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Yang M

- Research Program Mentor

MS at Harvard University


City planning, real estate development, transportation, local politics, government and public policy


Hi, I'm Jefferson. I studied philosophy at UChicago for undergrad, which is basically like majoring in not knowing what to do with your life. Then I studied urban planning at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, which is not that much better, to be honest. Both fields are highly interdisciplinary, incredibly complex, and intellectually rich, but also (in my opinion) very applicable on an everyday basis. That's the kind of stuff that really interests me, and it's the perspective I'll bring to projects. My academic background in planning and policy has also been thoroughly tempered by my experiences working in multiple levels of government in New York City. I've sat across the table from politicians, real estate developers, cultural figures, labor unions, angry neighbors -- you name it. So my projects relating to the ideal of building the Great City and the Great Society will also have a healthy dose of realism.

Project ideas

Project ideas are meant to help inspire student thinking about their own project. Students are in the driver seat of their research and are free to use any or none of the ideas shared by their mentors.

Make No Little Plans

...they have no magic to stir men's blood. So says Daniel Burnham, author of the 1909 Plan of Chicago and in many ways the master architect and planner of the 20th Century American City. We're no longer living in Burnham's times, but the desire and need for big plans will always be with us. Using the city of your choosing as a starting point, this project will combine a deep dive into history, economics, demographics, policy, and governance with the realities of trying to enact civic change -- including the need to stir people's blood enough for them to care. You will be invited to do your due diligence, soberly consider the possibilities, recognize all the stakeholders, and carve out incremental improvements wherever they may appear. But at the same time, you will also be participating in that timeless, irresistible tradition of utopic city-building.

Intensive Study: The Scenes of a Neighborhood

How do you get to know a neighborhood? What is local knowledge vs. expert knowledge? From an urban design point of view, how do we perceive our environment? How does the local connect to a greater network? How does the past and present inform the future? By starting small and working from the most concrete details of one's surroundings, the student will gradually build up to a greater understanding of a particular place and one's role in relation to it. The project will be structured around a series of modules with deliverables that will combine to form a final report on the neighborhood.

Languages I know

Mandarin Chinese

Teaching experience

I have mentored high school students both for fee and pro bono on a variety of subjects including general study skills; I have tutored community college students on academic writing; I have taught intensive SAT-prep and SHSAT prep. I love teaching.


Work experience

Empire State Development (2020 - Current)
Program Manager
Manhattan Borough President's Office (2015 - 2018)
Urban Planner


University of Chicago
BA Bachelor of Arts (2010)
Harvard University
MS Master of Science (2015)
Urban Planning

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