Tufts UEP Commencement Speeches 2018: Christian Brandt, MA

This is the second in a series of three posts publishing UEP’s three 2018 commencement speeches. First was Nakia Navarro, MPP, and we’ll finish tomorrow with Erica Walker’s alumni keynote. Note: this speech has been edited slightly from its original format. 

Want to watch Christian’s speech instead? Click here for video.

My name is Christian Brandt. If you didn’t like this speech, my name is Matt Amato.

First I’d like to thank my professors. Laurie, for being my thesis advisor and general life advisor – thank you for putting up with my passionate stubbornness, and for letting me win every once in a while! Shomon, for being my advisor my first year – your tolerance for my tendency to talk to fill time was admirable. The professors who I have TA’ed for: Laurie, Barbara and Jon, Penn, Ann, and Beth. Thank you for allowing me to learn from you. And of course, the professors with whom I have taken classes – most of you! Thank you for your commitment to social justice and ethical planning. It has been truly inspiring to learn from you. And of course Maria, Mike, and Marley for making Brown House such a wonderful place to be!

Thank you especially to all of you, the students. It was truly a privilege to learn with you, spend endless hours in that windowless Data Lab, and let go at Redbones. My experience here would absolutely be different if you weren’t there to share knowledge, brainstorm, complain, etc. etc. Some favorite moments included almost dying multiple times on the hike at the Loj Trip. Julia will know what I’m talking about! Drinking beer in the Data Lab, and raiding the Grad Student Lounge for snacks before Land Use.

When reflecting on my time at UEP, I came up with some really important take-aways, that I will be applying to my life and to my future practice.

First, Everything is a social justice question. We should constantly be interrogating polices and plans for their social justice implications. And we should be confronting injustice whenever we see it.

Second, this might seem obvious to some of us, but communities matter. Development without displacement is possible, organized and supported residents can and should influence planning decisions.

From Laurie I have learned how to be a scholar and practitioner. One thing that I’ll take with me wherever I go in whatever work I do, is her timeless adage, “If a tree falls in a wood, and there is no-one there to create a matrix of the different modalities of its falling, did it fall at all?” From Laurie I also learned that the recorder is not just a baroque wind instrument, but a useful and important tool for relaxation and enjoyment. And that once you find something that helps you, if it ain’t baroque don’t fix it!

How many of you are familiar with the Yanny vs. Laurel debate? If not, there was an audio clip that sometimes sounded like Yanny and sometimes sounded like Laurel. People LOST THEIR MINDS about it – existential spirals, all that good stuff. This semester, I had my own yanny/laurel experience in Local Government Finance. Jon would be describing fees and I was sure they were taxes!  And then I thought I should read the case law and look at how cities use them, but they clearly didn’t know either!! Also from Jon I also learned that Massachusetts 40b, Zoos, and Jane Jacobs have more in common than first meets the eye. I’m not entirely sure what the commonality is, I just know that Jon despises them equally. Sorry – wasn’t taking the best notes!

From Shomon, I learned that dad jokes are a surprisingly useful way to learn statistics. Which to be honest, I should have realized earlier considering that my own dad is a statistics teacher…unfortunately for him he doesn’t have (nice) baby pictures to accompany the lesson. I actually really liked statistics. Just like happy hour at Redbones, there was a lot of regression.  If you want you can join us at Redbones after!  We’re going to run a T-test and get Chi-Squared!

You know, people have always told me that I would be a good planner. Maybe it’s because my face looks just like a house.  Or maybe it’s that houses look like faces?  It’s true – I learned that form Justin!  Look at one when you leave here, your life will literally be the never be the same.

I also learned some very important vocabulary and I wanted to briefly mention some of my favorites:

  • LULUs – locally undesirable land uses
  • POPOS – privately owned public open space
  • NIMFOS – not in my field of sight
  • And my personal favorite: BANANA – Build absolutely nothing anywhere near anything.

Field projects was a great experience. It was an opportunity to tackle a challenging project with a team (hi team!) of fellow students, and for me it was also an opportunity to say the word “dissemination” about two million times. And lastly, and by far the most useful, important, and meaningful take away from my time at UEP, something that I’ll apply to my own life and to my practice, is that Revere Beach was the first public beach in America!

I want to end with some words of wisdom from one of my favorite grad school graduates of all time: Elle Woods. I like this quote because I relate so much to Ell Woods. She and I have a lot in common, I don’t know if you knew that. We both grew up on the West Coast and moved to Boston for graduate school, we both believe in standing up for those who have been treated unfairly, and we were both the president of our sorority.  Two of those are true, one of those is not.

On our very first day at Tufts, a very wise Professor quoted Aristotle: “Urban Planning is reason free from passion.” Well, no offense to Aristotle, but in my two years at Tufts I have come to find that passion is a key ingredient to the study and practice of planning – and of life. It is with passion, courage of conviction, and strong sense of self that we take our next steps into the world, remembering that first impressions are not always correct. You must always have faith in people. And most importantly, you must always have faith in yourself. Congratulations class of 2018 – we did it!