MURP Alumni Profiles

Prospective students often ask, "What can I do with a MURP degree from CU Denver?" Our program prepares students to work in diverse areas of planning around Colorado and the United States. Check out the profiles below to read alumni stories about how CU Denver MURP helped them meet their career goals. 

Saharnaz Mirzazad_edit

Saharnaz Mirzazad '13

Transformative Climate Communities Program Manager

What have you been up to since you finished the MURP program?
Right after graduating from MURP in 2013, I started working with ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability. For more than three years, I provided technical assistance to local governments in combating the impact of climate change through local action. When the Paris Climate Agreement was signed, I left ICLEI to join the City of Thousand Oaks in Southern California to support the City in developing climate action and adaptation plans. In 2018, I was appointed by the Governor Brown to manage the Transformative Climate Communities program, a California Climate Investments program focused on supporting community-driven infrastructure projects and social capital programs in disadvantaged communities of California. The program has provided $260M to support implementation of neighborhood level transformation.

How did you become interested in your field?
Before immigrating to US in 2010, I worked in community development area in low-income and disadvantaged communities of Iran. During my graduate degree, I got interested in climate issues and continued my career in this area. Seeing the disproportionate impact of climate change on disadvantage communities, I found my true passion to seek the ways in which I can support frontline communities to combat climate issues.

What have been the biggest challenges in your career?
As an immigrant, it has been challenging to compete in an environment which is not very diverse. In many occasions, I find myself as the only first generation immigrant in the room.

What do you find most rewarding about your career?
Seeing the impact of my work on people's life, advocating for people who don't have a voice, and empowering communities to take control of their future are my drive.

In what ways has your MURP degree had an impact on your career and who you are today?
When I started MURP, I joined Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship cohort. Participating in this program allowed me to take courses in land use, policy and engineering to get knowledge and skills of climate action and adaptation planning. Interdisciplinary courses helped me with landing a job with one of the most respected international climate organization.

What would you say to a prospective student that is considering CU Denver's MURP program?
MURP provides courses that will help you to get ready for your career. You will get connected to many practitioners that offer courses or get invited to speak.

What was your favorite part about your time at CU Denver?
Friendly and supportive environment! Great teachers and fun activities.

Do you have any advice for recent MURP graduates looking to break into the planning field?
Focus on organizations that are most aligned with your interest. Find a way to get on the list of potential hires such as taking an internship. Also don't hesitate to reach out to people with appealing background that can help you get hired. LinkedIn is a good tool!