In the recently concluded gubernatorial campaign, both candidates stressed the need for better regional and state planning to rein in sprawl and grow more sensibly. With helter-skelter development denuding the Connecticut countryside, long-term poverty concentrated in our cities and lack of affordable housing everywhere, better regional and state planning is long overdue.
But we are hindered in reaching this goal by what is otherwise one of our great strengths - our academic institutions. We have no graduate school of planning and design at a public or private institution. Does anyone doubt that we would benefit from such a program? It would provide a cadre of professionals, be a laboratory of new ideas and be a source of high-level continuing education.
Today, partnerships across disciplines are ever more necessary, and professionals must receive interdisciplinary training. For example, developers, architects and planners need to be able to work with community organizers to re-imagine old urban centers and their surrounding communities. It is important that the people who do the physical design work and the people who have the skills to create democratic, participatory processes learn something about each others' ways of working and talking so that they can collaborate. Yet it is difficult to provide such training when professional degree programs do not exist in the same institution or even in the same state.
The University of Connecticut offers law, business, and environmental engineering degrees on the graduate level, but not planning or architecture. The social work school offers the only master's-level training in community organizing in the state. Yale offers graduate programs in management, law, forestry, environmental science and architecture, but not planning. I am unable to find a program in Connecticut that offers training at the Ph.D level in the combined areas of research, computer technology and geographic information systems. This is the skill set that produced the well-regarded Connecticut Metropatterns report about sprawl in Connecticut.
There may be a light at the end of this tunnel. The Connecticut Chapter of the American Planning Association is working with UConn to establish a planning program. State officials ought to bless this initiative.
As part of her anti-sprawl effort, Gov. M. Jodi Rell should create the graduate school that gives students the practical experience working with colleagues in the different disciplines that are central to reversing sprawl and increasing economic opportunity.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
To view other stories on this topic, search the Hartford Courant Archives at