Student Report from Phoenix

group photo of UNO students in Phoenix

PHOENIX,AZ - The Crescent City Shapers, the University of New Orleans’ student organization for planning and urban studies students, represented UNO and the state of Louisiana by traveling to the APA National Planning Conference in Phoenix. This year’s group was comprised of eleven Master of Urban and Regional Planning (MURP) students, five of whom also traveled with the Shapers to Seattle for last year’s conference. Louisiana APA helps sponsor the Shapers’ trip annually to allow Louisiana’s future planners to experience the benefits of such an event. The students found the experience very enriching in a number of different ways.

Over the course of the four day conference, students had the opportunity to attend several sessions and workshops per day. Katy Sullivan, a second year graduate student who moved from Seattle for UNO’s MURP program, cited a session on changing demographics as her favorite. “I was exposed to a variety of ideas on how to build cities to reflect the needs of populations that planners often overlook, like the elderly, stay-at-home dads, and youth,” Katy said.

Another student, Aspen Nero, found the resume and interview workshops insightful. “I received valuable help with my resume from a planning director as well as some interview tips,” she said. Some students, like Dakota Fisher, from Baton Rouge, even received job offers at the conference. “I was able to network with some familiar faces following a session and was even offered a job that day!” said Dakota, whose field of study and work is disaster planning.

Aside from the conference, the students were excited to explore Phoenix, a city with a landscape vastly different from anywhere in Louisiana and one that many had never visited before. Colin Ash, Graduate Research Assistant for the UNO Transportation Institute and Treasurer for the Crescent City Shapers, made sure to traverse Phoenix, a notoriously automobile-oriented city, by other modes of travel. “I have to admit that I’m extremely jealous of Phoenix’s great light rail system, something New Orleans could really use;” Colin said, “however, aside from the existence of a bike share program in Phoenix, I was encouraged that New Orleans, for all its transportation woes, can take pride in our bicycling infrastructure.”

Students riding transit in PhoenixOne of the students, Rachael Berg, has lived in New Orleans for several years now but is originally from Phoenix, leaving the city for undergraduate school when she was 18. “I experienced my hometown from a completely different perspective during this trip,” Rachael said. “Phoenix has a burgeoning downtown district with a significant amount of street art that I was unaware existed.”

Collectively, the Shapers made the most of their APA 2016 experience in Phoenix. Felice Lavergne, President of the Crescent City Shapers, summed up her experience and the tone of all of the students who made the trip. “The American Planning Association Conference is an invaluable experience for any planning student,” Felice said. “The knowledge, networking, and practical experience gained over this short time leave a lasting mark.”

Skyline of Phoenix, Arizona