Stéfanie Weber, alumni, tells us her route

Stéfanie Weber, alumni, tells us her route

  • Stéfanie Weber et Joan Clos, ancien Executive Director d'ONU Habitat © S. WeberStéfanie Weber et Joan Clos, ancien Executive Director d'ONU Habitat © S. Weber
  • URBACT City Festival © URBACTURBACT City Festival © URBACT
  • Stéfanie Weber à l'URBACT City Festival © URBACTStéfanie Weber à l'URBACT City Festival © URBACT

STEFANIE WEBER'S PORTRAIT, AUSTRIAN/BRAZILIAN, FORMER STUDENT OF THE URBAN PLANNING PROGRAMM, CLASS 2016-2018

Where comes from your interest for the urban questions?

"Having lived most of my life in São-Paulo, I always had a strong interest for the urban and spatial questions. The real turning point came to me when I was 15 years old, during a travel of a month in Amazonia. I met various local communities and one of them was beneficiary of a program of the State for the construction of 100 houses. The "new" houses had been built for more than a year but nobody could live inside: the environment and the local habits had not been taken into account and it was far too much warm in buildings to live there. That’s when I knew I wanted to make people’s lives better through space changes. For this reason, I studied architecture and planning in Brazil, where I also worked in architectural firms.

What was your route before joining the Urban planning programme?

In Latin America, the course of town planning is integrated within the course of architecture. It was a good experience to study these two domains in a big metropolis as São-Paulo but I understood that the architecture was not sufficient to it alone to change the life of people in a wider scale and I was deprived of it. To have a real transformationof the territory (as result of a collective, participative and more egalitarian process), the development of the urban policies is necessary, as well as the interest on the aspects of the social sciences. Today, the urban planning is undoubtedly an essential part of the public sphere.

To reach my goal, I came to study the Geography and the Regional Development in France. This experience gave me the opportunity to discover the urban stakes under another perspective. By taking away me from the architecture, I was able to get closer to various subjects such as environmental issues, a domain which pleased me so much that I eventually worked with the secretariat of the UN during the COP21 in Paris. It was my second experience with this organization. Indeed, during summer, 2015, I participated in "53th Graduate Student Programme" in Geneva. This opening in a more holistic and non-specialized perspective brought me in various countries, to make internships and "workshops", as in Hungary, in Chile and even in China (where I lived for eight months in a « small city » of 10 millions of inhabitants).

What did you think of your training at Sciences Po?

"In view of the diversity of my route, to join the Urban planning programme seemed to me to be the logical result. It was certainly the best way to synthesize all that I had lived, to gather all my knowledges, to acquire professional tools and to master the implementation of the public policies and their evaluation. I believe that this program contains several positive aspects in comparison with other Master's degrees: there is a balance between the theoretical and practical courses, the accent is put on a professional-qualification project and a particular importance is granted on the scale of the city and beyond.

If on one side the Master in Governing the Large Metropolis is more turned to cities-worlds (in a global perspective), while the Master of Regional and Urban Strategy has a more local and French-speaking vision, the Urban planning programme, it, possesses more a scale of intermediate work and very targeted objectives: the production, the transformation and the management of the city through transverse skills associated with expertises. It is exactly in this multidisciplinary crossing which lives the strength of this training: we are 40 people in every class with very different routes (architects, engineers, géomaticiens, "sciences-tracks », historians, geographers, jurists, planners). We have very different, sometimes complementary, and sometimes more divergent visions. We also have a wide range of professional expectations. In my opinion, that is precisely the richness of the Urban planning programme.

In return, it is a loaded training. Given the vast panel of themes and subjects to be approached over a single year of course (the third and last half-year is dedicated to the internship, to the Final oral exam and to the defense of an article), we have never been lacking work and days were long (sometimes from 9am to 21 pm!). The language barrier was another difficulty which I had to face, because I am not French-speaking and all the courses are taught in French. The "new" courses for me, as the "Right and litigations of the town planning » put another challenge because I had no preliminary knowledge on the subject. I was fortunately able to succeed and to free me of the barriers thanks to the help of my companions, teachers and especially of the master team (including Marco Cremaschi, Irène Mboumoua and Jérôme Michel).

What was your route since your diplomation?

Within the framework of the internship for the validation of the Master's degree, I believe to have taken a rather atypical road, by comparison with my companions. While most of them stayed in Europe or in France, I left to Nairobi, to Kenya. During six months, I worked in the office of the UN Habitat, in the Department of Housing and Improvement of Shanty towns. My post was in the headquarters and I was able to work with several cities of various countries. My tasks were associated with the development of the methodological frame, the implementation and the evaluation of the Participative Program of Improvement of Shanty towns. I thus had the opportunity to work not only on a local scale of the project (by making of the ground in Nairobi and Mtwapa in Kenya), but also at the program management level (which had 40 countries and several cities).

Among their objectives, one was to create a network of collaboration between the various local authorities of member countries to promote the integrated and participative urban development. It already prefigured an objective very close to the program URBACT where I work at present within the Department of Communication and Capitalization. This organization helps cities to strengthen their capacities to conceive and to implement integrated urban policies, by the creation of networks between various local authorities in Europe. With diverse objectives turned to the territorial political cohesion, their Secretariat support three types of interventions: the building of local capacities, the transnational exchanges and the capitalization and the scattering.

What did the Urban planning programme provide you?

I am very grateful to be part of the history of the Urban planning programme. Having a Science Po degree is a valuable business card in the labour market. But honnestly, the one thing I appreciate most is that the formation has helped me to understand myself better. I learned to identify my assets, my interests and my weaknesses. I was able to refine my project and in turn the Urban planning programme provided me endless opportunities.

For example, I knew the European program of territorial cooperation URBACT thanks to the study trip which our class made in Thessalonica, in Greece. We had been lucky to participate in a transnational meeting of the network "Arrival Cities" (a network dedicated to the development of cities for the welcome of the migrants, which counts cities of eight countries). We had met the beneficiaries and the local actors, as well as the committed actors of the other countries. I was fascinated and it was at this moment that I knew that I would like to work on it one day! Today, I can say with certainty that there is a big share capital at Sciences Po and that the Urban planning programme taught me to work on something who fascinates me.

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