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National Community Planning Month is Every Day

Wilder School students Hannah Cameron (right), president of the Urban and Regional Planning Student Association, and Gwendolyn Griffin, president of the Urban Studies Student Association, actively promote planning.
Wilder School students Hannah Cameron (right), president of the Urban and Regional Planning Student Association, and Gwendolyn Griffin, president of the Urban Studies Student Association, actively promote planning.

By Pamela Stallsmith

October may be National Community Planning Month, but the Wilder School celebrates it every day.

The two student planning organizations at the Wilder School—one each for graduate and undergraduate programs—actively promote networking, community engagement and professional development opportunities.

“We’re trying to build a community for planning students,” said Hannah Cameron, president of the Urban and Regional Planning Student Association and a second-year student in the Master of Urban and Regional Planning program. “It’s a collaborative effort between our two groups.”

For Gwendolyn Griffin, a senior who’s president of the Urban Studies Student Association, which serves undergraduates, it’s important to put a face on planning.

“A lot of people don’t know what planners do, and we want to educate them and make students more aware of the community aspect,” she said.

This month features some notable planning-related events.This Thursday, October 5, the groups are sponsoring a resume workshop and panel discussion with local planning professionals—some of whom are Wilder School alumni—who will offer career tips and other pointers.

The annual Morton B. Gulak Urban and Regional Planning Lecture, one of the Wilder School’s signature events, will take place on Wednesday, October 25, at 7 p.m. in the VCU Student Commons Richmond Salons, second floor. Toni L. Griffin, founder of Urban Planning and Design for the American City and a professor at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design, will discuss “My Just City of Black and White: Seeking Justice Through Planning and Design.”

The students regularly hold “coffee and talk” at a local coffee shop. The undergraduate group offers “Taco Tuesdays,” while the graduate students stay connected through a Facebook page that’s also open to MURP alumni.

They’re also involved in the community. Last spring, MURP students joined in the Friends of the East End Cemetery clean up, while the undergraduates participated in the “Paint the Town Green” cleanup of Lombardy and Meadow parks.

Griffin said she hopes to lay the foundation for annual events, so future students can benefit from the opportunities the groups provide. “We want to get students involved and do things to keep the learning going.”

‌Cameron said, “VCU is a large school, so it’s easy to feel like a small fish in a big pond. The Wilder School and our professors make it a close network. They’re very approachable, and those relationships can be built.”

Meghan Gough, Ph.D., associate professor and chair of the Urban and Regional Studies and Planning program, said the month’s theme of ‘innovation in planning’ is something the Wilder school has been doing for years.

“These groups do a great job of bringing together our students, who play a vital role in how we impact the community,” she said. “Our urban and regional studies and planning students are wonderful ambassadors for the Wilder School.”

Offices of the Urban and Regional Planning Student Association are, from left, Cassandra (Cassi) Patterson, Max Ewart, Grace Leonard, Hannah Cameron, and Nathan (Nate) Manning.
Offices of the Urban and Regional Planning Student Association are, from left, Cassandra (Cassi) Patterson, Max Ewart, Grace Leonard, Hannah Cameron, and Nathan (Nate) Manning.
Officers of the Urban Studies Student Association are, from let, Jacob Phillips, Gabriella Pino-Moreno, Morgan Boecker, Gwendolyn Griffin and Justin Roberts.
Officers of the Urban Studies Student Association are, from let, Jacob Phillips, Gabriella Pino-Moreno, Morgan Boecker, Gwendolyn Griffin and Justin Roberts.