Our MURP graduates go on to great careers, in Portland and beyond.
Karen Guillen-Chapman, MURP ’16, is a native “Tica” from Costa Rica, where she completed her high school education before moving to Oregon to pursue college. She has worked in affordable housing, public sector resource conservation & recycling, urban parks, green spaces & natural areas, development services, and most recently the City of Portland’s Bureau of Planning & Sustainability, where she serves as the bureau’s equity manager. Her professional aspirations and values have been shaped by the community organizing efforts and grass roots organizations in the Cully neighborhood, the social justice values of PSU’s MURP program, and the founders and staff of Center for Diversity & the Environment. She is grateful for all the learning and empowerment that has been provided to her, and continually works to pay that forward. “The built environment impacts people’s lives in so many ways, and we need to pay close attention to who benefits and who’s burdened—the MURP program instills in us that at the core of our planning work should be an unwavering commitment to advocate for environmental, racial, and socioeconomic justice.”
Julia Crain, MURP ’11, is working as a planner in Butte, Montana. A profile of her in the Montana Standard describes her path from Portland State’s MURP program back to her family roots in Butte, where she has “worked on zoning issues, helped enhance open spaces such as the Big Butte, and handled programming aspects of Butte’s Superfund process through the Natural Resource Damage Program and other avenues.” She’s also helping with PitWatch, an organization educating the public about a former open pit copper mine.
Jeremy Young, MURP ’14, is the Community & Economic Development Manager at Lancaster City Alliance in Lancaster, PA. He feels that the MURP “provides a perfect balance between planning theory and practice. The curriculum and the faculty, as well as the research centers are also on the cutting edge, and the University’s mantra, “Let Knowledge Serve the City” has enabled the City to become the ultimate laboratory for MURP students to study contemporary planning issues and challenges, culminating in Planning Workshop which provides the opportunity for students to develop an authentic plan with tangible solutions for a community in the Greater Portland region during the final 6 months of the program. Among the aspects of the program that benefited me personally was the flexibility that the curriculum provided for me to concurrently pursue a Graduate Certificate in Real Estate Development, which really prepared me for my career in urban economic development and redevelopment and allows me to uniquely see projects from the planning perspective as well as from the developer perspective.”
Belén Herrera, MURP ’17, has a passion is to create an equitable transportation system. During her time at the Portland Bureau of Transportation, she joined the Equity Committee to address systemic issues in transportation. She and other student leaders at PSU facilitated a group called Graduate Students of Color to create a support system for underrepresented students and to generate professional development opportunities. As an Associate Planner for the Seattle Department of Transportation, she serves as a project manager for neighborhood transportation improvements that focus on enhancing safety, walkability, and accessibility with a racial equity lens for all Seattle residents. She shared that “Dr. Zapata on several occasions would say “Learning is a lifetime process” – which resonated with me as I became a planning professional because MURP instilled in me the habit to continue growing, reflecting, and improve my skills to better serve my community.”
Colin Cooper MURP ’99 is director of planning for Hillsboro, a city that has seen its population increase by more than 6 percent in the past five years compared to the state’s growth of 4.6 percent in the same time period. Keeping Hillsboro’s small town flavor while absorbing growth is a goal that Cooper takes seriously. “As an urban planning student, you’re all about utopian visions,” Cooper says, remembering his days at PSU. “But one of my professors, Sy Adler, said something that totally changed my thinking: As an urban planner, you’re part of the whole development scheme. That one comment made me open up and decide to learn everything I could about the private sector. Being able to see and balance both sides—public and private concerns—has been a huge part of my success.”
Sometimes our MURPs even get elected to public office. In January 2019, Lynn Peterson, MURP ’99, will be sworn in as the President of the Metro Council, Portland’s regional government. Peterson has previously been elected to the Lake Oswego city council and Clackamas County Commission. She also served as head of the state of Washington Department of Transportation. When awarded our College’s Urban Pioneer Award in 2016, Peterson gave an inspiring speech, highlighting lessons learned at PSU, including “The professional ethics of representing those in the room and those not able to be in the room. The single most important professional ethical code you must practice every day.”
Andrés Oswill, MURP ’17, was appointed to the City of Portland’s Planning and Sustainability Commission. In his Commissioner role, Oswill recently helped move forward an important policy to allow more housing in single-family neighborhoods, to help combat an affordability crisis.
Dan Bower, MURP ’04, is the first full-time executive director of Portland Streetcar. He took the position after serving as the Division Manager of Active Transportation for the City of Portland’s Bureau of Transportation.
A few quick facts about our graduates
- Our employment rates one year after graduation are regularly around 90%
- Median salaries one year out for MURP graduates are usually $50-60,000
- About half of our grads to go into the public sector, 40% into the private sector (e.g., planning consulting firms, developers), and 10% into the non-profit sector.
- About two-thirds of MURP graduates stay in the Portland metro region; about three-quarters stay in the Pacific Northwest.
- More data here
I am a Professor of Urban Studies & Planning at Portland State University.