Ball State student with MayorMaking sure students graduate with real-world experience is a top priority for the Department of Urban Planning. Besides internships, professional portfolios, and real-world studio projects, some master’s students gain professional experience by serving as a graduate assistant with a non-profit community partner.

Bud Tymczyszyn, master of urban planning (MURP), ’17, spent two semesters with long-time partners, Delaware County and Muncie governments, developing conceptual cross sections and renderings of roadways in Muncie to help illustrate how new bike pathways might fit into the existing Muncie landscape.

Tymczyszyn’s involvement in the community has been outstanding, according to his boss, Kyle Johnson, the director of the Delaware County Geographic Information Systems Department.

“His skills and knowledge have been an incredible asset to our department,” Johnson says.

MURP student Cole Jackson was recruited to begin working with Kokomo’s city engineering department while still in his first year of graduate studies. Jackson has also contributed to Kokomo ADA documents, an active transportation plan, and a neighborhood plan over three semesters.

“Part of learning about planning is experiencing its application in communities,” Jackson said. “Planning application can be complicated, but working through its challenges during my GA is allowing me to make real changes in the community I work for. During my GA I’ve created plans for neighborhoods, bike systems, and trails while also having the opportunity to write ordinances and work with many people to solve challenges. This experience is making me a better planner and providing me with practical skills I’ll need when I graduate”

Graduate assistants receive a stipend and a waiver of much of their tuition in exchange for their work, either 10 or 20 hours per week, depending on the assignment. While most Ball State GAs work for professors or in campus offices, the nature of city planning has naturally led to deeper relationships.

“Part of the mission of Ball State and of the Department of Urban Planning is to be active in improving Indiana communities, and graduate assistants are in a terrific position to do this,” says Chair Eric Kelly. “Additionally, of course, we are very pleased to provide this type of professional experience for students.”

In Indianapolis, the Department of Metropolitan Development hadn’t considered sponsoring a graduate assistant until student Beth Neville asked about the possibility. “After exploring the opportunity, we saw how it could benefit us,” says Jeff Hasser, Community Development Block Grant manager.

Beth completed a research project on the competitiveness of Indianapolis in the Low Income Housing Tax Credit Program as well as an analysis of the existing owner-occupied repair program. Exploring how to effectively allocate funds, improve processing, and reducing administrative burden all help to save staff time, resources, and provide a better service for clients throughout the city, Hasser said.