Name: Carlos Santos-Rivera
Undergraduate Major: Political Science
Hometown: San Juan, Puerto Rico
How did you discover urban planning?
I came across the term of planning back in my high school years when the local government, in efforts to respond to the public debt, started to cut funding to the public transportation system in Puerto Rico. Many people began wondering how to get to work, bring their kids from school, and even attend church. Since then, many austerity measurements emerged, shrinking the public spaces, opportunities for development in the Island, and our imagination towards progress.
Moreover, people started to lose their homes due to skyrocketing evictions and foreclosures. Hundreds of schools were closed in just a year, and the accessibility was a concern among families across the Island. I saw firsthand the impacts of such policies in my community. People started to walk five more miles daily because of ineffective public transport, displacement, and new distances to attend school.
As this economic crisis kept shaping everything surrounding my community, Hurricanes Irma & Maria made landfall on the Island. Throughout this latest shock, I discovered that many of the factors that made my community so vulnerable were based on the pre-conditions my people faced every day before the storm. I found planning through navigating recovery efforts of the Island. I started questioning how we could have prevented deaths, as well as thinking about how I can contribute to a stronger and more resilient society. Urban planning was an avenue for me to wrap my head around so many interfacing issues that involved my community and look for practical ways to solve them.
Why did you choose the MCMP program at U of Utah?
I came across a great research opportunity where a faculty member from this department was also involved. I found significant research alignments between many other professors and us. I saw how engaged the students were with their capstone projects which motivated me to visualize myself within the program. Before accepting my offer, I felt welcomed and accepted, and that was the ultimate factor in picking this program.
If you have done an internship, tell us about that experience.
During my bachelor’s, our research project was awarded by the National Science Foundation to explore the recovery process of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rio. Throughout this experience, I got the opportunity to manage the data collection and travel to Puerto Rico during the Summer and Winter of 2019. This opportunity allowed me to conduct field research, recruit research assistantships, collect data, and disseminate the results in collaboration with a great team of interdisciplinary researchers. Throughout every door knock, every survey, and every interview, people were kind enough to invite us inside their homes and share sensitive experiences of how they overcame the aftermath. That experience will always inspire my academic and professional path. I felt I was part of a collective effort by trying to amplify their voices through research and policy implications.
What are your career goals?
I am very enthusiastic about gaining experience as a public server and as an applied urban planner. Moreover, I would love to pursue my PhD and become a college professor someday. These experiences and goals are holding the notion of giving back to our community.
What would you tell prospective student about the MCMP program?
Try to engage with faculty that aligns with your research interest and career aspirations. Professors have been through what you are going right now, utilize them, and ask them questions. There are many specializations and dual degrees that you could explore as you go through your MCMP. Browse what research opportunities, internships, and other projects interest you. These experiences will be instrumental in your academic and career development. Lastly, Salt Lake City is such a diverse and energetic city with a promising future. What a great space to look for ways to apply what you have learned than your city? Pa’ lante! (leap forward).
Tell us one thing most people don’t know about you.
I used to dance classical ballet for about ten years. I danced in many different events in Puerto Rico, Cuba, and Panama. Always down for a dance battle.