Grant Will Establish Racial Equity in Policy and Planning Program

The Barr Foundation grant will provide stipends to five REPP Fellows studying urban planning and policy at Tufts
Three women stand in a group chatting at an event in this photo taken before the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Urban planning professions often do not look like the communities they serve. We intend the REPP Fellows to be agents of change,” said Julian Agyeman, professor of urban and environmental policy and planning. Photo: Kelvin Ma/Tufts University
January 7, 2022

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The Department of Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning (UEP) in the School of Arts and Sciences has been awarded a two-year, $325,000 grant from the Barr Foundation to establish the Racial Equity in Policy and Planning (REPP) program, in partnership with the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life and the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. The new program has been designed to promote racial justice in the public policy and planning fields by educating professionals to change how policy and planning is practiced—and by changing who is doing the work.

The Barr Foundation grant will support five students per year who are admitted to either of UEP’s two-year master’s programs. These individuals must be from underrepresented groups, have demonstrated a commitment to advancing racial justice, and exhibit potential to be racial justice change agents in the policy and planning fields. The students will receive full tuition scholarships, stipends provided by the Barr Foundation, paid internships, and programming to build leadership skills, develop networks, and provide socio-emotional support. 

Upon admission to the master’s program, students can self-nominate for consideration; students who are selected will be named REPP Fellows. REPP will recruit its first class of fellows in Spring 2022, with students beginning the program in Fall 2022.

“In providing these up-and-coming leaders with the skills and opportunities they will need to bring racial justice practice to the urban planning and policy field, the REPP Fellows program embodies the university’s intention to become an anti-racist institution,” said Interim UEP Chair Julian Agyeman, professor of urban and environmental policy and planning and Fletcher Professor of Rhetoric and Debate. “The urban planning and city-making professions often do not look like the communities that they serve. We intend the REPP Fellows to return to the workplace as agents of change, as they seek to dismantle and remedy the deep-seated historical inequities within the policy and planning sphere.”

“Tufts has been building its commitment and resources to recruit and retain more BIPOC students in our graduate programs,” added Bob Cook, who until recently was dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. “REPP is a model for how this investment can serve not only the fellows but our whole Tufts community and beyond.”

The REPP Fellows program builds on the model of the Neighborhood Fellows (NF) program, which has for nearly 20 years recruited up to five experienced urban leaders each year to UEP’s midcareer master of public policy program. The NF program’s objective is to increase enrollment among people of color who are established leaders in urban communities in Boston and surrounding cities on issues of urban community politics, economics, education, housing, and social life.

Based on UEP’s two decades of experience with the NF program, senior lecturer Penn Loh, director of the master of public policy program, sees clear parallels between the impact of the NF program and the benefits of the new REPP Fellows program. “One of the things that we've learned is that when you are able to support experienced students in this way, they earn a credential that will significantly help them in their careers—and at the same time, they bring both lived and professional experiences that deeply enrich our community,” said Loh.

In addition to the stipends, REPP Fellows also will benefit from programming in leadership skills, building networks, among other topics. The REPP program will offer workshops for BIPOC students as well as others who are interested in pursuing anti-racist practices, policies, and outcomes in policy and planning. The goal, according to Agyeman, is to establish a community of practice within the department that is designed to facilitate the training—and fast-track the impact—of those who intend to do racial equity work in the policy and planning profession.

"We are excited to partner with Tufts UEP to build a pathway for leaders of color in the policy and planning fields in our region," said Mariella Puerto, director of the Climate Program at the Barr Foundation. “Supporting the next generation of leadership in our region reflects our long-term commitment to centering racial equity in the climate movement.”

The REPP program is the result of a growing partnership between UEP and the Tisch College of Civic Life. “Together, UEP and Tisch College seek to advance shared values such as civic engagement, innovation, and democracy,” said Dayna Cunningham, Pierre and Pamela Omidyar Dean of the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life. “In this moment, it is crucial that we listen to the voices of students from racially, economically, and socially marginalized communities. As engaged active citizens, they will build the multiracial democracy of tomorrow.”

Angela Nelson can be reached at angela.nelson@tufts.edu.