Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Name: Sadya Islam

Originally from: Bogra, Bangladesh

Degree: M.S. Urban and Regional Planning, concentrations in Land Use and Environmental Planning; GIS

Graduating class: 2018

University of Iowa graduate student Sadya Islam remembers crying by the mere thought of studying urban and regional planning.

Sadya Islam

Growing up in Bangladesh, Islam wanted to follow in her father’s footsteps and become a mechanical engineer after college. But in Bangladesh, students are assigned to an academic department based on their results of a college-entrance test. Islam’s test score left her with a difficult decision.

If she wanted to attend Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology, her top choice, she would have to study urban and regional planning. However, she could pursue her desired mechanical engineering degree at a less prestigious university.

Islam decided to study planning at Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology, which didn’t appear to be the right choice initially.

“I was not happy with planning at first, because it wasn’t engineering. Urban and regional planning made me cry,” Islam says. “I like doing math and technical things. In planning, I was studying mostly policies and theories, and I was struggling. My results weren’t good at first.

“After one and a half years, I started understanding why I was doing this and how my country is vulnerable to various natural disasters, with flooding being the most important. From that time, I learned that urban planning has meaning.”

Community engagement projects

Looking to continue her study of environmental management and climate change, Islam took a friend’s advice and chose to attend graduate school at the University of Iowa.

For Islam, there have been no tears, just lots of outreach activities to better Iowa communities.

Islam suggests students consider the University of Iowa for their graduate study destination. The program prepares students with the right skills needed to be successful as a planning professional. Students develop a deeper understanding of planning policies in the U.S. and have the chance to be engaged in practical planning projects. The school also provides financial support to many qualified students and the learning and sharing atmosphere in the department is excellent.  

Last summer, Islam had an internship with the City of Cedar Rapids. Working with the Department of Community Development and Planning, Islam and two fellow students were able to transfer what they learned in the classroom and apply it to initiatives ranging from the re-drafting of the city’s zoning code to collecting public input for and drafting an area action plan for the College District.

Islam and another classmate also received first place in the 2017 Upper Midwest American Planning Association Student Poster Contest. Their poster, titled, “Mitigating Flood Risk by Improving Permeability in Downtown Wellman, IA,” was based on research completed in their Environmental Management class during the 2017 spring semester. This is an example of the type of research she wanted to explore in order to take the knowledge back to Bangladesh.

“Using storm water management tools, the project showed how much water is accumulating in 10-year and 2-year rain situations and how much they can be reduced by using available low impact development practices,” says Islam, whose husband is a doctoral student in geography at the University of Iowa.

Islam is currently working on a professional consulting project in Mason City for the capstone course, Field Problems in Planning. She is on a team with four other graduate students devising positive campaigning to address perception issues, while attracting more businesses, to the north end part of this town. The final report for this project will be given to the City of Mason City and Cerro Gordo County Public Health Department in May 2018.