Department of Geography enjoys benefits of alumnus's gift

A three-pronged gift to the Department of Geography and Environment has enriched the department’s research programme and supported student initiatives, as well enabling an MSc student to attend the School.

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In 2015 Richard Oram made a generous gift in support of the Msc Regional and Urban Planning Studies (RUPS) programme that he once studied on. This gift established the Oram Foundation Research Position, providing support for post-MSc researchers pursuing a programme of research consistent with the curriculum of the department; the Leslie and Richard Oram Fund, a flexible fund for research support, conferences, training and networking, academic trips and seminars; and the Oram-Stott-Schlusche Scholarship for an MSc student in Regional & Urban Planning.

Alessandra Mossa was the recipient of the Oram Foundation Research Position. Alongside Dr Nancy Holman, she has been examining two new examples of planning deregulation: the loosening of regulation around short-term letting in London, and the new permitted development rights. A variety of dissemination and outcomes has resulted from this work, including a report into ‘Market vs Planning: is deregulation the answer?’ and discussions around planning deregulation.

The Leslie and Richard Oram Fund supported three different initiatives in 2015/16. These included geographic information system (GIS) training delivered to RUPS students by Dr Antoine Paccoud, as well as two academic trips to Mill Hill, a suburb in the London Borough of Barnet, and Manchester – these visits introduced participants respectively to London's suburbs and to the specificity of its economic, social and environmental issues, and to regeneration policy in the UK through exploring the story of Manchester since the 1980s.

In addition, the Fund supported two RUPS students, Luc Griaud and Alyssa Campbell, with travel costs to compete in the Hult Prize, a global competition intended to foster a new wave of social entrepreneurs that will help solve the planet's biggest challenges through innovative ideas for sustainable start-up enterprises.  As a result of their entry, LSE’s team was awarded an Honorary Commendation. “This experience has definitely had a strong effect on us, providing an opportunity to bring our urban and social interests into a practical environment,” said Alyssa. “This project has affirmed our will to enhance our entrepreneurial skills in order to achieve tangible social impact in our future work.”

Finally, the Oram-Stott-Schlusche Scholarship has enabled Braden Bernards of Portland, Oregon to attend the School. He said: “Public spaces fascinate me and I am thrilled to pursue this further at LSE. My classmates and professors come from all over the world and it is a treat to interface with a community interested in these subjects. I thank Richard Oram for holding open a very large door, intervening in my path, and providing a gift of an education which will influence my entire life.”

Richard and his wife Leslie returned to campus in October to celebrate the impact of his gift and the 50th anniversary of the RUPS programme. The special visit also marked the 40th anniversary of Richard’s time at the School, and he was reunited on campus with Martin Stott and Günter Schlusche. The trio’s enduring friendship began at LSE and helped to influence Richard’s giving, leading to the naming of the scholarship. All three alumni had the chance to meet Alessandra Mossa and Braden Bernards in person.

 “This was a most memorable reunion,” said Richard. “From my first days at the School to the work of these young people that I am so happy to support, everything about LSE is impressive. LSE changed my life and we hope our support does the same for others.” 

He added: “We all have to be interested in how cities are changing, and there’s no place better to study cities than London and LSE.”

The RUPS programme was formed in 1966, when professors in the departments of Economics, Geography and Government departments concluded there were significant intellectual gains to be made in training future planners in an interdisciplinary environment. Since then it has challenged nearly 1,000 young ‘urbanists’ to engage with economics, politics and space, using London as a laboratory, each year attracting 30-40 MSc students and a small cohort of research students.