Student Spotlight: Mike Vivian
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Mike Vivian is a graduate student in the MSc in Urban & Regional Planning Program at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. He is expected to complete his degree in April of 2019. Mike also holds a Bachelor of Arts degree (with distinction) in Political Science from the University of Alberta.

Prior to entering the MSc in Urban & Regional Planning Program, Mike spent three-and-a-half years in a City Councillor’s office as Policy & Outreach Coordinator. Since October 2017, Mike has been employed as the City of Edmonton’s Chief Planners’ Strategic Coordinator. This role sees Mike working directly with the Chief Planner and his leadership team, where he is responsible for the development, implementation, and evaluation of strategy, and provides strategic issue management on a wide variety of internal and external issues.

Mike has also volunteered on a number of political campaigns at the municipal and provincial level, and has completed training in community organizing and engagement from the Wellstone organization in Seattle, Washington.

Outside of school and work, Mike loves great food (he has dined at 2016’s #1 restaurant in the world, Osteria Francescana), is an avid golfer, and enjoys spending time with his wife Jenna and dog Lucy.

Q: Which ACSP member school do you attend?
A: University of Alberta.

Q: What specialty are you studying?
A: MSc in Urban & Regional Planning.

Q: Why did you select your particular specialty?
A: I have always had a keen interest in cities and politics - planning is the perfect balance of both, so it is a natural fit.

Q: Do you have a current job or internship in your specialty? 
A: Strategic Coordinator - Office of the Chief Planner, City of Edmonton

Q: Is there a particular class or professor that has made a great impact on you? How so?
A: Yes, absolutely - EAS 296 (Intro to Urban Planning) with Dr. Bob Summers. In fact, before taking this class in my second year of undergrad, I didn't know what planning was or that there was an entire profession associated with it. It was after taking this class that I decided planning was the route for me.

Additionally, I had the opportunity to take a number of classes with Dr. Summers during my undergrad, and he is now my Master’s degree supervisor. Suffice it to say, this class and Dr. Summers has had a pretty significant impact on me.

Q: What's your favorite project you’ve worked on, in class or in practice?
A: I wouldn't say that there has been one specific project that has been my favourite, but rather the project teams I have been a part of have really provided me with an excellent experience while completing my program. I am part of the first cohort of the MSc in Urban & Regional Planning at the University of Alberta, and it is apparent that the selection committee really emphasized the importance of diversity in terms of skill-sets and experience for the student cohort. This diversity has been critical to a lot of my success in the program.

Q: What future goals do you have in your field?
A: To have a hand in making a noticeable impact on the built form of Edmonton and how people experience it.

Q: How has planning school changed your daily habits?
A: Being immersed in planning during school, and while at work, has provided me with more of an ability to examine the public realm and critically assess how people experience it.

Q: What did you want to be when you were growing up?
A: Professional Golfer or an Architect (as a backup plan).

Q: How many different cities have you lived in and which was your favorite?
A: Edmonton is the only place I have called home. By choice, it will likely stay that way.

Q: If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?
A: I would go to a place I have already been -- Chania, Crete in Greece.

Built around a Venetian harbour, the old part of town is closed off to vehicles and is solely a space for cyclists and pedestrians where shops, cafes, restaurants, and bars spill out onto the streets. Chania is seriously a planners dream. Additionally, Chania is close to some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, and an amazing hike through a 16km long gorge.

Q: What is the title of the last book you read? What did you learn from it?
A: Streetfight: Handbook for an Urban Revolution written by Janette Sadik-Khan. There are a couple things that stood out for me in this book. The first being the importance of data. Data-driven decision making not only rationalizes the need for change, but also can substantiate the changes after they are implemented. The second is the notion of tactical urbanism, where changes are made quickly and cheaply, and have the ability to be adjusted over time. Pylons, paint, and planters - how's that for a new P3 model?

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The Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning promotes education, research, service and outreach in the United States and throughout the world by seeking to:

  • recognize diverse needs and interests in planning;
  • improve and enhance the accreditation process, and;
  • strengthen the role of planning education in colleges and universities through publications, conferences, and community engagement;
  • extend planning beyond the classroom into the world of practice.


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