Geoff Thompson, graduated in Urban and Regional Planning, 2009.
I came to the UvA for a variety of reasons. Growing up in the US but with half of my family in the Netherlands, the UvA offered a way to reconnect. I also sought to learn from Dutch city planning methods since the Netherlands is about 40 years ahead of the US in regards to urban planning policy. Though I initially expected a more praxis based education, the UvA gave me an education that has stayed with me longer than merely learning about planning principle and formula.
My Master’s classes included more Philosophy than I expected. At first I found this frustrating. I wanted to learn about density formulas and zoning code! Why were we talking about Michel Foucault and reframing arguments? That was then. Now I lead a non-profit I’ve recently started here in Philadelphia. We are creating and influencing discussion and advocating for better policy and increased investment for public space here in the city.
Reframing arguments into frames that suit our advocacy has been and will be integral to ensuring this non-profit is successful. Our goal is to transform Philadelphia’s public spaces into more vibrant, beautiful spaces that enhance livability and quality of life. Before any physical transformations of that space can happen, a change in mindset from the public is needed. That is what I’ve been guiding my non-profit and those who write for it to do. Think bigger. Think more strategically. The UvA helped me do that by changing the way I approach problems by exposing me to Philosophy and applying it to my field. I’m thankful I decided to study at the UvA. It opened up a new path to me that I’ve been treading since I returned to the United States.
My advice to current and prospective students would be to view a Master’s as an opportunity to transform the way you think about and process the world around you. Pursuing a Master’s should give you ample room to do that. Use that room to find what works for you. For me that meant being more entrepreneurial than I originally expected. My shift towards entrepreneurialism has also taken longer than expected but has been worth it. If we go back to the reason I studied Planning, it was to follow a passion. A Master’s for you should be about the pursuit of that passion and how you make it work in your life. That can feel like a lonely path figuring it out, but it has meant an ultimately more fulfilling path than the me of 6 years ago could have ever imagined.
Geoff Kees Thompson
MSc Urban & Regional Planning,