Name: Neil Menjares
Originally from: Cebu City, Philippines
Degree: M.S. Urban and Regional Planning, concentration in Economic Development
Graduating class: 2016
Neil Menjares, class of 2016, came to the University of Iowa as a Fulbright student from the Philippines to expand his horizons in the field of urban planning as a college instructor of architecture. He was first introduced to urban planning during his undergraduate studies in architecture. “Since then, I’ve always been interested in urban planning, especially since I am directly affected by the ills of poor urban planning in the city where I live and work. I already had some background in physical planning, but there are socio-economic dimensions of urban planning that are not covered in architecture school,” Neil says.
One aspect of the Urban and Regional Planning program at The University of Iowa that Neil appreciates is its policy focus. The projects and papers that he worked on were completely new to him. Neil explains, “Land use law, economic development, housing policy, public finance, and growth management were aspects of urban planning that I never investigated before. It allowed me to appreciate cities beyond the architect’s usual view of physical development.” He also enjoyed learning from the varying professional backgrounds of his classmates. He shares, “We had rich discussions from various perspectives, and I learned immensely from them, too!”
For Field Problems, Neil was part of a team that prepared a comprehensive plan for the City of Salix, Iowa, wherein they had the opportunity to undertake the comprehensive planning process, including collecting data on-site and engaging with community stakeholders, culminating in the presentation of the planning output to the community. Neil says, “We drew lessons from various classes and applied them in the planning process. The weekly meetings with our advisers made sure we were on the right track, so those were very helpful.”
Upon his return to the Philippines, Neil has been able to guide urban planning and urban design master’s students in their theses and capstone projects. He has also been able to advise undergraduate architecture students in their theses. Neil says, “Our master’s students undergo the comprehensive planning process by engaging with community stakeholders. My experience at Iowa prepared me to guide our students in a meaningful way. I am also able to let undergraduate architecture students realize how the surrounding urban environment, including the socio-economic conditions, impacts the way they design their buildings.” Representing the academe, Neil has participated in various stakeholder engagements for various urban planning initiatives in Cebu City.