Monday, August 29, 2011

Caroline Brigham takes note of the cityscapes, paved sidewalks, and utilized public spaces when passing through a town. Brigham, who earned her master’s degree in the School of Urban and Regional Planning in May 2011, has explored a variety of city planning roles as part of her career preparation at the UI.

“I think getting hands-on experience in planning is one of the best ways to learn and the UI’s School of Urban and Regional Planning does a pretty good job of supporting its students and helping us find internship opportunities,” Brigham said.

In spring 2011, Brigham served as a research assistant at the Iowa Policy Project, and wrote a report on the outcomes of individual development accounts through the University of Iowa Community Credit Union Foundation. The project focused on setting up accounts for low income individuals intent on saving up for an education, home, or a small business. A combination of state and local funding matches the IDA participants’ savings once they reach their goal. In summer 2010, Brigham worked for the city of Albert Lea, Minn., where she took part in rewriting the city’s sign ordinance.

The diverse background knowledge she has gained has been of critical importance, Brigham said, allowing her to learn about how cities are set up and the different components of a planner’s job. A planner aids a city’s development by effectively communicating the needs of a specific area in the city, helping to guide further development in improving or maintaining those and other areas.

With an emphasis on community development and housing, Brigham has future plans to delve deeper into public policy. However, first she would like to gain experience working in and supporting communities impacted by the housing market collapse. She also has an interest in overseeing green infrastructure planning throughout the cities in which she works. Brigham said the next generation of planners will be more proactive in evaluating sustainability factors.

Brigham received the 2011 American Institute of Certified Planners Outstanding Student Award for her hard work, outreach, and academic pursuits.

An Iowa City native, Brigham was unaware of urban planning as a career option until after she earned her undergraduate at Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania. But after coming back to Iowa City and working at a local recycling company, Brigham spoke with the Iowa City recycling coordinator about the UI’s program and knew planning would be a good fit. Brigham was drawn to the diversity of the career possibilities, involvement with communities, and impacts planners can have at the local level.

“Planning is perfect for me,” Brigham said. “I’ve found something that involves people, places, and progress. We make cities better places to live.”