Urban Planning Student Association Honored by American Planning Association

Taubman College’s Urban Planning Student Association (UPSA) received Honorable Mention for the 2019 Outstanding Planning Student Organization Award from the American Planning Association (APA). The APA selected only one winner and one honorable mention nationwide.

“We are very gratified that UPSA has been recognized by the American Planning Association for their outstanding work,” said Joe Grengs, associate professor of urban and regional planning and chair of the program. “UPSA continues to advance a remarkable range of highly impactful initiatives, including social justice activities, curricular reform, public engagement, and promoting a strong sense of community within our college.”

For more 20 years, UPSA has been led by peer-nominated student leaders who work to advocate for master’s and Ph.D. students, organize events, and connect current students with professionals. UPSA’s flagship program, Expanded Horizons, takes students on an immersive, weekend-long trip to a different city each year, where students visit development sites, network with alumni, and interact with public and private sector leaders and community-based organizations.

With the admissions office, UPSA supports a mentorship network called the Buddy Program that pairs incoming planning students with current students, in order to build community within the program and help students transition into graduate school. It also coordinates with other student organizations to host the International Student Fair. Throughout the year, the organization also works with the admissions office in recruitment activities ranging from leading tours and student panels to hosting happy hour mixers. In addition, UPSA supports LunchUP, a weekly guest speaker series mostly run by doctoral students that presents research in urban and regional planning.

“Students are at the center of our program’s mission, and UPSA is pivotal in shaping the curriculum and initiatives essential for attracting talent to our program, for elevating the profile of the urban and regional planning program, and for raising awareness of the planning profession’s broad contributions as a whole. We’re honored to have such a committed and forward-thinking student organization,” said Grengs.

As part of the award, UPSA will receive $500 to further the group’s efforts. But its leaders say the value of the recognition — and the organization itself — are not so easy to quantify. “UPSA is about supporting the urban planning student community, so recognition by APA, our professional organization, means the world to us as we seek to expand opportunity for our colleagues,” said Peter Swinton, the current co-president. “I have been honored to represent my fellow students over this past year and I hope that UPSA continues to build on its success in future.”

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