Building a More Equitable World

Cities have always been places of great social and cultural diversity. But more and more, we are finding that where people live can affect their health as well as their professional success. Building great communities ensures a more equitable society. As urban planners, designers, leaders, and innovators, we are working to change the culture and face of the planning profession so that who we are reflects those we serve. Our vision is a world in which all people are empowered with the ability to make decisions about their communities, and where all communities are fully engaged in the vital task of shaping our collective future.

Each year, we graduate a new generation of passionate professionals ready to contribute to the change we seek. Our students study urban planning because they believe in the need for an equitable, just future and they know that planners have the power to transform the world for the better. Help support our students by joining our commitment to equity and inclusion.

Make a gift to the Urban Design and Planning Professionals Council Equity Fund. This scholarship helps us recruit underrepresented minorities and support them while they’re here. As the regional gateway into the professional planning field, our goal is to support a cohort of 10 Equity Scholars per year who will go on to lead productive planning careers. With your help, we can reach this goal. A donation to this fund supports students who are committed to social justice and equity so the professional planning community is representative of the populations they serve.

Learn more about the Urban Design and Planning Professionals Council.

2017 Recipient: Louie Leiva

Louie Leiva (MUP ’19)

I am a first-generation college student and proud son to immigrant parents from El Salvador. I am committed to continuing my education not only for myself, but for my family. My parents did not have the linguistic capabilities or institutional know-how to teach me how to navigate the college application process; much less the ability to teach me what would be required to graduate.

Somehow, we earned a Berkeley degree. I say “we” because it was through the emotional support of my family and community of students of color that I learned the resilience needed for academic and professional success.

For the past year and a half, I have been working for an arts nonprofit in Leimert Park, the central hub for black artists in Los Angeles. The students I work with collect neighborhood stories to inform and create temporary art installations throughout the city. I am constantly inspired and challenged by my students, their talent, and their dedication to their communities.

I aim to continue to build my knowledge of cultural planning at UW. The constant struggle of working in the nonprofit sector and living paycheck to paycheck is one less obstacle to worry about during my first year of graduate studies, thanks to the Professionals Council. I will be able to solely focus on my studies and for this, I am beyond grateful.

2016 Recipient: Elise Rasmussen

Elise Rasmussen (MUP ’18)

The Equity Fund award was instrumental in my decision to attend the University of Washington, and will aid in my goals to change the environments of urban America.

After graduating from Carleton College, I joined Teach for America and spent four years as a teacher in predominately low-income communities of color. While my students demonstrated their resiliency, it became clear they faced challenges in housing, food insecurity, and gang violence on a daily basis. My experience in the classroom proved that students must be psychologically and physiologically healthy to fully access education. This realization led me to take a step back and consider a further-reaching strategy for social justice.

I am pursuing concurrent Master of Urban Planning and Master of Public Health degrees to study how the built environment impacts health, and the role that housing plays in health disparities. The families I served as an educator made it apparent that affordable and adequate housing is often the path toward gaining more social and financial stability.

2017 Update:

Now in her second year in graduate school, Elise is a Transportation Planning Intern at the Seattle Department of Transportation. She is working on a racial equity analysis of the Safe Routes to School Program, to understand the barriers faced by communities of color to walking and biking to school.

Elise is working toward her dual degree through the Community Oriented Public Health Practice program, which has a strong emphasis on racial and social justice. This winter she will begin her practicum assignment at Seattle-King County Public Health, focusing on the intersection of housing and health – the wonderful melding of her dual degrees.

2015 Recipient: Roseann Atkinson

Roseann Atkinson (MUP ’17)

I am from Long Island, New York, and I’m the first person in my family to attend and graduate college. I have a B.A. in Economics, and an M.A. in Curriculum and Instruction.

My decision to study Urban Planning brings me back to my teaching experience in the Mississippi Delta. I witnessed how the decline of economic growth and employment opportunities led to a declining population and tax base. I saw planning decisions being made by government officials with little to no input from the people most impacted.

Planning can affect not just the design of a city but can help facilitate public participation and achieve balance between community life, economic growth, and long-term sustainability. I see planning and education addressing similar issues, such as social and economic inequities.

2017 Update:

Rosey is finishing up her dual Master’s degrees in Real Estate and Urban Planning at UW. She interns at the University of Washington’s Real Estate Office and serves as a Fellow at the Runstad Center for Real Estate Studies, exploring the topic “Development that Empowers – Designing Density in Seattle for the Next 100 Years.” She is pursuing a career in development where she can use her planning and real estate degrees, bridging the divide between theory and practice.


Contact Us

For more information, please call our Advancement Office at (206) 685-3751
or email