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Joel Benedetti, Economic Development
View Joel's paper, "The Who? Why? and How? of the Where: A brief survey of the literature on contemporary agglomeration theories." The paper was produced for the required economic development specialization course, UPP 530.
What is your academic and work background? What did you do before enrolling in the MUPP program at UIC?
Immediately prior to enrolling as a MUPP, I was in a PhD program in History at the University of Chicago. Before that, I had done some work as a contractor for federal intelligence agencies. Very hush, hush.
What attracted you to planning and made you decide you wanted to be a planner?
I was feeling unfulfilled at the prospect of doing academic history for a career. My favorite part was engaging people over the ideas, and sitting in the library gave me hives. And I was studying urban history: I totally geek out over cities and their complexity. So, I was drawn to planning as a field to explore some of those ideas about what makes cities tick, but to then engage with a variety of people to get those ideas enacted.
Why did you want to study planning at UIC?
One, I wasn’t willing to leave Chicago; ergo, UIC was the default. Second, and more importantly, I was drawn to the strong social science component of CUPPA, especially in economic development. Third, Dean Pagano taught at my alma mater, and can be very persuasive.
What are some of the highlights of your time as a student--classes, projects, internships, volunteer involvement?
I’ve really enjoyed learning urban finance and economics from Professors Weber and Drucker. Last summer, I was able to help Professor Wial with a paper about advanced manufacturing technologies that got me pretty excited about future manufacturing possibilities in Chicago. In Development Finance, I worked with a group to propose a low-income housing project for the West Rogers Park Jewish Community Council. A team member, John Amdor, proposed putting a public library in the development, and the council members loved the idea and that we had worked so hard to find a way to make it financially feasible.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
Probably here in Chicago, but in what capacity, God only knows. I’m pretty intrigued by some of the efforts at civic improvement I see coming out of the private sector, with businesses seeming to understand the value of a healthy community. So, I would like to work for a company that has such an understanding, but I’m kind of agnostic as to exactly where that might be.