Monday, December 19, 2011

The Urban and Regional Planning Student Association (URPSA) organized two events in Fall 2011 at the University of Iowa to raise student awareness of ideological attacks on planning and how to appropriately address these perspectives in the public. Approximately fifteen students and one faculty member attended the first event, which was held October 26, 2011. URPSA president, Robyn Fennig, and vice-president, Kaley Bangston, delivered a presentation to highlight real-world techniques used to twist planning ideas. The presentation also showed students how to better prepare themselves for opposition to planning and where to further research the issue. Additionally, Fennig and Bangston sought out three practicing planners in the Midwest to develop case studies as the basis for group discussion.

"We wanted to challenge students to think about all opinions about planning, including those that contradict the planning ideology that our course work helps develop," says Fennig. "This workshop allowed students to better grasp techniques used to attack planning ideology in the public, as well as brainstorm ways to overcome them. The real challenge ahead of us as practicing planners is demonstrating the value that we as planners bring to our communities. Planning is a successful process to engage the public and we need to be prepared to show what we have to offer. Engaging in these types of active learning techniques helps our students better prepare for careers as practicing planners, a central theme in our education at the School of Urban and Regional Planning."

Fennig adds, "Making a video to highlight the event was just another way to disseminate the workshop and its content to other planning student organizations across the country. We hope that other students, as well as practicing planners, can continue to proactively promote planning ideology in their communities."

The second workshop, was led by planning practitioner, Gary Lozano, AICP, from RDG Planning and Design in Des Moines, Iowa. Gary shared numerous experiences in his years in both the public and private sectors that have shaped and challenged his planning ideology. "Mr. Lozano's real life experience helps to bring some perspective to planning students," explains Fennig. "He played a crucial role in helping Kaley Bangtson and I develop case studies in the first workshop. We knew that he would be able to help our students generate strategies to overcome these anti-planning sentiments."

URPSA sees these activities as a linkage between the American Planning Association's "Communications Bootcamp" series, to encourage professional development and promote planning ideology. Students have used this event as a spring board to develop strategies to better understand ideological attacks and strengthen their convictions as planners, by sharing findings and media stories, as well as attending events in the community. Fennig says, "URPSA, along with the School of Urban and Regional Planning, will continue to lead the discussion on overcoming anti-planning ideology and the transition from the academic setting to the profession."

URPSA's National Community Planning Month Workshop video can be found online.