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Profiles of the Next Generation of Planners IV

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In the fourth edition of our series profiling urban planning, development, and design students from across the country, masters students from Cal Poly, Clemson University, and the University of Southern California share their aspirations of furthering the goals of planning through local demographic forecasting, regional economic and transportation modeling, and international public health.

 Don MorehouseDon Morehouse
Degree Objective: City & Regional Planning
Graduation: June 2004
California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, College of Architecture and Environmental Design

What compelled you to attend planning school?
As an undergraduate geography student, I was able to take several classes focusing on land use planning, but I knew I would eventually like to complete an accredited program that would give me a solid foundation in the theories, principles, and applications of the field. I received my first job working for the California Department of Transportation as a long-range transportation planner for the Central Coast (District 5) region headquartered in the City of San Luis Obispo. With Cal Poly just around the corner, I decided to enter the city and regional planning graduate program while continuing my full-time professional transportation planning work.

What do you hope to pursue after graduation?
After three very busy years, I will finally be graduating in June of 2004. With five years of experience in the transportation planning field and a graduate degree completed, I would like to continue in transportation planning with more of a focus on sustainable mobility, incorporating many alternative planning and plan implementation techniques. I am very interested in getting involved with the synthesis of transportation modeling and geographic information system software (GIS). Taking part in and facilitating visioning workshops for local communities as well as regions using techniques such as the Planning for Community Energy, Economic, and Environmental Sustainability (PLACES 3) GIS method is another goal.

What do you see as the future of planning?
I see the future of planning as a continually evolving synthesis and collaboration of data and resources to develop the most innovative and sustainable solutions to land use, transportation, and environmental planning problems. I would like to see the focus of planning efforts shifted from local jurisdictions to include more regional issues. An example I like to use is that of the Riverside County Integrated Project (RCIP). The RCIP uses a collaborative approach that facilitates planning across a full range of agencies while focusing on a heavily growing population region. The constant evolution of computer modeling technology within the planning field is very exciting. Planning tools that incorporate GIS and growth forecasting techniques will help to develop more efficient land use and transportation planning decisions.

 Amy AnsongAmy Gyamfiwah Ansong
Degree Objective: City & Regional Planning
Graduation: May 2004
Clemson University, Department of Planning & Landscape Architecture

What compelled you to attend planning school?
I graduated from Gar-Field High School in Virginia 1997. I then attended the University of Virginia, unsure of what I would major in. During my second year, I decided to major in Economics because it was new and challenging. During my third year at the University, a friend persuaded me to take a class in the School of Architecture. As a student enrolled in the College of Arts and Sciences, I was not aware that I could take classes in the School of Architecture. I took my first class, PLAN 103 Introduction to Planning, with Professor Tim Beatley and fell in love with the whole idea of planning. I enjoyed coloring, drawing axonometric figures, and learning about the planning process. The more knowledge I gained, the more different the world looked. It was like having 3D vision. When I see a sidewalk, I wonder how wide it is, does it meet ADA standards, etc. UVA's Urban Planning was, and still is, great. By the time I graduated in May 2001, I had a major in Economics and a minor in Urban and Environmental Planning.

After I graduated from UVA, I was fortunate enough to get an internship in my hometown, with the Prince William County Office of Planning. I did not know anyone who worked there. I simply applied for an internship although I did not see a specific job posting for one. Under the supervision of Ms. Nimet El'Alaily, I worked on a Capital Improvement Project database, entering proffers and lot escrows into the county's PermitPlan database. I worked with Prince William County from June 2001 to August 2002. The people were great and I learned a lot.

In February 2002, I took my GREs. I applied to most of the planning schools on the East Coast. I realized that I did not know everything about planning and I wanted to learn more. I planned on attending UVA for grad school, but I received more funding from Clemson University, so I chose Clemson. I am now in my final month of a two year program and I am happy that I decided to further my studies in urban and regional planning.

What do you hope to pursue after graduation?
After graduation, I would love to be able to land a job with the World Bank, USAID, CDC, WHO, The Carter Center, United Nations, or IMF, working as a researcher. I would love to conduct research relating to third world countries. I would also like to work in Ghana, West Africa. I am interested in the Poverty Reduction program and working with the Ministry of Roads and Transport and the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development. Having an interest in international development, I would also like to work for an organization that is involved with sustainable development, population, and international health.

In the near future, I plan on returning to school, either attending Harvard or Emory University, to obtain a PhD in Public Health, specializing in Epidemiology and/or International Health.

What do you see as the future of planning?
The planning profession is one that is continually evolving. As the population continues to age and technology continues to evolve, planners will be faced with new issues. Just when they think they have answered a common problem, a new one will arise. The planning profession is wonderful because we, as planners, get to affect the way people interact with each other everyday,whether it is through neighborhood design(micro) or regional planning(macro). Changes in transportation and housing preferences will alter the way developers build and the decision making process of planners.

 Jeff JohnstonJeffrey Johnston
Degree Objective: Planning
Expected Graduation: May 2005
University of Southern California, School of Policy, Planning and Development

What compelled you to attend planning school?
I grew up in a suburb of San Diego believing that traffic and air pollution were problems for Los Angeles, my neighbor to the north. All the while, my community was changing. I remember the sound of construction as the background music of my youth. I eventually left San Diego for Los Angeles to attend the University of Southern California. Sometime in my junior year, traffic in San Diego appeared worse than Los Angeles. I remember that statistics on demographic change, economic cycles, and environmental degradation were thrown out by every person claiming to be an expert on something called "sprawl." I realized how powerful data was. It seemed like every decision on development was justified by an interpretation of data. I graduated from USC with a Bachelor's degree in environmental studies and then spent over four months traveling around the world. I saw many of the world's great cities and started to believe that there was a better way for Southern California to grow. When I came home, I began working for the Orange County Council of the Boy Scouts of America. I spent a lot of time in my car and really got to know the cities of Newport Beach, Irvine, and Costa Mesa. I always knew I would return to school, and planning seemed to best fit my interests. The timing was right and I left my job and started school last fall.

What do you hope to pursue after graduation?
I expect to work with data producing economic and demographic forecasts. I would like to work in both the public and the private sector at some point. I am very interested in regional planning associations such as the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG), San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG), and Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG). Ultimately, I want to satisfy my entrepreneurial spirit and start a private consulting firm that identifies demographic and economic trends. Planning may only be my first career.

What do you see as the future of planning?
Open space inside the urban environment will become a priority. New environmental technology will lower the cost of reusing brownfields as well as make adaptive reuse more cost effective. Density will become less of a bad word. There will be a wider variety of housing types. Single family detached housing will still be a dominant form, but proximity will make consumers reconsider multifamily housing if it has shorter commutes and more amenities. This is already occurring.

In the future, planning will be more efficient. The means of quantifying the impact of development will change and produce methods of streamlining the approval process for development that satisfies community needs. Environmental costs will be more easily identified and factored into the approval process.

I grew up believing I could never share walls with other people and having a large back yard was a must. Now I enjoy being able to walk to entertainment and dining. I don't mind sharing walls as much as I thought and balconies, though not a back yard, can accommodate a barbeque pretty well. I believe design can solve a lot of problems people have with small and attached housing.

Tell us why you got involved in planning...

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