MSU Urban & Regional Planning Practicum student team win the Planning Excellence Award from the Michigan Association of Planning

An Urban & Regional Planning Practicum team of students received the Michigan Association of Planning “Planning Excellence Award” for their project Imagine Vine 2025: A neighborhood plan for Vine, Kalamazoo.

Photo of Planning Practicum students with faculty.
Urban & Regional Planning Practicum team, recipients of the Planning Excellence Award, pose with faculty.

An Urban & Regional Planning Practicum team of students received the Michigan Association of Planning “Planning Excellence Award” for their project Imagine Vine 2025: A neighborhood plan for Vine, Kalamazoo.  

The practicum team, composed of five students in the capstone course of the Urban & Regional Planning Program in the MSU School of Planning, Design and Construction, worked closely with the City of Kalamazoo and the Vine Neighborhood Association to produce a strategic vision for the future of the historic Vine Neighborhood.

“Working on this project was incredible,” said Kayla Turner, co-team leader and 2018 Urban and Regional Planning graduate. 

“In addition to collaborating with a community close to my hometown, the scope of the work was exciting. Unlike the other projects that were available for the 2018 planning practicum, ours had a very wide scope.”

According to the Executive Summary, their project consisted of “an extensive socio-economic profile, a summary of current and future land use, a complete neighborhood assessment, and an analysis of past resident engagement.”

As written on the award letter, the jury of American Planning Association Michigan Chapter professionals who reviewed and selected this project said, “The public outreach component was well done. Looked beyond traditional analysis to explore issues, such as access to food, mix of housing opportunities and ability to meet daily needs.”

After their semester of hard work, the students said they were both nervous and excited to share their project with the public.

“Receiving this award was a proud moment for all of us. We worked countless hours with the City of Kalamazoo and with one another to prepare a product that we were proud of and felt reflected the sentiments of Vine Neighborhood residents,” Turner said.

“However, it is always nerve-racking to see how your work will be received by the outside world. To be recognized in this way validates our effort, and I think in many ways it cements for us that transition from planning students to planning professionals and practitioners. Perhaps for some of us, this award is even an opportunity to explain to friends and family members what exactly it is we do with our lives, and why it matters.”

For others, this project served as an eye-opener and even led to a few deeper discoveries.

“There were times in the process of this project where I questioned the relevance of the work I was performing as I was a student at MSU and had never lived in Kalamazoo. Although it’s a selfish attitude I’m sure every planner has faced this predicament in their career,” said Hunter Whitehill, the co-team leader and 2018 Urban and Regional Planning graduate.

“It wasn’t until I took part in a community meeting in Vine Neighborhood that I understood the relevance of the project. Although I had no personal connections to the city of Kalamazoo it didn’t change the reason why I entered the planning profession. I got into planning to improve the lives of people not just where I live but everywhere. Through engagement with Vine Neighborhood residents, it became apparent to me that although it may be easy to lose sight of the work we are performing, we do it to build better lives for everyone.”

One of the main focuses the students had was how this project took their classroom knowledge and provided an opportunity to apply it outside of university walls.

“After [prior research and assessments], we were to create a plan for gathering input from Vine residents, and we were actually able to help facilitate a meeting in the neighborhood toward the end of the semester,” Turner said.

“We talk often about such meetings in our courses, but it was something else entirely to be there in-person, having to initiate conversations and record data in a way that was understandable to participants, but still useful to our research. We had more than 50 residents attend, quite amazing for a neighborhood of less than 6,000.”

Overall, Whitehill said the project was a great opportunity, and that other Kalamazoo neighborhoods that still need plans could provide future MSU practicum students a similar experience. Turner said she hopes the works proves useful to the neighborhood and cannot wait to visit again.

A formal presentation of the award was held on Sept. 21, 2018, at the Michigan Association of Planning’s annual conference, Planning Michigan, at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel in Grand Rapids.

Please join us in celebrating the achievement of this group of Planning Practicum students!

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