MS Planning Students Make Professional Connections through Internships

Oct. 16, 2017
Master of Science in Urban Planning Students
Planning students

The Master of Science in Planning degree requires an internship during the summer between the first and second year of the program. Through this experience, students have a valuable chance to begin to apply the knowledge gained in the classroom while making professional connections in the planning community. A few students in the MS Planning program have shared stories of their recent internship experiences at a variety of places, from government agencies to private firms, in Tucson and halfway across the country.

Nichole Casebeer, Pima Association of Governments Transportation Planning / Economic Vitality Advisory Committee Intern - Tucson, Arizona
Nichole Casebeer, an MS Planning student, spent her summer as a Transportation Planning / Economic Vitality Advisory Committee Intern with Pima Association of Governments (PAG). Nichole was interested in an internship with PAG to better understand the political “lay of the land” and planning at a regional scale. Nichole assisted with background research for PAG’s update to their regional bicycle and pedestrian plan. She also worked under PAG’s Economic Vitality Advisory Committee (EVAC) to research the role of education and career pathways in supporting regional economic vitality. Working with a small team, she helped write a primer and a white paper on the topic, which was then presented to the EVAC and distributed to regional economic development and education stakeholders. 

Casebeer felt she gained valuable skills in meeting management and moderation, as well as how to clearly communicate and present ideas. She became familiar with a variety of regional and local planning documents, procedures, and policies, and gained experience in research and report writing. One of the favorite parts of her internship was her incredibly talented, kind and helpful supervisors who acted as excellent mentors and helped her hone her skills.

Nathan Herrera, Planning Intern - Town of Oro Valley, Arizona
Nathan Herrera (MS Planning '17), is a Planning Intern in the Community Development and Public Works Department of the Town of Oro Valley. He is assisting the Long-Range Principal Planner with research for Oro Valley's Main Streets Project. His research focuses on economic development, urban design, land use practices, and housing, the goal of which is to determine how best to turn concepts into reality. Herrera also has an opportunity to attend planning and zoning commission, council, neighborhood, and design/project review meetings. 

Herrera met his future supervisor at the College of Architecture, Planning and Landscape Architecture’s Career Fair which helped him land the internship. He feels that the biggest benefit of his internship has been exposure to both long range and current planning practices, and to see how urban planning is practiced in a municipal setting. His work helped him better understand land use planning and economic development and how conceptual projects are realized. Whether he continues to work as a planner for a municipality or works with a private firm, his experience learning about the process of municipal planning has been extremely illuminating.

Erik Lewis, Downtown Tucson Partnership - Tucson, Arizona
Erik Lewis, second year MS Planning student, spent the summer of 2017 interning with the Downtown Tucson Partnership under the direction of UA Planning Program Alumnus, David Mitchell. Lewis’ duties ranged from creating case and precedent studies for the reactivation of a public plaza in downtown Tucson to identifying necessary amenities and creating a budget for the plaza project. In addition, Lewis had an opportunity to assist in the preparation of a grant proposal to fund the project.

Networking with potential project partners was an extremely beneficial experience, according to Lewis. The opportunity to fine-tune professional communication skills, create a project budget, and prepare a grant proposal provided good preparation for his future professional planning practice. He found that Design Studio I (PLG 515) was useful preparation for the work he completed during his summer internship.

Connor Harmon, Planning Intern, Community Development Department - Village of Woodridge, Illinois
Connor Harmon, second year MS Planning student, spent his summer as a Planning Intern in the Community Development Department in the Village of Woodridge, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. Because Harmon had a previous planning internship with the City of Tucson, he was asked to take the lead on several projects including completing a comprehensive text amendment for the Village which included updates to zoning, building codes, and sign ordinances. Other projects included annexation for future residential development and a rezoning to simply zoning districts. Harmon found that the dispute resolution skills he learned in the planning program served him well when he reported on his projects to the Planning Commission. He believes strong interpersonal skills and being able to work with a variety of people are both a very important part of the planning profession. The best part of the internship, according to Harmon, was the ability to work on large, important projects and to see how planning initiatives come to fruition.

Charles Liuzzo, Land Search Specialist for the Land Development Team, KB Homes - Tucson, Arizona
MS Planning student Charles Liuzzo was a Land Search Specialist for the Land Development team at KB Homes, one of the top 5 homebuilding companies in the country, for his summer internship. Liuzzo supported all aspects of the land development process including identifying parcels of land, performing due diligence work, compiling market research data, acting as a liaison with city and county officials, and working with the team to put together large land purchase packages for corporate approval.  According to Liuzzo, his summer internship was a great way to expand on his classroom education. Talking about zoning codes, development regulations and general plans in class is one thing but, in the internship, Liuzzo had to determine how these regulatory devices could impact the feasibility of a project and turn his analysis into an extensive report.

Liuzzo  chose to work with KB Homes to better understand the practice of planning. He felt that it was important for him to view things from the other side of the desk from a municipal planner. He feels that land development is an exciting future career path and this internship was an opportunity to get his toes wet in this field.  One of the most rewarding parts of his summer internship was seeing houses that the company built become someone’s home.


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