MURP Students Build Community within Program
April 12, 2017—Students in the Master of Urban and Regional Planning (MURP) program at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs are trained to think about best planning practices for cities and neighborhoods, but some are turning the planning lens toward the Humphrey community itself. And they’re receiving national recognition for doing so.
This year the University of Minnesota’s Planning Student Organization (PSO), the official student group of the MURP program, is one of three national chapters to receive an Outstanding Planning Student Organization Award from the American Planning Association (APA).
Before the student leaders head to New York City next month to accept their award at the National APA conference, they are working to ensure the organization’s impact lasts beyond their graduation date.
Laying the groundwork
Three years ago the PSO flew under the radar. That all changed when a new student administration came in and remodeled the organizational structure.
“It all came from the students wanting to give back to the program and help the next generation of MURP students,” said Alex Kleppin, outgoing PSO president, who will graduate this spring.
He attributes the organization’s growth to the leadership before him, which drafted a constitution, created a mission statement, and helped raise PSO visibility. At last year’s commencement those leaders earned the Jernberg Award for Student Life, awarded each year to students, faculty, or staff for helping improve student life at the Humphrey School.
Kleppin and Jared Staley, the outgoing engagement officer, both acknowledge the benefit of getting involved as a first year MURP student.
“I wanted to be at the forefront of the change happening and part of a tight-knit community of people trying to better the program,” said Staley.
Once they were elected, Kleppin and Staley, along with the rest of the board, identified growing PSO’s role in the MURP program as a top priority.
“We focused more on outreach this year and making sure first-year planning students know we exist, which means having more visibility at MURP events,” said Kleppin.
This year PSO hosted career panels, brown bag lunches, social hours, and helped run the APA Upper Midwest Conference.
Chloe McGuire Brigl, who worked as an event planner before coming to the Humphrey School, is the student representative of the APA-Minnesota Chapter. She considers PSO events as an important supplement to the opportunities already offered by the MURP academic program.
“Although there are a lot of guest speakers that come into classes, it’s nice to be able to do events with professionals outside of the classroom. We get to ask more candid questions in a more relaxed environment,” said McGuire Brigl.
Impact and legacy
Recognizing the strength of leadership, faculty included PSO in MURP area faculty meetings and invited the organization to participate in the MURP program reaccreditation process.
“PSO will be the ambassador for students in the reaccreditation process, which includes a strategic plan that will shape the next 10 years of our program,” said Kleppin. “This level of student involvement will provide a lasting and concrete impact.”
Associate Professor Carissa Slotterback, who has served as the APA Minnesota State Chapter faculty liaison for 12 years, says the leaders’ commitment to engage with the wider state chapter by serving on the board and planning the state conference is instrumental to the organization’s success.
“I have continued to see our students’ engagement with the chapter grow in terms of its effort and impact,” Slotterback said.
Kleppin, Staley and McGuire Brigl have all found value in the wider network of professionals PSO has connected them to across the Twin Cities and the region.
“That’s what we’re trying to help other students do as well, by providing opportunities for them to meet professionals through career panels and professional social hours,” said McGuire Brigl.
The national award includes a $1,000 donation, which outgoing leadership hopes future leaders will use to bring in national and regional planning professionals to speak with students.
“It’s about raising the level of the program and its profile among other national organizations,” Kleppin said.
Staley looks to his future as an alumni and the MURP program’s national reputation.
“We hope to maintain the longevity of the MURP program because it helps us as we become alumni. It means our program is stronger and our degree will carry a lot of weight as we move through the professional world.”