Virginia Tech shines at APA Conference in Phoenix

Virginia Tech students and faculty were honored with several awards and had the chance to present at the American Planning Association’s (APA’s) National Planning Conference. Held in Phoenix, Arizona,from April 2-5, the conference focused on the future of planning to help professionals learn about and innovate in the ever-changing field.

Judd Ullom, a 2015 graduate of the Virginia Tech Master of Urban and Regional Planning (MURP) program, took home the 2016 Terry Holzheimer Student Scholarship Award and $2,000. Ullom’s submission was a selection from his capstone entitled, “Creating a Living Museum to Promote Awareness and Support for Cultural and Economic Diversity in Clarendon (Arlington, Virginia).” His capstone project built on a fall 2014 Urban Affairs and Planning (UAP) studio taught by Elizabeth Morton called “Hidden Arlington: Planning and Preservation Strategies for Diverse Local Heritage.”

“He went way above and beyond in his capstone project,” Morton said. It was fitting that Ullom won the national award, which was named for a former Arlington economic development director and adjunct faculty member at Virginia Tech, the late Terry Holzheimer. Ullom was one of his students.

Ullom’s project, a series of small documentaries, commemorates the history of Vietnamese businesses in the Arlington community. Plaques on local businesses have QR codes that link smartphone users to the videos online. The local business association values the opportunity to capture the history and the sense of place that the project brings.

Last fall, Priya Desai was named the Urban Design and Preservation Division Fellow, winning $1,000 in funding. Her work was recognized at the conference in a presentation by Morton on Urban Design Division. Desai has worked closely with Morton to help launch a new division research initiative developing ways to measure successful urban design projects. The pilot focus is on resilient design.

Maggie Cowell, Assistant Professor in UAP, won the Karen B. Smith Award, which recognizes innovations, programs, new or improved services, and overall achievement of APA. The Ethnic and Cultural Diversity Committee of the APA Virginia submitted the award-winning report, which was prepared in a graduate-level studio last spring with then-students Ullom and Mackenzie Jarvis (who is now employed by alternative transportation at Virginia Tech).

Meanwhile, several Virginia Tech faculty and students presented at the conference, which drew in an estimated crowd of about 4,300 APA members interested in diverse topics like economic development, housing, and design.

Virginia Tech Office of Economic Development Director John Provo and graduate student Adam Mawyer presented the “Planning for Economic Development Discussion,” along with Julie Herlands of the AICP in Falls Church, Virginia. The trio presented the report of the ACAs national task force on planning and economic development, which they co-authored. The purpose of the report and discussion was to help planners better understand and articulate their contributions to economic development and to provide them with models and tools for being helpful conveners, bringing their specialized knowledge to the process.

Mel Jones of the Virginia Center for Housing Research shared a housing and economic development study supported by Virginia Commerce, along with MURP student Julia Moeller. This study linked housing and economic development.

Rounding out the presentations from Virginia Tech faculty, Morton presented a big picture discussion of design review ethics, leading up to a facilitated discussion.

Next year’s APA National Planning Conference will be held May 6-9 in New York City.

Judd and John_APA EDD Holzheimer 2016

Erica Corder

Erica Corder is the technical writer at the Office of Economic Development and is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of The Pylon. Corder grew up in different states across the U.S. and spent three years in Germany before eventually winding up at Virginia Tech. She graduted in May 2016 with a degree in English and political science, which she hopes to put to use after in a career in journalism. 

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