.

Steinberg, Greenberger and Zitcer answered a few key questions about what this program will address and offer:

Q: How has the need for a 21st century urbanist evolved?

 Greenberger: Traditional silos of expertise are only so valuable if they are not integrated with and influenced by expertise from other areas. We will always need expertise in specialized areas. But to be truly effective, we will need a generation of urban strategists who can successfully navigate multiple areas of expertise and bring collaborative thinking to bear on the problems that we face.

Q: What kind of classes will set the foundation for the MSUS?

 Zitcer: The program is structured to give students the critical tools they will need to lead the creative problem solving process that is key to addressing urban issues. They will be exposed to courses in history, theory, GIS and data visualization, city systems, health and environment, communication and participatory methods, finance and economic development and research methods.

 Q: What kind of opportunities will be available to MSUS students?

Steinberg: The program will be enriched by an array of multidisciplinary activities, thinkers and doers affiliated with the Lindy Institute. Lindy’s distinguished fellows program includes such luminaries as Philadelphia’s former police chief, Charles Ramsey, who co-chaired President Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing, as well as Stephen Jones, who runs the Bread Lab out of Washington State University and is an expert in heritage wheat. We’ll engage students in urban projects and research associated with the Institute and we’ll be hosting our inaugural Drexel Urban Strategy Summit in 2018 – a biennial gathering that combines hyper-local urban problem solving with national and international expertise. The most exciting opportunity for new students is that they will be getting in on the ground floor of a burgeoning new field – urban strategy. And, Drexel is where it’s happening.

Learn more about the new degree program.

For media inquiries, please contact Emily Storz: 215-895-2705 or els332@drexel.edu.

Filed under: Arts & Culture, Community & Society, Science & Technology

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