Irene Aceituno

Irene Aceituno


Degree: Master of Urban and Regional Planning

Graduation Date: Spring 2019

Home town: Norwalk

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

I believe the school is the perfect balance between theory and praxis. Ultimately, the School of Ecology motivates me to dedicate my education and career to enhancing the livability of communities like mine, communities that need immediate and sustained attention. The MURP program is an ideal fit for me because the program is structured around social justice-orientated research and practice to address the ways socioeconomic forces and the built environment interlock and shape society. The MURP program approaches urban and regional planning from a perspective that considers systemic inequality and the ways planners can resist it.

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

I was raised in one of Norwalk’s tougher neighborhoods known as the One Ways. I was also in foster care from the age of 4 until my emancipation at 18. I have always wanted to give back to the communities that nurtured me. Then, while I was I interning at the Zoning Enforcement section of Los Angeles County Department of Regional Planning, I performed work that is comprehensive in scope and public interest driven. I worked under the supervision and mentorship of urban planner Jonathan P. Bell. This experience was inspiring, and it cemented the choice of urban planning as my career aspiration.

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

My most memorable experience so far at UCI was getting lost on my first visit to the campus. At first, I panicked. The circular shape of campus really threw off my sense of direction. I eventually stopped near the Zen Garden to recuperate. After a few minutes of taking in my surroundings, I didn’t feel lost anymore. I felt like I was in the right place and great things were being set in motion. It’s incredible how a simple thing like being lost on a university campus affected my outlook on academic career.

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

My objective when I graduate from UCI is to combine rigorous academic study with my personal knowledge of growing up in foster care and in an impoverished community – lived experiences that cannot be reproduced or taught in a formal curriculum. UCI will provide me with the tools to transform harmful planning approaches into practices that empower marginalized communities and actively promote their perspectives on what a quality community looks like. With my degree, I will utilize my planning skills and activist experience to cultivate an audacious vision, build community across movements, and thrust Latino communities and communities of color into action.

Photo: Patricia DeVoe