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People > student Profies > zhiyu jerry chen

Q. What are you doing now?

Chen: I currently work at the urban unit of East and Southern Africa Region, at the World Bank, in Washington DC. I mainly work on the lending projects as well as some analytical work. For the lending work, I have been working on a couple of projects in Tanzania, on infrastructure investment, informal community infrastructure upgrading, service delivery, and intergovernmental fiscal reform. For the analytical work, I have been working on the urbanization study in Tanzania, Mozambique, and Sudan.

Q. Why did you come to DUSP?

Chen: I was attracted by the unique combination at DUSP, of academic research activities, which helps students to understand the fundamental perspectives of development, and down-to-the-ground planning training and practices, which feeds students with new and creative thinking.

Q. What was your educational focus while here at DUSP/MIT?

Chen: I focused on two aspects of planning while I was at DUSP: (1) local land use planning regulations and affordable housing development, and (2) regional policy analysis, using various quantitative and qualitative methods. For my master thesis, I tried to combine both topics in the context of land use planning practices in Beijing, China.

Q. Did you have any experience in the field of development that prepared you for what you are doing here?

Chen: My experience before DUSP was mainly in the field of urban planning and development in China. I worked as a planner in both public and private sectors in Shanghai and Beijing. My planning practices included local land use planning, low-income housing redevelopment, and implementation studies for major public transportation network. This has greatly prepared me for the graduate studies in planning, and also helped my understanding of development issues from other countries.

Q. What surprised you most about the program?

Chen: I was gladly surprised by the diversity and flexibility of the program. Unlike most other planning programs in the U.S., DUSP is very diverse and international. I was lucky enough to study and work with planners not only from the U.S., but also from Asia, South America, Europe and Africa, all of whom I learned a lot from. The program is also flexible—it provides you opportunities to take courses from other departments and even other schools.

Q. How did your ideas change after your time here?

Chen: My ideas and thoughts about development changed a lot in MIT. The biggest and most important one being that I started to look at and think about development from more perspectives than I used to. Besides the technical side, the political, financial, and institutional façades of planning have been shaping our communities as good or as bad as many other factors have.

Q. What did you do suring the summer and IAP while here?

Chen: In summer 2006, I worked as a summer associate in the Department of City Planning in New York City, at its Manhattan Borough office. I was involved in a couple of very exciting and controversial redevelopment projects in Lower Manhattan area. During the work, I worked with community organizations, various city agencies like DOT, EDC, and city council. Over the IAP, I worked as a research assistant for Professor Polenske and traveled to Beijing for the field study.