Student Observations from Seattle

Photo of downtown Seattle by Brigette Bernal

In mid April APA members from across the country (and world?) gathered for our organization's National Planning Conference in Seattle. A number of our students from UNO were fortunate to attend and have provided the following observations:

Student Observations

The national conference was an excellent opportunity to meet with urban planning professionals and fellow students, while attending sessions on current topics and mobile or career workshops. I had four main goals of attending this year’s conference; network, learn new technologies used in the field, gather research for my independent study and take advantage of career services. I really appreciated that the conference schedule was broken up into tracks as it ensured that I wouldn’t miss out on a topic of interest to my research. I found the sessions informative and the speakers amiable to further discussions and questions. On the third day of the conference I participated in a resume clinic workshop where I was able to meet individually with seasoned planners to critique my resume and cover letter. It was helpful to receive professional opinions outside of academia and from this I was able to strengthen my existing resume to apply for jobs upon graduation. APA national conference was a great introduction into the professional planning community and I would recommend students to take advantage of this opportunity in the early development of their career.

- Angela Slovachek


I want to thank the Louisiana APA chapter for supporting our trip to the APA National Planning Conference in Seattle. Over the course of four days, we were all able to attend several lectures and workshops regarding our varied interests as well as network with planning professionals from around the country. Aside from the conference, I felt it was just as important to experience the city of Seattle from an urban planner’s point of view and take note of design and policy that could be implemented back home. In addition to the learning experience, I now feel a tighter bond between my peers who also attended the conference. This can only prove beneficial as we progress in our academic and professional lives, but I also feel as if I connected with a few people who will remain good friends, whereas we were simply classmates before. I believe the trip provided an invaluable addition to my traditional schooling here at UNO. These types of opportunities are indispensable to a complete education.

- Colin Ash


Group photoFrom April 17th to April 21st, a group of classmates and I traveled to Seattle, Washington for the National American Planning Association Conference. At the conference, I attended sessions, webinars and workshops that were centered on improving my skills and knowledge within the fields of disaster policy, social policy planning, geographic information systems (GIS), urban design and planning for public health. A few of the sessions I attended were titled as follows: “Planning for Disaster Recovery,” “Public Health and Disasters,” and “Building the Built Environment.” In addition to the sessions I attended, the workshop titled “GIS for Grants” that I attended, was significantly beneficial. This workshop allowed the attendees to go through a lecture presentation followed by a hands on workshop about using online ESRI GIS resources to form applications for grants. Although I have a good background in GIS already, this workshop taught me some new ways of using the software and also gave me a better understanding of where to find certain resources. The National APA Conference in Seattle was a great experience for both my classmates and myself. The experience allowed us to partake in numerous events that improved our skills as planners in a variety of ways.

- Dakota Fisher


Mt. Rainier from the airI was fortunate enough to attend the American Planning Association’s national conference in Seattle, WA this month. As a MURP candidate, it was vital to my career that I was able to experience a national conference. I made many crucial and long lasting connections that will be useful to me down the road. Some were national connections, while some were made at the event hosted by Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama APA chapters on the evening of the 20th. I also gained skills from the many lectures I attended. I chose to attend lectures on storm water management, gender, green infrastructure, and short term rentals. The conference was entitled Sustainable Seattle, so there were many option pertaining to storm water management and green infrastructure, my primary area of interest. I also formed long lasting bonds and friendships with my classmates who attended the conference with me.

As planning students, we made sure we had time enough to explore the city of Seattle. It has such different topography from New Orleans that just walking around was a learning experience. As a city, their environmental consciousness was impressive. They fine people for incorrectly recycling and composting, and require on-site storm water management on personal property. Their public transportation system is impressive. The busses were clean, on time, and never overly packed. They have a light rail system that is easy to navigate, and a card (ORCA) that works for both. Their bike lanes stretch throughout the city and are safe and respected.

- Felice Lavergne


Upon exiting the terminal on a refreshingly crisp day in Seattle, I made my way to the light rail platform that would take me into downtown. The person at the self-service kiosk ahead of me fidgeted with the machine, trying to buy a one-way pass into town, as was I. As we both worked together to determine which type of ticket to buy, we struck a conversation about the purposes of our trips. It turned out he was a planner as well, attending the conference from Southern California. As we boarded the train, we talked about which sessions to attend and began to receive glances from several others in the car. They were all planners attending the conference as well, visiting from Toronto, Los Angeles, Fort Lauderdale, among others. We all spent the rest of the 40-minute ride discussing planning within the context of our respective localities. This short commute from the airport signaled a theme that would remain throughout the rest of the conference: a constant exchange of ideas and perspectives from all over the country. I am extremely grateful for the financial assistance that my fellow students and I received to make this trip possible.

- Nick Perez-Alvarez


Platter of oystersAttending APA Seattle was one of the best experiences since my involvement in the professional planning community. Working together for months with our fundraising efforts and attending the conference with my fellow students forged a bond among all of us, which will prove to be beneficial further in our careers. Personally, the cornucopia of opportunities APA Seattle presented themselves only after hours of hustling and networking with every possible handshake. Developing connections nationally and internationally was my personal goal in order to secure a position abroad, which has proven fruitful. Also, the workshops and lectures provided excellent opportunities for me to expand my personal repertoire of knowledge and wisdom. I cannot stress enough how important it is for planning students, especially those soon to graduate, to attend the national conference in order to gain a competitive edge. APA-LA invested in future planners by assisting us with our housing, this financial aid allowed us to represent the UNO planning department with several of our top performing students.

- Nick Puczkowskyj


Attending the Seattle National APA conference provided me with invaluable opportunities to learn best urban planning practices around the country. The lectures from top planning professionals in their field allowed me to better understand how my academic studies could be applied in real situations. Lastly, the City of Seattle itself played an important role in my experience, highlighting the importance of efficient public transportation and sustainable urban growth practices.

- Amy Ulmer


Shoreline and light houseMy first day of the conference was dedicated to the emerging professionals meeting.  I was given crucial career and resume advice by many seasoned professionals and APA members.  Seattle was an amazing setting for the 2015 National APA meeting.  I attended many sessions dedicated to green infrastructure that explained alternative planning methods pioneered by Seattle organizations.  I also have interests in the technology industry.  Professionals from Brooklyn, San Jose, and Seattle explained the new industry trends.  My last day at the conference I attended a walking tour of the Seattle Chinatown district.  I learned how multiple programs and Planning decisions can support and preserve a community.  Overall, the experience was an integral part of my planning education.  I am excited about attending next year's National APA meeting in Phoenix. 

- Katy Campbell


Each year the American Planning Association (APA) hosts a National Planning Conference in which, planners, planner-related professionals, and students gather to explore and discuss current planning topics. The Conference consists of seminars, mobile sessions, expositions, socials/receptions and numerous career building opportunities. This year (2015) the Conference was held in Seattle, Washington with the theme, “Sustainable Seattle.” As graduate level planning students, my fellow Master of Urban and Regional Planning (MURP) colleagues and I had the wonderful opportunity to attend the Conference.

The APA Conference was filled with things to do. The Conference began each day at 8:00 am and sessions went on throughout the day until about 8:00 pm. Being that my MURP concentration is community and economic development I attended seminars that would help further develop my knowledge regarding this subject. My favorite seminar was titled, “Culturally Competent Planning and Engagement.” During this seminar the panelists discussed how as planners we can work to address cultural differences while planning for diverse communities. A recurring theme of the discussion was that communities can often be hesitant when planners and developers begin working in a community, especially if those working aren’t from the neighborhood or aren’t well known by the community. In New Orleans, we know this all too well as following Hurricane Katrina droves of professionals came to the city in hopes of creating a “new” New Orleans. The greatest take away I gained from this seminar was that in order for planners to successfully engage with a community and produce things that a community both want and need, it is important for us, as planners, to plan with a community, not just for a community. This seminar confirmed what I’ve learned in my community and economic development studies - citizen engagement is necessary throughout planning processes in order for planning efforts to be welcomed by a community.

View of downtown from the ferryIn addition to the knowledge I gained through the more structured aspects of the conference (i.e. seminars and expositions), there were also numerous networking opportunities available. On the first day, there was a, “First-Time Mixer” for all new National Planning Conference attendees, where we networked with other conference new-comers from around the country. Additionally each APA chapter hosted their own private reception. The Louisiana reception was hosted in collaboration with the Alabama and Mississippi chapters of APA. Our reception is where I would say I made the most valuable connections. There were folks from the city planning commissions (CPC), regional planning commissions (RPC) and planning consulting firms that operate within the region. As a highlight, I had the opportunity to speak with the Executive Director of New Orleans’ CPC, Bob Rivers, several times throughout the reception.

While the Conference was technically being held at the Washington State Convention Center in downtown Seattle, the Conference had numerous mobile sessions that allowed conference attendees to also explore the city. The mobile sessions were by far my favorite part of the conference. While we were in Seattle, the weather was exceptional. Local news broadcasts indicated that it was the best weather Seattle had all year. Although, it rains nearly daily in Seattle, we didn’t experience a single drop of rain! One mobile session involved taking a ferry to Brainbridge Island, which was touted as being, “one of the region's most successful examples of sustainable, small town urbanism.” Based on my experience in Seattle, to call it a ‘beautiful’ city would certainly be an understatement.

Throughout the APA Conference there was so much to do! My only regret is that there wasn’t enough time to do more. The 2015 National Planning Conference was truly a great experience. Not only did I gain valuable knowledge and meet influential local planners, the trip was also an awesome bonding experience with my fellow MURP colleagues. I would recommend to all planning students that if they have the opportunity to attend the APA National Conference, they definitely should, as it is an exceptional learning and networking experience.

- Brigette Bernal