Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Name: Sylvia Bochner Brueckert

Originally from: Oak Park, IL

Degree: M.S. Urban and Regional Planning, concentrations in Housing and Community Development; Land Use and Environmental Planning

Graduating class: 2018

After graduating with a bachelor’s degree from the University of Iowa, Sylvia Bochner wasn’t sure what she wanted to do next.

Sylvia Bochner

For one year, while she thought about the next step on her career path, Bochner traveled some and worked at a couple local restaurants. Then, a friend told her about the School of Urban and Regional Planning, a fully-accredited graduate program that welcomes students from many different academic backgrounds.

Bochner attended the school’s annual open house, which informs prospective students about the many careers in planning. She liked what she heard, applied to the program, and was accepted.

That turned out to be the right choice.

“I thought I would really like the career I had after the program,” Bochner says. “I have learned a lot of interesting things about the planning field. The program has helped me start gaining experience that will translate well to the career I want to have.”

Bochner’s studies concentrate on housing and community development, specifically affordable housing issues. She works with Professor Jerry Anthony, whose research deals with federal, state and local housing policies, and the development of affordable housing.

“Having fair access to housing can be a really huge problem for someone and it directly impacts their lives,” Bochner says. “Finding a solution to that has such a powerful and immediate impact.

“In this program, there are so many opportunities to do actual projects and interact with communities I’m not familiar with. It’s been helpful to see what I want my work to be. I want to actually be involved in the community.”

Community Outreach Projects

Bochner and fellow planning students are working with one of the faculty on a healthy neighborhood plan for the north end of Mason City as part of the Field Problems in Planning capstone course. The students will submit their final paper to the City of Mason City and the Cerro Gordo County Public Health Department at the end of their final semester.

Last spring, Bochner assisted residents of Delmar, Iowa on a video project where Delwood Elementary School students interviewed longtime residents of the small town to find ways to revitalize its downtown.

“We talked to the kids about different interviewing techniques and what they wanted to hear from these stories,” Bochner says. “We filmed the interviews and edited them together.”

Community members watched the videos during an open house. Citizens shared stories about the town and how it has changed over time. While the downtown doesn’t have any businesses remaining, Bochner says it was nice to see citizens focus on what was going well there, such as a strong school district and a Depot Museum that was recently renovated.

“It was great to see them focus on the good things and work toward finding solutions to the challenges, instead of saying this is small town that’s dying out,” Bochner says. 

Opportunity Assistance Fund

Last summer, the School of Urban and Regional Planning presented Bochner with the Opportunity Assistance Fund, which is awarded annually to an outstanding student in the program. This award, which is supported by an anonymous gift to the School of Urban and Regional Planning, funds a quarter-time appointment for Bochner as a graduate assistant for the 2017-18 academic year.

“It is really nice to see that graduates of the program are investing in students,” Bochner says. “When I graduate, I would like to do the same and contribute back to the program. The assistantship package is a great opportunity and has made my life as a graduate student much easier.”