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Joel Benedetti, Economic Development

View Joel's paper, "The Who? Why? and How? of the Where: A brief survey of the literature on contemporary agglomeration theories." The paper was produced for the required economic development specialization course, UPP 530.

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What is your academic and work background? What did you do before enrolling in the MUPP program at UIC?

Immediately prior to enrolling as a MUPP, I was in a PhD program in History at the University of Chicago. Before that, I had done some work as a contractor for federal intelligence agencies. Very hush, hush.

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What attracted you to planning and made you decide you wanted to be a planner?

I was feeling unfulfilled at the prospect of doing academic history for a career. My favorite part was engaging people over the ideas, and sitting in the library gave me hives. And I was studying urban history: I totally geek out over cities and their complexity. So, I was drawn to planning as a field to explore some of those ideas about what makes cities tick, but to then engage with a variety of people to get those ideas enacted.

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Why did you want to study planning at UIC?

One, I wasn’t willing to leave Chicago; ergo, UIC was the default. Second, and more importantly, I was drawn to the strong social science component of CUPPA, especially in economic development. Third, Dean Pagano taught at my alma mater, and can be very persuasive.

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What are some of the highlights of your time as a student--classes, projects, internships, volunteer involvement?

I’ve really enjoyed learning urban finance and economics from Professors Weber and Drucker. Last summer, I was able to help Professor Wial with a paper about advanced manufacturing technologies that got me pretty excited about future manufacturing possibilities in Chicago. In Development Finance, I worked with a group to propose a low-income housing project for the West Rogers Park Jewish Community Council. A team member, John Amdor, proposed putting a public library in the development, and the council members loved the idea and that we had worked so hard to find a way to make it financially feasible.

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Where do you see yourself in five years?

Probably here in Chicago, but in what capacity, God only knows. I’m pretty intrigued by some of the efforts at civic improvement I see coming out of the private sector, with businesses seeming to understand the value of a healthy community. So, I would like to work for a company that has such an understanding, but I’m kind of agnostic as to exactly where that might be.

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