Dr. Andrew Zitcer, Assistant Professor and Thesis Director for the Arts Administration program, is embarking on a new adventure. Starting this fall, he’ll be splitting his time at Drexel between Arts Administration and his new role as the inaugural Program Director of Westphal’s new Urban Strategy masters program. I caught up with Andrew to learn more about his role in developing the program, what his favorite part about starting a new endeavor is, and what advice he has for others who are about to launch something new.
An outgrowth of Drexel’s own urban agenda, the Urban Strategy masters program offers students the opportunity to study urbanism and the transformations occurring in the environment around the University. Harris Steinberg, Executive Director of the Lindy Institute for Urban Innovation, approached Andrew with the idea of starting an urban planning program. After brainstorming together, they realized instead of limiting themselves to the 20th century discipline of a traditional urban planning program, they could develop their own program from the ground up that would meet the needs and the skill set of 21st century urbanists. The program incorporates classes that are taught by faculty from history, sociology, criminology, public health, economics, engineering, and design. There is a set of core classes plus options to dive deeper into a student’s area of interest through a diverse offering of electives. Students in the program will also complete a studio based thesis working with a client in the community.
“We’re thinking about cities in a very holistic and integrated way,” Andrew says. “This program is designed to give people the translational skills for a career in urbanism, whether that's non-profit, public sector, or even for-profit.”
Andrew says he and Steinberg worked closely together at the University of Pennsylvania for many years doing community building, outreach, and engagement around 40th Street and the West Philadelphia initiatives. The two had built a foundation of trust and shared vision which paved the way for this partnership in the Urban Strategy program.
Andrew led the planning process in developing the program and curriculum and views himself as the curator of the program. He says that the Department of Architecture, Design, and Urbanism, Dean Allen Sabinson, President Fry, and Provost Blake have been very supportive and encouraging. Students will have the benefit of partnerships within the University, including with the Lindy Institute.
“My passion is the relation between arts and urban planning, so to be able to stay teaching in arts administration, and to add this to my portfolio of practice is a dream come true because I can do the two things that I care about most,” Andrew says.
During our conversation, I asked Andrew what it is about new projects that he finds invigorating. He says he’s contributed to the founding of lot of new things over the years, including The Rotunda and a synagogue. He credits “founding energy” as the source of excitement because it means a chance to rethink old settled ways of doing things, and a way of bringing opportunities to people who haven’t had them. Andrew says he finds recognizing latent energy, capturing it, organizing it, and redirecting it to be thrilling, and even though these sorts of projects are time and energy consuming, they are rewarding.
Generally speaking, An drew says that the uncertainty of the outcome of a new initiative is the first challenge faced by people diving into new projects. The second is when a founder needs to transition out of the founding role and allow space for the person who will sustain the initiative, which is often discussed in the Arts Administration classes.
Andrew’s advice for those of us who are embarking on new projects is to not be afraid of failure. He suggests being vulnerable but bold, kind and generous with your time, and open to admitting your mistakes. The world is looking for good ideas, and he says you should partner with others and elevate their voices along the way.
“If you are a genuine, kind, thoughtful, attentive, caring, vulnerable person who offers yourself as the first to dive into the water and invite other people to be part of it with you, then even when you have stumbles, people will appreciate the spirit with which you’re undertaking this and that you’re doing it out of a sense of generosity and care, rather than a sense of self-serving and domination over others,” Andrew says.
Thank you for your advice, Andrew. Best wishes to you with the Urban Strategy program! To learn more about the Urban Strategy MS, contact Program Director Andrew Zitcer at firstname.lastname@example.org or click here.