MURPAA Newsletter | February 26, 2024

Updates from the Chair 

Dear Planning Alumni and Colleagues,

As we start the second half of the 2023-2024 Academic Year, we have several exciting updates. In Fall 2023, we launched important revisions to our core curriculum. Community engagement is now a significant portion of the practice course, renamed Planning Practice & Engagement, ensuring every graduate of our program learns the essential skills, methods, and theories of engagement. We also created a new core, Planning Technologies, focused on software applications that support planners in the bedrock of their positions: effectively communicating data, other information, and designs to diverse groups of people with different interests and backgrounds. 

In November, we received our official accreditation letter, granting us another seven-year term, the maximum possible. The Planning Accreditation Board highlighted our amazing community of full- and part-time faculty members, guest lecturers, college staff, student groups, alumni, and community partners that result in a practical and engaged learning experience for students who go off to successful careers in planning. Speaking of which, our program performance indicators remain strong with a 100% AICP pass rate, based on MURP graduates who took the exam within three years of graduation from 2020-2022. In addition, 100% of graduates from the class of 2022 were employed in planning or planning-related professions within 12 months of graduation. 

One of our many important partners is the Colorado Chapter of the American Planning Association. In June, I joined the board as the faculty representative and am looking forward to broadening our relationship so that our program reaches planners throughout the state, and our students and faculty take full advantage of the terrific programs and resources our state chapter offers.  

Thanks to four of our employer partners, we launched a new recruitment tool called “Shadowships” with P.U.M.A., DRCOG, Clarion, and HDR. Shadowships are two-week, paid job shadow opportunities in which the student works and learns at their selected organization for 15-20 hours a week. Thank you to these employers for their commitment of funding and time in this inaugural year. If your firm is interested in hosting a shadowship, please contact me! 

This spring, we will host our 6th MURPAA Distinguished Planner Award & Lecture and will honor Gil McNeish. As every alum knows, Gil was our esteemed law professor who taught the intricacies of land use law to every student in the program for 50 years. Please join us in celebrating Gil on Thursday, April 11th. We are also grateful to have launched a scholarship in his name, and we welcome your donations. Register here to attend.

Our full-time faculty continue to conduct impactful research on multiple topics, including the health impacts of air pollution, strategies to improve community engagement and the RNO system in Denver, the regional affordable housing crisis, transportation equity and justice, and the influences of urban design. See below for more faculty research updates.  

On the horizon for the rest of this year is continued fundraising for scholarships, the development of an affordable housing certificate for degree and non-degree students, continued development of our new center, the Community Collaborative Research Center (CCRC), the development of new international study abroad destinations, and ongoing promotion of our 10 dual degree programs. 

Thank you to our new and continuing members of the MURPAA Board, and a special thanks to Ryan Mulligan for his leadership as MURPAA president. We are grateful for their time and dedication to our current and former students. 

Best wishes 



Faculty Research Updates

Priyanka deSouza

In the summer of 2023, Priyanka deSouza set up a mobile air pollution monitoring laboratory and ran a field campaign to measure traffic-related air pollutants in Denver. These data were paired with measurements of air pollution and heat at bus stops in Denver to evaluate the impact of air pollution and thermal comfort on bus ridership in the city, in partnership with USGS and RTD, and funded by a NASA Environmental Justice grant. In addition, with support from the new CCRC, Priyanka assembled a research collaboration with the community organization, Cultivando, and researchers from CU Anschutz and CU Boulder, to submit an NIH Research to Action proposal focused on protecting the community around the Suncor refinery from pollution from air toxics. 

Jeremy Németh.  

During his sabbatical, in November, Jeremy Németh spent several weeks at the Universidad de Chile as a U.S. Fulbright Specialist, where he laid the groundwork for a long-term teaching and research partnership between students and faculty in their Faculty of Architecture and Urbanism and our Department of Urban and Regional Planning. 

Ken Schroeppel 

Ken recently expanded his DenverInfill and DenverUrbanism team to include two new contributors: Andy Cushen (the mastermind behind @BuildUpDenver on X/Twitter) and James Warren (local ped/transit advocate a/k/a "the bus stop bench guy"). In addition to contributing articles to both blogs, Andy and James are co-hosting the new DenverUrbanism Podcast, which recently premiered its first two episodes. DenverUrbanism Podcast will cover a wide variety of urban planning and design topics, interviews with local urbanists (with Schroeppel as a regular guest), and more. 

Manish Shirgaokar 

This year Manish Shirgaokar started two major research efforts, which involve several MURP students in research roles. As part of a National Science Foundation-funded project, the team is investigating how bi-directional chargers for Electric Vehicles could have benefits for non-urban communities and marginalized populations including low-income households and developments with older adults. This work speaks to ideas about climate resilience, energy justice, and transportation equity. Through a second research effort funded through the USDOT’s Tier 1 Program for University Transportation Centers (Center for Equitable Transit-Oriented Communities), the research group is examining how wait time at bus stops can be reduced using various types of investments, particularly in locations with low incomes that often see service cuts. Researchers working on these projects will rely on a wide suite of techniques including community engagement, semi-structured interviews with experts and consumers, passive data analysis, and survey design/statistical modeling. 

Austin Troy 

Austin currently has two active funded projects. The first is a National Science Foundation-funded project, awarded in August of 2023 (with co-PI Ben Crawford), entitled “Modeling extreme heat at transit stops and its implications for equity.” This $400,000 project is in collaboration with RTD and explores extreme heat at bus stops, approaches for mitigating heat exposure such as increasing tree canopy, how heat impacts ridership and perceptions of heat by riders. The second, entitled “Fueling Adaptation: Home Owners' Association and Stewardship Capacity Mapping” is a three-year project funded by the US Forest Service looking at the role of Home Owners’ Associations in promoting wildfire mitigation and safety in the Wildland Urban Interface. This project includes an extensive survey of HOA managers and a detailed map of HOAs in wildfire hazard areas across several western states. 

Carrie Makarewicz 

Carrie and a team of MURP and PhD students completed a yearlong study for the City of Denver and City Council to recommend improvements to constituent services, the city’s community engagement practices and resources, and the RNO system. She presented the findings to the Council Budget Priorities committee and continues to meet with council members about implementing the findings. She also completed the first phase of her Regional Affordable Housing study, including the completion of a Regional Generalized Zoning Map, focused on areas that allow for affordable and attainable housing. This zoning analysis found just 22% of residentially zoned land in the region permits housing other than single-family detached. She has presented these and other findings regarding the region’s affordable housing crisis to several elected officials and organizations throughout the region and country. The team is also working with Radian, Inc. to develop the Colorado Atlas for the National Zoning Atlas. As one of the co-directors of the new Community Collaborative Research Center, she and the other directors and research assistants are applying for grants, developing community partnerships, and hosting community-engaged research training for faculty and community groups. To strengthen the MURP program’s healthy communities hallmark, she is an active council member of the Partnership for Academicians and Communities for Translation (PACT) which is under the Colorado Clinical & Translational Sciences Institute (CCTSI) health equity core. With other members of the PACT, she is working on a manuscript about the role of the CCTSI’s Community Research Liaisons (CRL). 

Community Collaborative Research Center (CCRC) 

Carrie Makarewicz and Jeremy Németh, two of the four co-directors, along with professors from Geography and Environmental Sciences, Dr. Gregory Simon, and Health and Behavioral Sciences, Dr. Jean Scandlyn, have been furthering the development of this new interdisciplinary research center. The center is currently working with GreenLatinos, Cultivando, the Valverde Neighborhood Association, Colorado High School Charter-Globeville Elyria Swansea, and the National Renewable Energy Lab, and welcomes additional opportunities to partner with community groups and local government on community-focused research. Contact us if you are interested in learning more about the center.