At the end of each semester, DIS gives an Academic Excellence Award to a student in each program who exemplified an overwhelming passion and commitment to learning in the field. We were eager to hear from these students themselves, to grasp their academic experience from their semester, hear about the highlights, and collect some tips on how to make the most of academic opportunities at DIS. We’ll be posting about each of them in this upcoming week, so keep checking back in!
Name: Mark Trainer
Home University: Rice University
Academic Program: Urban Studies in Europe
DIS: What influenced your decision to choose your particular DIS academic program and why did you choose it?
Mark: My particular program perfectly reflected my core academic interests. As the world continues its inexorable push towards urbanization, it is absolutely critical to better understand the ways in which urban environments influence society. I have always been fascinated by a city’s ability to generate unmatched social and economic opportunities while simultaneously fostering immense urban challenges and conflict. My goals for the abroad experience included gaining experiential and academic insight into how to construct urban environments that maximize human and societal potential. Copenhagen’s unique position at the forefront of many European urban trends provided an ideal laboratory to explore these issues in depth.
DIS: What do you want to do in your future and after graduation? How have you been affected by your academic program in a way that changed your career path or perspective?
Mark: In the future, I intend to leverage the skill set developed through my academic program toward a career in urban policy and governance. My ideal future position would be in either the federal U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) or in local municipal government evaluating policy and managing governmental programs. The DIS Urban Studies program has affirmed this desire through extensive exposure to these issues that so greatly interest me. It has been absolutely incredible to experientially engage urban environments through field tours, study tours and numerous other avenues. How many people can say they have discussed Hamburg waterfront redevelopment with leading architects, toured Budapest subway construction prior to public opening, or rode through Copenhagen guided by prominent bicycle advocates? While my career path remained largely unchanged, the experience definitely provided many new and diverse perspectives on critical urban questions that will serve me well in my future profession. I now understand the unique way in which Scandinavia, and Europe as a whole, approach urban development and can apply some of these lessons to future work in the United States or elsewhere.
DIS: What would you recommend future students in your program do to maximize their experience?
Mark: My piece of advice to future students in the Urban Studies program is to not limit your learning experience to DIS mandated activities. In our field, the entire city operates as a classroom with endless opportunities to better understand urban life. Explore unique neighborhoods, observe how individuals interact with city space, witness the signs of gentrification and urban renewal etc. Now everybody will obviously explore Copenhagen extensively, but it is important to take an occasional moment from wondering to reflect on the central urban issues discussed in class. Students in this program are lucky to study in such an incredibly dynamic urban environment that allows for easy supplementation of academic coursework.