Cooper Mason (Class of 2019)

photo of Cooper Mason

  • senior Urban & Regional Planning major, with a Sustainability co-major
  • from Glen Ridge, NJ
  • worked as summer management intern in New York City
  • participated in Urban Field Experience in Chicago (geography capstone)
"Try new things. I've taken a lot of Miami classes that I never would have considered if you had asked me when I was in high school. Taking a class that seems challenging or different from what you are used to could lead to finding new interests and passions."

Why Miami?

"When I was deciding between schools, Miami was one of the only ones that I could actually see myself attending. I liked the focus on undergraduate teaching, and the campus felt big enough for me but still easily manageable and walkable.

"Coming in my first year, I really didn't know what I wanted to study. I had registered for classes late, so I was left with only a few options. I tried classes that sounded interesting or covered topics that I hadn't really learned about in high school. I eventually filled some Miami Plan requirements and was thinking about choosing political science as my major or applying to the Farmer School of Business. Although I was looking for something in the humanities or social sciences, I didn't end up choosing Urban and Regional Planning (URP) until after I worked in New York City the summer before my sophomore year!"

Best Miami Experiences

"What Miami does best is making sure its students are capable communicators. I think most classes focus on students being able to relay information clearly and articulately, whether it be through a paper or presentation. The URP major is also comprehensive, allowing us to try most types of planning so that we have an understanding of what we might do in a professional planning setting.

"There are many great professors and instructors at Miami, but professor of geography David Prytherch and assistant teaching professor of comparative religion John-Charles Duffy had the biggest impact on me.

Urban Field Experience [GEO 493] students at La Casita de Don Pedro, Humboldt Park, Chicago, Illinois.

Dr. Prytherch is my advisor, and I've had him in 4 different courses. He is extremely knowledgeable and passionate about what he teaches. Because he's been on Oxford's planning commission and is currently a member of the city council, he really practices what he talks about in class. He is a great role model, especially for someone who is looking into a career in planning.

"Dr. Duffy taught two of my classes during the first half of my career at Miami, and although I never ended up being a comparative religion major I learned so much from him and loved his style of teaching. I learned about different religions so that I could talk about them critically without being judgmental. This is a skill that can be applied to many different subjects, especially when dealing with people who come from different backgrounds."

Miami and the Liberal Arts

"Liberal arts majors have the privilege of taking a wide variety of courses. Despite being an urban and regional planning major, I have taken classes in physics, comparative religion, sociology, and many other topics not directly related to the main focus of my field. I think this is good, because it allows you to explore other interests and provides a larger base of knowledge which can help you understand the perspective of others.

What I've enjoyed the most in my URP major is learning how the form of urban districts is shaped by the function a city provides and how that has changed over time. When you look at older cities, like New York or London, they are as much a product of modern planning as they are the practices and functions of earlier settlers. I think this is important to remember when working in planning, especially on a long-term project. A comprehensive plan may look as far as 20 years into the future, but the changes and developments made through that plan could last far beyond that time."

A Summer of New York Building Codes

"One of the most important experiences I've had as a Miami student was the first summer I worked in New York City at the Brodsky Organization, a real estate development company, after my freshman year. Before then, I had always been wary of the city, finding it intimidating and confusing, but after working there for the whole summer it became interesting and exciting. The idea that all my daily needs could be met within walking distance of my home really intrigued me, and it was this experience that led me to decide on URP as my major.

"My daily tasks as a summer management intern were typical of any office job: filing, organizing storerooms, and answering phone calls and emails. However, I was also able to work on several other projects related to NYC building code compliance. These opportunities introduced me to the complicated set of rules and regulations that form and shape the city into what millions see from all around the world.

"Understanding those regulations and how they played a role in not only forming NYC but also how people used and interacted with the built environment helped me to realize that I had the potential to be a part of that process. The experience led me to speak with Dr. Prytherch about some of these ideas, and I realized that urban & regional planning was really the field of study I wanted to complete my Miami degree.

"After I graduate this spring, I would really like to work for or within a major city. I'm looking forward to playing a significant part in shaping the built environment to better assist the people who live there."

Advice to Students

"Just try new things. I've taken a lot of Miami classes that I never would have considered if you had asked me when I was in high school. Taking a class that seems challenging or different from what you are used to could lead to finding new interests and passions.

"I would also suggest that students stay actively engaged in classes. It helps me learn the material better, and professors notice when you are more actively involved. Overall, just try your best to give yourself the most positive learning experience possible!"

[April 2019]