Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The Jim Harris Memorial Scholarship Award, established in 2002, is named for the founding chair of the School of Urban and Regional Planning. It is awarded each year to a student who has made an outstanding contribution through community service and this year's recipient is Elizabeth Rumpza.

Beth has a life-long history of community service, beginning with service activities on mission trips that included building a house with Habitat for Humanity, serving food to the homeless and picking up trash in local parks. On one of these trips a local community member discussed the importance of getting to know the people and their needs in a community before taking action, a lesson Beth carries with her in every experience she has working with new communities and as she pursues a professional planning career.

As an undergraduate, Beth studied abroad and was able to culturally immerse herself in various countries across Southeast Asia. She spoke their language, ate their cuisine, and took part in their community events. Taking a tai-chi class three times a week, Beth was fortunate to meet elders in the Thai community. After class was over, she took the opportunity to speak with them about their thoughts on the Thai culture and sustainability. She discovered that her passion for the environment stemmed from creating a better community. Her desire to communicate with people about environmental issues led her to the University of Iowa to study Urban and Regional Planning.

As a master’s degree student, she learned how to be an advocate for communities and the environment. Beth attended several American Planning Association regional and national conferences. Meeting other planning professionals proved beneficial while serving her peers as the President of the Urban and Regional Planning Student Association (URPSA). In this role she helped plan a holiday food and gift drive and organized a planning field trip to the Twin Cities in Minnesota. As part of the trip planning, Beth facilitated connections between URP students and planning professionals, contributing to increased knowledge about planning initiatives in communities beyond Iowa, and growing students’ professional network.

Outside of the School of Urban and Regional Planning, Beth served her new home of Iowa City by participating in river clean-ups and volunteering with the Take a Kid Outdoors events. Additionally, as a student ambassador for Iowa Woman Lead Change, she helped promote professional development and leadership by women in Iowa. According to Beth, “All forms of science and research include human interactions. And while there are a number of technical ways to learn about a community, nothing quite paints the full picture like community service.”

On behalf of the School of Urban and Regional Planning, we are very proud to recognize Beth Rumpza with the 2016 Jim Harris Memorial Scholarship Award for community service.