Stephen Kofi Diko is an Assistant Professor at the University of Memphis Department of City and Regional Planning. He holds a Ph.D. in Regional Development Planning from the University of Cincinnati, Ohio. His research interests and experiences encompass urban green spaces, climate change, flooding, informality, community economic development, plan quality assessments, and urban planning awareness. He explores these interests through the lens of sustainable urban development and policy both at the local and global levels.
Who Will Plan Our Cities in the Future?
By 2050, about 70% of people in the world will live in urban areas. Unfortunately, cities today experience challenges relating to affordable housing, pollution, inequality, rising temperatures, and flooding, among others.
Urban planning is a profession dedicated to making cities better. However, many people are unaware of the profession. Yet, it’s a profession that pays quite well and is in demand. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics notes the median income for urban planners in the US as US$78,500, with expected job growth of 4% between 2021 and 2031.
In 2016, my colleagues and I worked with students at Hughes STEM High School in Cincinnati to improve their athletic field, which was unkempt, unsafe, and uncomfortable to use.
We organized five meetings at the school where students mapped the challenges of the field, conducted surveys with other students about the field, and presented suggestions to address the challenges.
We believe that such initiatives demonstrate to students that urban planning empowers them to “change the world around them.” We also believe such initiatives create interest among young people to consider urban planning as a career.
For urban planning schools in the U.S. and throughout the world, raising awareness about urban planning among young people can be achieved when we partner with high schools to provide real-world experiences, encourage making urban planning part of the high school curriculum, and support prospective and existing urban planning students.
As we raise awareness about the profession among young people from diverse backgrounds, we will not be troubled about who will plan our cities in the future.