Eline Toes graduated in Urban and Regional Planning in 2009
In high school I enjoyed courses like chemistry, physics, mathematics, handicrafts and art history. Studying architecture and becoming an architect seemed to be the perfect choice. The Bachelor's programme in Delft was great. I learned a lot about design and engineering. Gradually my interests shifted towards the social significance and strategies connected to spatial development. That is why I decided to do my Master in Urban and Regional Planning at the UvA in Amsterdam. I got familiar with the institutional embedding of planning and the decision-making process. I learned about the Dutch laws and different kind of approaches to planning in and outside the Netherlands. The curriculum focussed on current complex issues such as social housing reform and the integration of spatial planning and water management. I joined an exchange program with the University of Hong Kong to learn and experience planning practices elsewhere in the world. After graduating from UvA I entered the Dutch National Trainee programme; a two-year on-the-job learning programme that gives young professionals the opportunity to get to know the central government from within and add to their experience and expertise. I got placed with what was then the Ministry of Housing, Spatial Planning and the Environment and worked on projects like the Delta Programme and the National Policy Strategy for Infrastructure and Spatial Planning. Another great experience was my short secondment to the Consulate General of the Netherlands in Vancouver to research planning and design practices of the City and Metro Vancouver commissioned by the Chief Government Architect.
Although I never dreamed of becoming a civil servant, my work at the now named Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment suits me well and I enjoy it a lot. My division, as part of the department for spatial planning and water affairs, provides strategy and advice for spatial design in processes and projects in the physical realm. For example adding research by design to efforts of transitioning to renewable energy or to the development of rezoning and transformation strategies on the regional scale. But also by using design as a tool for an international study into strategies for strengthening the spatial-economic structure for the Dutch-Flemish Delta region, commissioned by both central governments. The National Policy Agenda for Architecture and Spatial Design provides the administrative framework. The making and implementation of this Agenda together with other departments and other institutions are part of my current tasks. It feels both challenging and exciting to work in addressing the complex spatial issues at stake today, and to contribute to a good development of the Netherlands, as part of the world, by working towards a sustainable, strong, smart, attractive and innovative environment.
My interest in the wider world remain: last year I set up a knowledge exchange with the Regional Plan Association (RPA). RPA is an planning and design advocacy organization active in the metropolitan region of New York. There is so much to learn from each other by teaming up and sharing experience and expertise. I realized that again while working with RPA. The long history of planning and water management in the Netherlands holds a lot of knowhow which can be of good use in addressing challenges elsewhere.
Looking back at studying at the UvA, the key things I learned are how multifaceted the field of urban planning is, the importance of a broad view and an inquisitive attitude, and to invest in working across disciplinary boundaries. The UvA trained me to analyse, assess, strategize and manage complex issues. The Master programme will provide a wide range of options. It is up to yourself to choose and create your own path with specific specialisations, (international) exchanges and/or a Minor (abroad). Have fun!
Learn more about the Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment: http://www.government.nl/ministries/ienm