PLAN 90: Article
DUSPx: The LA Connection

Bringing Alums Together to Reconnect

In January, 40 DUSP alumni from the Los Angeles area convened at the Japanese American National Museum downtown to share their work and to renew and update connections with their classmates and colleagues. 

The evening was the second in a series created by the Department of Urban Studies and Planning to promote the exchange of ideas and to foster connections among DUSP alumni/ae and with current faculty and students. It followed a similar event last year in New York at which alumni from New Orleans and from the New York City region met to compare notes on their efforts in post-disaster resiliency planning from hurricanes Katrina and Sandy.  This year’s event was different in that the presentations, called ‘Lightning Talks’, were limited to three minutes each. (See details on their presentations, here.)

Emceed by PhD candidates John Arroyo and Kian Goh, the event began with an introduction by department head Eran Ben-Joseph in which he outlined some recent developments in the department including: more than fifty active planning projects worldwide with long-term commitments in New Orleans, Beijing and New York, and emerging projects in Africa, Latin America and China; a leadership role in the Institute’s new initiatives for the environment and energy and in MIT campus planning; increased collaboration with other MIT departments, notably the development of the Center for Advanced Urbanism bridging DUSP, Architecture and the Media Lab; and one of the largest gifts ever made to an MIT department – $118M from alumnus Samuel Tak Lee (’62, SM ’64) to promote social responsibility in the real estate profession worldwide, with a particular focus on China.  

The presentations, eleven in all, demonstrated the breadth and depth of our alumni’s impact on Los Angeles and the lives of Angelenos, including (but not limited to) transforming downtown, expanding public transit, improving the infrastructure of the LA Unified School District, introducing the use of art to engage citizens in city planning, and addressing the problems of homelessness.

The event closed with Mary Jane Daly (MCP ’83), DUSP’s Professional Development Director, thanking alums for their generosity with students and fellow alums – as mentors, employers and advisors – and encouraging them, in the spirit of the evening, to stay connected with the department and each other through the MIT Alumni Association and the DUSP LinkedIN group.

Featured presenters were Martha Welborne (MCP, MArch A.S. ’81), Executive Director of Countywide Planning at LA County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro); James Rojas (MCP, SM Arch ’91), Urban Planner, Artist; Ana Lasso (MCP ‘01), General Manager, Exposition Park; Nicholas Marantz (PhD ’14), Assistant Professor, UC Irvine; Dhakshike Wickrema (MCP ’05), Senior Project Manager, Shelter Partnership; Dora Leong Gallo (MCP ’92), Chief Executive Officer, A Community of Friends; Con Howe (MCP ’75), Managing Director, CityView Los Angeles Fund; Taylor Mammen (MCP ’06), Managing Director, RCLCO; Larry Eisenberg (SB ’74), Principal, Ovus Partners 360; Valerie Edwards (MCP ‘90) Chief Enrollment Analysis Coordinator, LA Unified Schools and Randall Crane (PhD ’87) Professor, UCLA.