Dina Bleecker has lived in Indianapolis, Chicago, London, Brooklyn, and currently, Denver, providing her with a wide-ranging perspective on the needs of our cities and communities as they share similarities and vast differences. In her time in the College of Architecture and Planning at CU Denver, Dina has been able to explore her passion for expanding the reach and resources of nonprofit organizations for the people they serve.
Dina earned her Bachelor of Arts in English Literature and a management degree from Indiana University in Bloomington. Today, Dina is wrapping up her capstone project as she prepares to walk across the commencement stage to receive her Master of Urban and Regional Planning degree.
Dina connected with CAP for a Q&A to share her experiences as a Master of Urban and Regional Planning student and her hopes for the future.
What inspired you to study Urban and Regional Planning?
I have worked in many capacities with nonprofits for several years. I am always impressed by the individuals leading these organizations and what they and their staff are able to offer those whom they serve.
I believe the increasing demand for the work these nonprofits provide is partly related to poor and inequitable planning. These nonprofits grow from a strong desire to provide services and access to those that the traditional institutions have not. Planning has the opportunity to fix some of these disparities, and governments have the responsibility to support these organizations filling in the gaps where municipalities have failed.
I hope to be able to contribute to the necessary improvements that will offer greater access, health, and well-being to communities that do not receive equitable investment.
What has been a major takeaway from your experiences/classes in Urban and Regional Planning?
I have greatly enjoyed getting to know the other graduate students. I think the interdisciplinary classes allow interesting collaboration across the CAP degrees, and the classes that allow work with clients and the community are invaluable for seeing the relationship between academics and experience.
The speaker series events have been wonderful and have offered inspiring insights into professional work. Having some professionals in the field as professors has also been an appreciated resource.
What was an impactful experience from your time in the program that you will carry with you into your profession?
I found my planning workshop, international development, real-estate development, and sustainability courses quite valuable to my studies. My summer studio in Steamboat Springs, the housing charrette, and our planning engagement community listening session and related interviews were incredibly meaningful. I greatly enjoyed my research assistant work and hearing from community organizers and city employees about their needs and expertise in Denver.
What is your capstone project, and why is the project important to you?
My capstone project looks to determine potential identity anchors for multi-unit residential developments that can help support the residents by building connections to oneself, the community, and the location and history of a place.
Identity anchors can hopefully help foster a sense of belonging to something bigger than the individual and encourage positive relationships and interaction among residents, while also providing a place of safety and comfort.
What’s next after you complete your degree?
I do not yet know what I will be doing post-graduation, but I hope to continue my capstone research as it pertains to building healthier and inclusive housing, as well as use my engagement and community-building skills in my next endeavor. I hope to explore ways in which service and interactive spaces can help build positive relationships and community as it relates to improved wellbeing.