Real-World Guidance to Future Planners

Earlier this month, I had the honor of participating on a “Superjury” at Morgan State University’s Department of City and Regional Planning. Through the American Planning Association, planning and landscape architecture professionals, as well as practitioners in related fields, were invited to review students’ research projects, studio presentations, and posters sessions. I was one of 15 practitioners in attendance, which turned out to be a record number of professionals providing their insight and feedback to students.

The diverse array of projects focused on topics including neighborhood and transportation planning, urban streetscape design, and other economic and social planning issues. As reviewers, we gave general impressions and input to students on their presentation skills, as well as specific components of their projects. Since the students are only through their first semester of the school year, many of the year-long projects aren’t yet complete. This provided a great opportunity for us to give them some different approaches to consider as they complete their work.

Since I’m also a landscape architect, I was particularly interested in a project involving streetscape design, where the student was analyzing how the street might become more pedestrian-friendly with hardscape and landscape improvements. As the student develops the final design, I suggested that he also consider a phased implementation plan. Because in the real-world, the client—whether it’s a private developer, community, county, or agency—often cannot implement the plan all at once. I suggested prioritizing elements of the plan so over a set period of time—as funding and materials become available—the project can be fully realized, while still being enjoyed during each stage of completion. The student appreciated the practical experience he could apply to his final project.

Having participated in similar events for Morgan State’s landscape architecture program, I’m always excited to see what’s being studied and the different methods students’ are using to complete their work. It also gives us, as professionals, the chance to offer some real-world perspective that might otherwise be missed. Best of all, it allows students to think about what they might be doing in 10 years because they interact with representatives from a wide-variety of organizations, from private companies and consultant agencies to state and county planning offices.

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