Thursday, May 17, 2012

On May 2nd, two students who demonstrated excellence in community service were presented with the Jim Harris Memorial Scholarship Award. The award was given to second-year students Jody Bailey and Mike Tertinger for their work with non-profit organizations, involvement in professional planning-related organizations and in political advocacy on planning-related issues. The scholarship was established in 2002 to honor the memory of our School’s first Chair, Jim Harris.

Before even beginning her master’s degree, Jody has been interested in acquiring skills needed to deal with complex issues affecting the quality of life for families.  She served on the Johnson County Decategorization Advisory Board from 1994 to 1996, providing feedback on social service programming to Department of Human Services and United Way. In 2003, she began a 1-year term of service volunteering through AmeriCorps at the Grantwood Chapter of the American Red Cross in Cedar Rapids. This work included providing emergency relief and support for victims of fires and floods in Eastern Iowa, and three weeks on the Virginia coast serving families displaced by Hurricane Isabel.

While taking the Land Use Law and Planning course, Jody began thinking of creative ways to help resolve the issue of substandard housing and corrupt property management at Regency Mobile Home Park in rural Iowa City. The County was proposing a rural property code, much to the chagrin of the farming community. But a significant number of Regency residents own their units, and the code would unfairly penalize homeowners for poverty related noncompliance. She approached Habitat for Humanity, the Johnson County Mobile Home Task Force, the Johnson County Housing Trust Fund, County Supervisors, and Iowa City Housing Fellowship with a different idea; organize residents, finance a buy-out, establish a housing or land trust, and have residents manage it cooperatively. While the leaders of this organization have not chosen this route, she continues to look for opportunities to bring her proposal to the table again.

In Spring of 2011, Jody took Housing Policy and organized a day of service learning in Cedar Rapids. She researched and made arrangements for the student group to spend the day volunteering with Block by Block on flood recovery related housing rehabilitation tasks.

Also in the Spring of 2011, Jody and three other students undertook a semester long project developing a Broadway Crosspark Quality of Life plan in Dr. Connerly’s Community Development course. Which allowed her to advocate for some of the community’s most marginalized, and ignored residents.

Jody chose to do a Community Outreach Practicum which provided her with the opportunity to serve small communities with few staff or resources, while also flexing her planning “muscle”. The first project began in May of 2011 with residents of Hills who approached our school for help with bringing their community together despite a divisive water issue, negative relationships with the school district, and stagnant community growth. The Coalition for a Greater Hills Community was born from this resident driven initiative. She’s been serving the growing Coalition by providing technical assistance with community revitalization efforts such as researching, training, implementing a community wide survey, and helping with community forums.

In January 2012 Jody signed up for a second Community Outreach Practicum, this time being involved with the Which Way Walcott Vision Committee. She assisted them with the technical elements of starting a new Farmer’s Market, as well researching the Main Street Iowa program for pertinent grants that could finance the community improvement initiatives they are considering. She may continue to assist them in the future with applying for grants after a community assessment is completed.

Mike Tertinger’s service activities have been equally outstanding and also began before he started pursuing his master’s degree.  In July of 2009 he interviewed for and was selected by the Cedar Rapids City Council to join the Cedar Rapids Planning Commission. His time on the commission provided him with a great opportunity to gain hands on experience in the world of city planning and politics. He learned to be patient, open minded, compassionate, decisive, and above all to be a leader, especially in the face of overwhelming opposition. The commission experience instilled the confidence to be able to stand up in open public forums and voice his opinion even if it’s in the minority.


From July to November 2009 Mike was a volunteer coordinator for a Cedar Rapids mayoral candidate who ran on a platform of sustainability and a strong belief in smart planning initiatives. The candidate, unfortunately, did not win the election but it afforded Mike the opportunity to witness the difficulty future planners and political leaders will have at times in conveying the importance or necessity of smart planning principles to the general public.

In September of that year Mike volunteered to join the Czech Village/New Bohemia Main Street project in Cedar Rapids where he’s continued to serve on the business development committee. His key activities include website development, district business and property inventorying, marketing, and business recruitment. This work has been a struggle, considering the devastation the 2008 flood had on the district, but it’s been an extraordinary opportunity to apply his urban planning education in a real world situation.

AICP and Jim Harris award winners 2012

Following an unpaid internship in 2011 with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources Iowa/Cedar River Watershed Coalition, Mike was asked to stay on as a volunteer member of the policy committee where he’s remained actively involved. The mission of the policy committee and the watershed coalition is one he’s grown especially attached to. Over the last two years of Mike’s planning education he’s taken on a high degree of interest in watershed protection and hopes to continue to pursue it either in a future planning career or in volunteer efforts.

In the photo are (left to right): Jody Bailey, Chuck Connerly, Hannah Papineschi, Robyn Fennig and Mike Tertinger.