Featuring Joyce Tang Boyland in our first member profile is fitting as she is one of the people that championed forming a Wisconsin Chapter over 10 years ago. Joyce felt the need to have an entity in Wisconsin for voices speaking to the joys and frustrations of urban living. After reading Sidewalks in the Kingdom by Eric O. Jacobsen, she joined CNU, then a few years later her innate networking and connection skills led her to Joan Herriges, Ken Voigt, Matthew Trussoni, Jane Grabowski-Miller, and others who had already begun working to form the Wisconsin chapter.
Joyce has continued putting those skills to use as a CNU Wisconsin board member—most recently, in helping to orchestrate three days of events with CNU’s new executive director, Rick Cole. The event exposed CNU to people from numerous backgrounds (planning and development professionals, community leaders, BID directors, Christian ministry leaders, and academics), who all bring diverse perspectives but share a common interest in urban issues.
Joyce was born and raised in Massachusetts, and earned her undergraduate degree in computer science from Harvard University, where she lived on campus in Cambridge. That experience broke open her suburban upbringing and taught her how to get things done in the world. Wanting a similar feel in a different region, she chose the University of California in Berkeley for grad school, where she earned both a master’s degree and PhD in cognitive psychology. She and her husband moved to Pittsburgh where they both did postdoctoral work at Carnegie Mellon. They then moved to Milwaukee: Joyce to teach psychology at Alverno College and John to teach computer science at University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee. They bought a house across the street from UWM.
This past year Joyce and her husband took a sabbatical in Boston and recently returned to Milwaukee. She is feeling recharged and happy to be getting around by walking, biking, scootering, and using public transit. Joyce’s brother gave her a bike when she was in eighth grade, and it became her vehicle of freedom and joy. She eventually learned to bike the hills of Berkeley and get anywhere she needed to go, car-free. After living in Boston, Berkeley, and Pittsburgh, as well as transit paradises like Nanjing and Zurich, adjusting to life in Wisconsin accelerated her involvement in New Urbanism. In Joyce’s view, the Milwaukee County Transit System has risen to the occasion, enduring budget cut after budget cut with ever-renewed efforts to improve service. Allowing bikes on buses in 2009 was a game-changer, according to Joyce, and restructuring the system for more high-frequency routes in 2021 greatly improved her travel efficiency.
Joyce thinks there would be benefits to tweaking the urban experience in Milwaukee by expanding people’s attitudes about what can and can’t work. She believes in using the “Power of 10” (critical mass of attractions) to develop more coherent neighborhoods with vibrant centers, and working with residents on a shared urbanist vocabulary to bring more voices to City Hall, given Tip O’Neill’s dictum, “all politics are local.” With leaders like Joyce, and others, CNU Wisconsin is committed to making those changes a reality.
By Pat Algiers, CNU-A, CNU Wisconsin Board Member