URP Alumni Spotlight: Holly Madill

Alumna Holly Madill shares aspects of her perspective of what the future holds for the planning profession.

Holly Madill

What do you think the future holds for the planning profession? 

“And Then, COVID-19.” This is a phrase that I’ve heard echoed over and over since the beginning of the year. It reflects a way of life or activities that were interrupted by the novel coronavirus pandemic. No one was exempt from the tentacles of the pandemic’s reach into our professional, personal, or community lives.  

While many are eager to return to normal, we wonder what that “new normal” looks like and there are no easy answers. What is clear to me is that online engagement is here to stay and not to just to augment in-person engagement.  

In diversity, equity and inclusion training, we are encouraged to practice “both/and thinking” – to shed the either “this OR that” mentality and to hold multiple, potentially conflicting concepts in our thoughts. Never did I imagine that this would apply to engagement, although I should have known better. 

As we wait for in-person restrictions to ease, many of our projects and work cannot wait any longer, and we must find ways to move forward.  

As we ponder the old reality vs. the current reality, I think what we have before us is a great opportunity to break open our past thinking about how things operate and try new things. It is an opportunity to not accept whatever “new normal” evolves, but to forge an intentional “new normal.”

I don’t think we’ll return to a pre-COVID-19 era, and I hope we don’t. We’ve suffered too much to let the learnings that we’ve gained from this experience evaporate into yearnings for the past and not let them transform us or our processes for the better.

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