IDG Student Alum Profile: Julia Tierney

In the third edition of the IDG student profile series, we meet Julia Tierney, a recent graduate of the Master in City Planning program. 


1. What were you doing before you came to DUSP?

I was working on urban upgrading (specifically water and sanitation) projects with the World Bank in Brazil.

2. Why did you choose to come to DUSP?

I already had a master's in international relations and economics, and I had worked for five years, but while at the World Bank I realized that urban development - as it was actually occurring - was different from the international development narrative I learnt during my previous master's. I wanted to rescale my knowledge of "development" down to the city, specifically the informal settlements that housed the vast majority of Brazil's urban poor. Rather than international development as a story of national economic development, I wanted to understand urban development inside the informal settlements of cities such as São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. I was more interested in international urban studies, rather than very broad notions of international development, and I decided on DUSP because it merged broader understandings of international development with a specific focus on the urban.

3. What was your work and/or research while at DUSP? 

I wrote my thesis on the urban governance aspects of police reform in Rio de Janeiro. But more broadly my research was on urban insecurity in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro and the peripheries of São Paulo. I also researched the idea of Brazil as a developmental state, and looked at the recent developments in the Amazon (specifically the building of the Belo Monte dam) as an example of its realization.

4. How did you draw on resources at DUSP to support your work and/or research?

I was supported by two DUSP fellowships for research abroad. I also worked with a faculty member on a project financed by USAID that paid for summer research in São Paulo as well as my trip to the World Urban Forum in Naples, Italy. 

5. What resources, working groups or other affiliations outside of DUSP did you draw on to support your work and/or research?

I was able to spend four months in Brazil researching my thesis and interning with the city government of Rio de Janeiro because of the very generous financial support of MISTI-Brazil at the Center for International Studies (and they also support research projects and summer internships in many other countries). 

6. What was unique about learning international development in an urban planning department?

An urban planning perspective on international development takes idea of development from the national to the urban scale, and also brings theories of development from the bookshelves to the streets of the different cities where students and professors work. I found DUSP's take on international development to be more thoughtful than how development is taught at more traditional international relations and public policy schools. An urban planning perspective means translating so-called best practices into actual results, which often means studying how most urban upgrading programs are incomplete, how the provision of private property titles is insufficient and how international institutions and practitioners of development are complicit in the very problems that they are seeking to resolve. I think that DUSP trains more critical practitioners of international development.

7. Where have you been in your time since DUSP?

I am a doctoral student in city planning at the University of California, Berkeley. I think that it's the best of both take the perspective I learned at DUSP and use it to challenge the new perspectives I am gaining at Berkeley. 


To read Julia's Master's thesis "Peace through the metaphor of war: From police pacification to governance transformation in Rio de Janeiro," click the link to the left.


To read the profile of current MCP student Weixuan Li, click here.

To read the profile of current MCP student Sarah Dimson, click here.