International Labs, Fellowships 2011

SPPD Students Apply Lessons in Brazil, China, Bolivia and Australia

By Cristy Lytal

SPPD China Lab Mark Pisano, lower right, headed this summer’s SPPD China Lab.
Photo by Molly Kraus

The USC School of Policy, Planning, and Development (SPPD) has a mission to “shape the world,” and more than 60 students spent their summers putting these words into action in Brazil, China, Bolivia and Australia.

Master of planning students Ying Huang and Yu Liu interned at the World Bank’s Beijing office. The unique opportunity arose as a result of a Memorandum of Understanding signed by SPPD and the East Asian Pacific division of the World Bank in February 2009.

The students — who are fluent in Mandarin and English — spent the summer consulting on two topics: small and medium town development and housing policies in China.

China Factory Tour SPPD students tour a light bulb factory in China’s Pearl River Delta.
Photo by Molly Kraus

“The work that we did in the bank is really related to what I learned at SPPD,” said Huang. “I studied urban planning at USC, and the job that I was doing at the bank was also related to urban development.”

Their internships pointed them toward a potential career that would utilize their bicultural experience.

“I would like to work on projects related to China, either in China or in the U.S., because that’s my expertise,” Liu said.

Four SPPD students — master of public policy student Gabriele Noriega-Ward, master of planning student Kazuma Brian Kazeyama, and dual master of planning/master of public administration students Raabia Budhwani and Daniel Inloes, Jr. — also worked in China.

SPPD Brazil Lab Frank Zerunyan, right, leads students on SPPD’s Brazil lab.
Photo by Christian Port

The students participated in summer internships hosted by the Chinese Academy of Urban Planning and Development (CAUPD), China’s leading urban planning agency.

“The idea of an internship with the CAUPD was really cool, because China is like no other country in the world right now,” said Budhwani, who spent the summer doing economic development case studies of U.S. cities with multiple airports.

SPPD Students in Rio de Janeiro Photo by Frank Zerunyan

Inloes shares Budhwani’s fascination with the rapidly industrializing nation.

“I really enjoy studying regional perspectives,” he said. “I also enjoy focusing on international planning, because the broader your net, the more ideas you can catch. Fresh planning ideas are always useful.”

Inloes, who also participated in the summer international lab in Brazil, used his Portuguese skills to create a city plan for Luanda, Angola, which suffered from hyper-urbanization during a decades-long civil war.

Kazeyama utilized his foreign language skills to research Japanese reconstruction policies and community involvement in the wake of disasters.

“International development is really interesting, especially when the economy’s growing so fast over there,” he said. “I’ve always been interested in things overseas and international matters, so hopefully my career will one day take me there.”

For Noriega-Ward — who created an economic development strategic plan for a rural province in China — the internship broadened her horizons.

Australia MPA student Sally Kikuchi interned for the U.S. State Department in Australia.

“I’ve gained interest in a whole new region of the world,” she said. “Now I feel like I can go anywhere and adapt and settle in and get my bearings and do whatever I need to do. That was a great confidence booster for me.”

Twenty-three other students headed to China with SPPD’s China Lab, which analyzed how the Shenzhen region can develop a more consumer-based economy and improve its environmental quality.

The SPPD students included 13 from mainland China, five from Taiwan, one from Hong Kong and four from the United States.

“First of all, getting that multinational, multicultural perspective enabled us to really understand the issue,” said SPPD senior fellow Mark Pisano, who led the lab. “Second of all, the students from China were skilled and knowledgeable individuals. They really knew China and had a lot of interesting perspectives. So we didn’t have to get acculturated, and we had no language problems whatsoever.”

Bolivia MPA student Julia Capizzi interned for the U.S. State Department in Bolivia.

Working in partnership with the Party University of Shenzhen, the students made a number of well-received recommendations, such as supporting intellectual property rights, creating a better environment for immigrant workers and developing a diversified, environmentally friendly industrial base.

“I would call it more than a huge success,” Pisano said. “It was really a monumental accomplishment.”

The summer’s other international lab brought more than 30 students to Brazil, which will be hosting a series of major world events ranging from the World Cup to the Olympics in the coming years. The SPPD cohort worked in collaboration with students from the Fundacao Getulio Vargas in Rio de Janeiro to explore the planning issues surrounding the upcoming events and games.

“We thought that this was a great opportunity for us to look at the ramifications of such main events on public policy and the legacy that they can leave behind,” said Frank Zerunyan, SPPD associate director of executive education and adjunct associate professor, who led the lab.

Master of public administration student Julia Capizzi also enjoyed a summer in South America as a State Department intern in the human resources division of the U.S. embassy in Bolivia. The experience gave her a glimpse of life in the foreign service, which she hopes will be her future career.

“It was such a great experience,” she said. “Being there… was invaluable. That’s something you can never get from reading a book.”

Capizzi added, “More than anything, the level of professionalism that you need to bring to this kind of situation, being in SPPD helped prepare me for that.”

On the other side of the world, master of public administration student Sally Kikuchi served as a State Department intern in the public affairs section of the U.S. embassy in Australia. She spent seven weeks in Canberra and one week in Sidney doing everything from writing grant proposals to drafting talking points for the ambassador.

She also did a directed research project examining how social media has affected communications at the embassy.

“Everyone that I worked with was extremely supportive, and I came out of the experience with long-lasting relationships with people that I see as mentors,” she said. “Ideally, I would love to be in an international setting again or doing work on international policy… I’m open to a lot of opportunities that come my way in the next year.”