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Fall 2017 MURPAA Newsletter


Letter from Austin:
To the MURP alumni community:

On behalf of the faculty of the Department of Urban and Regional Planning at CU Denver, I’m very happy to share with you this first edition of the MURP Alumni Association (MURPAA) Newsletter! Our amazing community of alumni is now over 1,400 strong and spans continents, generations, and professions. The skills learned in the MURP program have led our alumni to a wide range of career paths, from municipal planning, to international development, real estate development, environmental planning, non-profit management, research, and advocacy. The common denominator among all these paths is that they leverage the rigorous skills in critical thinking, writing, analysis, and interpersonal communication learned as graduate students at CU Denver.

We are extremely pleased to have such a talented, active and engaged new MURPAA board and I’d like to personally welcome and thank them for serving. The previous and current board members are listed below, along with a bio of our incoming board President, Eugene Howard. The MURPAA board serves as a conduit between all of you, and the current community of faculty and students and we strongly encourage you to learn more about and get involved with MURPAA.

Exciting things are going on in the MURP program, including new partnerships with firms, agencies, and nonprofits, several new large grants, our recent hosting of a major national conference, and new summer travel studios in Greece, Spain and the Colorado Rockies. You can learn more about many of these developments at our frequently updated community website, MURPAA has a dedicated section on this website, as well as LinkedIn and facebook groups.

Again, we’re excited to have you all as part of our alumni community and we look forward to getting lots of you more involved in MURPAA and the program, whether it’s through participating in MURP Alumni Association events, serving as guest lecturers, project evaluators, and capstone clients, hosting interns, or simply stopping by the CAP building to say hi.

All the best,
Austin Troy
Chair and Professor, Department of Urban and Regional Planning

Highlighted Alumni Profile
Meet your MURPAA President: Eugene D. Howard, AICP
Urban Planner, City and County of Denver

EugeneHoward.jpgWhat have you been up to since finishing the MURP program?
Since graduating from CU Denver, I spent two years working on transit, transportation and mobility in Douglas County.  While there, I focused on providing transportation services for vulnerable populations, including seniors, persons with physical and mental disabilities, and lower income individuals.  I learned a great deal about the needs of diverse populations in mountain, rural, and suburban communities, and had the great pleasure of working with peers in local jurisdictions, non-profit organizations, and regional transportation organizations.  For someone who imagined working in Denver right out of school, this was an overwhelmingly satisfying opportunity that exposed me to the needs of suburban communities.

After a terrific experience in Douglas County, I was presented with the opportunity of working for the City and County of Denver.  As a Denver resident living proximate to downtown, the job opportunity was a chance to serve the city that I love and call home.  I joined the Planning Services staff in the Spring of 2016 and have been enjoying my work on citywide, neighborhood, and special projects.  I revel in community engagement and thoroughly enjoy our work in shaping the future vision for the city through the help and guidance of our citizens and stakeholders.

What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishments?
First and foremost is the love and support of my life partner, children and family.  Throughout my childhood, I wanted nothing more than to live my version of the “American Dream,” and I am thankful every single day that I have been granted that wish.

Professionally, I am happy to have become a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners; I secured my accreditation in 2017.  I also view my time in Douglas County as a great accomplishment, where I was able to resume transportation services for those in need and increase local, state and federal grant program funding.  Currently, I find success in strengthening trust and building relationships between the City and County of Denver and the residents we are employed to serve.  Being greeted with a smile or a hug from members of the community brings me the greatest joy, and the reassurance that planning is the career for me.

CAP: Campus Connection
New Dean Appointed: Dr. Nan Ellin

NanEllin.jpgAfter a national search, the University of Colorado Denver welcomes Nan Ellin, Ph.D. as the new dean of the College of Architecture and Planning (CAP). Dr. Ellin is also a professor in the Department of Urban and Regional Planning.  She comes to CAP from The University of Texas at Arlington, where she was the founding dean of the College of Architecture, Planning & Public Affairs as well as the Executive Director of their Institute of Urban Studies.

Dr. Ellin’s experience, research, creative work, teaching, community engagement, and administrative activities aim to transform contemporary challenges into opportunities for promoting urban, environmental, community, and institutional health and well-being.  Ellin holds a Ph.D. from Columbia University in Planning with a concentration in Urban Design, as well as MPhil in Planning and M.A. in Anthropology from Columbia University, and a B.A. in Anthropology and Hispanic Studies from Bryn Mawr College. She succeeds Dr. Mark Gelernter, who retired at the end of June to Montana after 30 years at the University of Colorado, 14 of them as dean of the College of Architecture and Planning at CU Denver.  For more information, please visit Dean Ellin's profile page.

Alumni Chat with Steven Chester
Project: The Square at 21st
Article by Tavia Danch

What is it like to eat and dance on a downtown street?  Thanks to a demonstration project in downtown Denver, residents had the opportunity to attend silent discos, piano duels, wrestling exhibits, and comedy shows at a local pop-up park. The Square on 21st transformed an urban right-of-way between Lawrence and Larimer Streets to an oasis of opportunity, greenery, and relief throughout the dog days of summer 2017.

Steven Chester (MURP 2011), City Planner at Denver Community Planning and Development (CPD), and Project Manager for The Square on 21st, coordinated the successful project. The Square on 21st was originally featured as a transformative project in the Northeast Downtown Neighborhoods Plan in 2011.  Steve describes the ‘plug and play’ Square at 21st as the first of its kind for Denver.

The Mayor’s Office wanted 21st Street to become a ‘festival street’, without a firm description of what that meant. The Square at 21st became a project meant to demonstrate what Denver’s version of a ‘festival street’ should be. The local community came up with the design and programming of the park.

The park was installed in early June, just in time for a Denver heat wave. Over 100 residents helped to paint planters, plant flowers, and maintain the vegetation throughout the length of the project. The City partnered with a CU Architecture Studio to design and fabricate the state-of-the-art gateways that welcomed people to the public space. The City also partnered with non-profits to build programming, acquire temporary liquor licenses, and engage the community throughout the project.

During the project, CPD collected data to measure, define, re-define, and evaluate the design and programming of the space as a ‘festival street’. This data will ultimately be used to justify similar demonstration projects in the future. Additionally, other agencies used the demonstration project to collect data on their respective areas. For example, Denver Parks and Recreation collected data on the best species of trees for potted plantings in an urban setting. They also collected data on the best surfaces for urban dog parks. The Public Works Department collected data on the effectiveness of a bike path through an activated urban park.

The Square at 21st was a huge success.  The pop-park brought together community members (and their dogs), business owners, nonprofits, and city government agencies.  The Square at 21st created a space for fun, culture, and at the very least a place to relax and take in the urban environment.  For more information about the project visit the project page.
Photo: Jesse Kuroiwa, CAP
Mayor Michael Hancock spoke at the opening ceremonies of the Square at 21st and recognized the CU Denver undergraduate architecture students who built the state of art entrance units.

Image Source: The Square on 21st, Denver Department of Community Planning and Development,

Annual Conference of the Colorado Chapter of the American Planning Association, Telluride, CO
The MURP department has a strong tradition of supporting student attendance at the annual state planning conference. There were 27 current MURP students that attended and volunteered at the Telluride conference this year. The MURP department also sponsored the closing reception.
MURP students at the APA Conference in Telluride, Colorado.
Photo: by K. Lucas.

2017-2018 Board
  • President: Eugene Howard (MURP 2013)
  • Vice President: Brandon Shaver (MURP 2013)
  • Secretary: Jennifer Hillhouse (MURP 2005)
  • Treasurer: Ryan Mulligan (MURP 2009)
  • Constituent Representative to the University of Colorado Denver Alumni Association: Jason Morrison (MURP 2013)
  • At Large Members: Anthony Stamper (MURP 2009) & Fritz Clausen (MURP 2013)
Click here to see MURPAA Board Profiles.

A special thank you to the prior board members

Eric Ross (MURP 2012) completed 3 consecutive terms as the MURPAA’s first president. With the other board members, Eric led the development of by-laws and established MURPAA as an official university alumni association—one of the most active on campus. Throughout his three terms the board planned numerous educational, networking, student-supporting, and social events, including Sketchup training, resume reviews, and annual lecturers, among other events.
  • Eric Ross (MURP 2012), President 2014-2017
  • Greg Colucci (MURP 2015), Treasurer (2016), At Large (2015)
  • Tori Tillquist (MURP 2015), Secretary 2015-2017
  • Eugene Howard (MURP 2013), Constituent Representative to CU Alumni, President (2017)
  • Carrie Murphy (MURP 2012), Chair of Marketing & Communications, Constituent Representative to the University of Colorado Denver Alumni Association (2014-20169
  • Fritz Clausen (MURP 2013), At-Large Member (2015 to present)
  • Mitchell Gomez (MURP 2012): At large (2015-2017)
  • Kelly Barron Leadbetter (MURP 2011) Vice President (2014-2016)
  • Erica Cole (MURP 2013), Treasurer (2014-2016)
  • Amy Breunissen Oeth (MURP 2011) Secretary (2014-2015)
  • Susan Wood (MURP 1998), Constituent Representative to CU Denver Alumni Association (2014-2016)
  • Matt Cunningham (MURP 2010), Co-Chair - Connections Committee (2014-2015)
  • Andrew Iltis (MURP 2011), Co-Chair - Connections Committee (2014-2015)
  • Becky Mossige Smith (MURP 2012), At Large (2014-2015)
  • Ian McIntyre (MURP 2011), At Large (2014-2015)

Last year's MURPAA events
  • February 23, Capstone, Coffee & Cookies: Alumni had the opportunity to interact with current students by providing informal feedback and advisement on student capstone projects.
  • March 28, Mock Interviews:  Alumni used a panel interview structure to interview students about a theoretical job in planning.
  • May 11, MURPAA Graduation & Capstone Celebration following the capstone exhibits: Over 85 graduates, alumni and family members helped to celebrate the MURP graduates.
  • May 17, Aerotropolis, A-Line and Airport Planning Tour and Planning Social led by Alisha Kwon Hammett (MURP 2013, MUD 2014).
  • Several MURP Planning Community Socials to gather alumni, students, and practicing planners for networking and merriment.
Upcoming Events:
  • April 17th: Annual MURPAA distinguished lecture series, with Korkut Onaran. Dr. Onaran will discuss his forthcoming book on form based codes and recount some of the many memories of his nearly 20 years leading the Turkey summer studio. We hope to see many the alumni who studied in Turkey with Korkut.
  • STAY TUNED: MURPAA will be developing the 2017-2018 Schedule of Events shortly. Check the MURPAA website for updates!

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