Emily Makini

Emily Makini


Degree: Master of Urban and Regional Planning

Graduated: 2019

Home town: Kaimuki, HI

Why did you choose the School of Social Ecology? And the MURP program specifically?

I chose the MURP program because I was drawn to the planning process and wanted to learn how to better use urban planning as a tool for building more socially equitable cities. I was drawn to UCI's Planning department because their research addresses the social, economic and spatial relationships that shape how society functions and exists – which aligned with my research interests. The School of Social Ecology and its faculty are known for their multidisciplinary, reconstructive, and communitarian approaches that address deep-seated societal problems. It was important for me to complete my studies in a program that gave me access to different avenues of understanding these complex social issues.

How did you grow interested in your current field of study?

Growing up in Hawaii, I have seen the unintended repercussions of rapid development. As major changes in land and industrial development occur in Hawaii, access to land and the ocean has become increasing limited for Native Hawaiians like myself, while the integrity of the natural habitats is destroyed and traditional food sources slowly disappear. I have seen the profound negative effects on our community caused by the increased loss of land and subsequent loss of cultural connections for Native Hawaiians. A place where my family would fish has now been blocked off as private property; the farm owned by a family friend that grew traditional wetland crops has gone fallow after a hotel was built nearby and diverted their water source. I desire to be an urban planner because I want to a part of growing cities in a thoughtful and culturally sensitive manner.

What has been your most memorable or significant experience so far at UCI?

The most memorable experience here for me is the support system I built within a group of my classmates and how that has helped me push through. We lament, celebrate, and encourage each other, and also hold side discussions (that is, group text threads) on topics we want to explore outside of the classroom. Our discussions force me to examine my biases and to explore perspectives that are beyond my habitual pattern. This school attracts amazing intellectuals and being able to tap into their thought processes has enhanced my learning tenfold.

How do you envision your degree from UCI opening doors for you or benefitting your career?

Our department offers a robust mix of academic and professional development opportunities that allow us to grow our technical skills along with our understanding of theory, so we can find our strengths and interests. I think this allows us to come out of the program highly versatile, able to tackle the complex problems inherent in the planning field. I look at my degree as an investment in my future and my potential, because at the end of this, I hope to have built a professional landing mat of contacts and relationships from this two year program. 

Photo: Patricia DeVoe