University of Minnesota

2019 program

For the third year, GTI coordinated a May term study-abroad course that included visits to major Chinese cities. The three-credit, graduate-level course—PA 5880: Planning for China's Urban Billion—was offered by the Humphrey School of Public Affairs.

Great wall

Participants in the 2019 study-abroad course

The intensive two-week course familiarized students with urban planning practices and emerging development issues in five unique Chinese cities: Beijing, Xiong'an, Shenzhen, Guangzhou, and Hong Kong. It was led by GTI director Yingling Fan.

The course integrated guest lectures, site visits, and cross-cultural classroom activities. For example, students examined Beijing through the lens of its oldest neighborhoods, which have faced destruction as the city and China relentlessly modernize. "We learned about the application of advanced urban sensing technologies to collect data on urban processes and transform how communities engage with neighborhood planning and development," Fan says.

The students also made a one-day visit to Xiong'an, a state-level new area located about 100 kilometers southwest of Beijing. Established in April 2017, Xiong'an was "hand-picked by Chinese president Xi Jinping as the dream city for his 'thousand-year' plan to transform the area into a high-technology hub of the region," Fan says.

Seventeen students from eight departments across the University of Minnesota completed the course. One was Shannon Evans Engstrom, a Humphrey School graduate student in urban and regional planning. "The trip made a big impact on me and my career," she says. "Studying transportation and land-use planning in China is particularly valuable because the government is able to do things we cannot do in the US, for better or worse. For example, a big takeaway for me was just how much they are able to do with technology and data."

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