Muskingum Stories: Students gain hands-on experience in city planning

For today’s college students, few occasions compare to that of receiving firsthand experience in their field of study prior to graduation. For a handful of political science and public affairs majors each year, just that opportunity is available.

Muskingum University’s Center for Regional Planning and Development affords students the chance to work with a local city government or non-profit agency to help with matters of regional or local planning. Students are able to give back to local communities and gain invaluable professional experience in matters of local government; their services also greatly benefit those municipalities and agencies for which they work, often saving thousands of dollars that they might have paid to a consulting firm.

The Center for Regional Planning and Development employs an interdisciplinary approach to offer students a venue for solving real-world problems and involves students and faculty from several departments and disciplines.

The Center for Regional Planning and Development, directed by Dr. Walter Huber of the Political Science Department, was founded in 2004 by Huber and Dr. Stephen Van Horn of the Geology Department with a Symbols of Excellence Grant from President Anne Steele. (Prior to 2004, Drs. Huber and Van Horn worked with students on several different projects, but there was no formal group.)

The Center is currently partnering with the City of Zanesville to create a master plan that “will outline a long-term vision for areas such as housing, parks and recreation, downtown, transportation, economic development, community and cultural efforts, historic areas and land use,” according to an article in the Zanesville Times-Recorder. The master plan will guide decisions made by the city for the next couple of decades.

Students working on the master plan for the City of Zanesville are enrolled in two of Huber’s courses: Regional Planning and Community Planning Workshop.  The eight students involved will “learn how to do strategic planning as well as regional planning and then work on the project with me.” There is also a paid intern, funded by the City of Zanesville. The project will span the entire 2014-15 academic year.

Huber explains that “Students will be involved completely in all stages [of the creation of Zanesville’s master plan]: developing data, presenting it to the group, helping to facilitate, writing drafts of each chapter, attending council meetings, and revising the plan.” Students will receive training in each aspect of the process.

The current project is not the first that the Center has partnered with the City of Zanesville to complete. Prior to helping with the creation of a master plan, the Center for Regional Planning and Development: assisted with the redrawing of ward boundaries; analyzed the effectiveness and efficiency of the police department’s patrol routes and response times; and conducted a member satisfaction survey for the Zanesville Downtown Association.

Huber explains where the Center had its beginning: “[The City of] Zanesville contacted me years ago to help them with a 10,000 piece mail survey.  I found students to work with me to complete the project and it was a great success for all involved.  Students got hands-on experience and were able to apply theory to practice, I was able to extend the classroom to a real-world setting, and the city got professional work completed at an amazing price.”

Read about an alumna whose experience in political science at Muskingum paved the way for her career success. She now serves as the Village Administrator of New Concord!

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