UPSA Hosts Virtual Expanded Horizons 2021 in Indianapolis

The Urban Planning Student Association (UPSA) hosted another successful Expanded Horizons experience for Master of Urban and Regional Planning students at U-M this fall. A tradition since 1989, the experience was led almost entirely virtually this September, allowing students to explore the city of Indianapolis and the planning profession despite the pandemic.

Expanded Horizons is an intensive field study conducted annually by graduate students in urban planning at Taubman College. Students normally travel to a selected city or urban region for three days to meet with city and regional planning professionals, as well as neighborhood organizations, urban designers, and architects. The program has traveled to a variety of cities across the U.S. and Canada, and offers abundant opportunities for students to learn about a city in-depth, interact directly with planning professionals, and bond with their cohort.

This fall, Expanded Horizons co-chairs Danielle Wallick, M.U.R.P. ’22, and Aaron Cohen, M.U.R.P. ’22, led students on a virtual exploration of Indianapolis and its current planning initiatives. 

“Expanded Horizons is important because it is one of the first events of the year that brings the entire M.U.R.P. program together,” said Cohen. “The experience provides students with a vast array of stories from practicing planners that put what we learn in the classroom into action. And for many, we are enabling their first exposure to a city that highlights the amazing possibilities of planning and demonstrates what we as planners need to improve on.”

This year’s program featured keynote speakers, a panel discussion, and four sessions with more than 30 speakers representing various planning disciplines within Indianapolis. Robert Torzynski, tribal planner for the Pokagon Band of the Potawatomi Tribe (Pokégnek Bodéwadmik), and David Hampton, executive director of Local Initiatives Support Corporation, were keynote speakers. 

Students also attended a presentation from Brittanie Redd, principal planner for land use strategy in the Department of Metropolitan Development for the City of Indianapolis, in which she discussed the city’s planning history, the Peoples’ Planning Academy, and current initiatives in Indianapolis. 

In an effort to link issues in Indianapolis with U-M’s home region, the “Indianapolis in Comparison” panel featured professionals working on inclusive development in Indianapolis and professionals working in Detroit who discussed community and economic development in both cities. 

More than 50 first- and second-year planning students participated in this year’s Expanded Horizons. The virtual format opened it up for increased participation from both students and speakers. 

“We had an advantage in planning the weekend as virtual from the beginning, in a time when people have grown fairly comfortable with Zoom,” said Wallick. “Most Indianapolis folks were thrilled to participate when we reached out. We were able to obtain a similar caliber of speaker to when students are able to travel in person — we had a number of City staff and executive directors talking to students.”