Monday, May 16, 2016

Ben Curtis stood out from a very strong group of candidates for this year's AICP Student of the Year Award. He was chose due to a combination of academic achievement, professional contributions to planning in the region, and service to our School and the wider campus community.

His specializations are Land Use and Environmental Planning and Geographic Information Systems. During his time in our school, Ben has shown versatility in applying knowledge from both of his specializations, complemented by his excellent writing, public speaking, and design skills.

From the beginning of his time in the Masters program at UI, Ben has served both his fellow students and the larger campus community. Ben was elected vice-president of our Urban and Regional Planning Student Association during his first year, and served as the School's APA student representative his second year. He also served four semesters as a graduate assistant in the UI Planning, Design, and Construction office. In this role, he organized and executed a space analysis study of over 150 campus classrooms, created new datasets for GIS master planning applications, and produced campus maps for both external and internal use. His contribution to this effort is especially important in the context of the university's continuing recovery from the Midwest floods of 2008 and increasing student enrollment.

During his summer internship with the English River Watershed Management Authority (ERWMA), Ben was instrumental in both the design and writing of a plan aimed at improving water quality and flood resilience in the watershed, which encompasses approximately 400,000 acres in eastern Iowa. As part of his duties, Ben represented the ERWMA at the 2015 APA Iowa Chapter Conference panel session on watershed planning.

Ben also played a key role in his group's capstone project in his Field Problems class. The focus of that project was to identify potential green space in Sioux City, Iowa. He was responsible for analysis of built environment and socio-demographic data to determine locations for innovative greenspace in the downtown area. As part of this work, he developed detailed, professional renderings of potential parks, green roof/walls, and greenscaping, which will greatly aid local officials and citizens in their visualization of the potential outcomes of this project.

We are proud to have such a well-rounded candidate as our 2016 AICP Student Award recipient. The award was presented to Ben at our graduation reception in May.