Get to Know: Northeastern University’s MS in Urban Informatics
Posted on November 6th, 2015
Get to Know: Antonio Vázquez Brust, MS in Urban Informatics student on a Fulbright managed scholarship
Antonio Vázquez Brust had a successful career providing technology support and advice for nearly nine years. Yet he walked into an office on the 20th floor of IBM Argentina and nervously said, “I’m quitting,” leaving his boss dumbfounded, staring like deer in headlights.
“I’m not going anywhere,” Brust insisted after his boss demanded to know which company had recruited his stellar employee.
But Brust didn’t just wake up on a bright sunny morning in 2013 and impulsively decided to quit. The thought had been brewing since he went on a 20-day trip to Europe in 2012 and saw first-hand the hustle and bustle of big cities like Brussels and Barcelona.
Hungry to learn more about metropoles, Brust decided to study urban and regional planning at the University of Buenos Aires, juggling a fulltime career at IBM and a rigorous graduate program. However, that just wasn’t enough. Brust needed more so he resigned from his prominent position at IBM to focus entirely on his last semester of graduate school.
“Once I had my education in urban planning, I noticed there’s this huge coalition going on right now between information technology, urban management and city planning,” Brust said. “I think that developing countries like mine are going to be facing a dire need of professionals that can lead or work on this new field of urban informatics because we have huge cities full of people and conflict.”
That’s when Brust applied to and qualified for the Argentine Presidential Fellowship in Science and Technology, a Fulbright managed scholarship. He is now enrolled in the Northeastern University School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs MS in Urban Informatics, a cutting-edge program launched in the spring that combines data analytics skills with an understanding of the big questions 21st Century cities face.
When asked why he chose Northeastern, Brust sharply said, “I took a good look at the programs and the one at Northeastern had more scope.”
According to Brust, who looked at programs in Boston, Chicago and New York, Northeastern’s version goes deeper.
“I really wanted to have as much as possible since I had to move,” Brust said, adding that he relocated to Boston in August with his wife and their 9-month-old daughter. “On the level of hard skills this program is really encompassing – programming, statistics, visualization.”
“There’s also an interesting focus on geographic information systems, which the other programs didn’t have,” he added. “I really like that because for us, planners, the spatial component is so important. There’s another benefit that I only realized once I got here: I really like how the program is connected to what is going on in Boston. We are just beginning it, and we’re going to have a live discussion with representatives from the city of Boston that deal with urban informatics. I’m loving it. I think it’s very hands-on.”
Brust’s ultimate goal, he said, is to tackle existing conflict in Latin American countries such as socio-economic inequality.
“Our cities are a little bit more violent than cities here. You get more marginalization of people and groups because it’s assumed that they are violent when maybe they are not,” Brust said. “Even if they are, it’s just a symptom of deeper problems. It’s not just violence by itself. It’s rooted in inequalities, problems with the distribution of wealth. It’s a huge problem, extremely complex, that is going to need a lot of people working on it, and I’d like to come up with some interesting ideas.”