Skip directly to content

The Culture of Practice

Students discussing plans at Pepper Place Charette

The Master of Community Planning program promotes a culture of practice that prepares students for professional life by providing them with a series of learning experiences that reinforce the reiterative, integrative and interdisciplinary nature of professional planning practice. The two primary components of this pedagogical endeavor are a series of weekly learning sessions collectively called “Working Lunch” (further described below), and a variety of project-based learning experiences that emphasize team teaching and learning, as well as opportunities for interaction with practicing planning and design professionals. 

Recent project- and practice-based learning experiences have included the integration of the Sustainable Transportation and Mobility course (Prof. Sweta Byahut) with Urban Design Studio (Prof. John Pittari); in Spring 2014, the Real Estate Principles course (Prof. Jay Mittal) will be integrated with Synthesis Studio (Prof. John Pittari). Other practice-based learning experiences for planning students have included a series of workshops and charrettes which have incorporated the participation of practicing professionals in planning, landscape architecture and architecture from different regions of the country. In August, APLA alumnus and Community Planning Advisory Council member Ben Farmer, partner in Farmer/ Morgan L.L.C., organized a charrette based on the Cumberland Scenic Byway Management Plan from the Cumberland Gap to the Cumberland River in Celina, Tennessee; in September, Cheryl Morgan, Director of the Auburn University Urban Studio, organized and led a three-day charrette based on the re-imaging of Pepper Place and the Lakeview District in Birmingham, Alabama; and in November, Farmer/Morgan organized a charrette related to the  management plan for the Doe Mountain Recreation Authority (DMRA) in Tennessee. Community Planning students who have participated in these projects include Brandon Cummings, Matt Hinton, Katherine Martin, Dale Speetjens, Tessa Tompkins, Valecia Wilson and Yichen Yang. Ben Farmer summarized his opinion of the value of the participation of APLA graduate students in the workshops organized by his firm with this quote: “We have come to expect from the Master of Community Planning [and Master of Landscape Architecture] students who participate in our charrettes that the learning opportunities will be a two way street. That continued to be the case this year, and each of the team members and the project benefited from their participation. In short, our firm and the citizens along the Cumberland Byway in Tennessee would like to say thank you.”

Initiated in Fall 2013, a weekly learning session called Working Lunch involves the participation of MCP faculty and students in brown bag lunch sessions that include informal presentations from professional groups and practicing professionals, of work by program students and faculty, and of planning-skills-related workshops. Among this semester’s participants have been Jason Fondren, APLA alumnus and Chair of the Higher Education Committee of the Alabama Chapter of the American Planning Association; Assistant Professor Jay Mittal, who presented a pioneering planning and development project undertaken during his time in practice; Dr. Shubhrajit Guhathakurta from the Georgia Tech planning program, who discussed planning in uncertain times; and Dr. Ajay Agarwal from Queens University, Canada, who presented two of his research efforts. In addition, a number of program students “reported out” on their summer internship experiences; Dale Speetjens, a dual MCP/MLA student provided a “sketch up” workshop; and program faculty and students participated in a webinar on “Designing Suburban Futures” that was presented by the Urban Design and Preservation Division of the American Planning Association.