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University of Michigan Nexus Hosts Students for New Urban Planning Course

Nexus at Michigan Engineering offers continuing education for working professionals. With the variety of programs and delivery options, learners engage with renowned faculty in a way that best fits their needs, priorities, and preferences.

Nexus recently launched its Scenario Planning for Urban Futures course, bringing together a diverse group of students both in person and online. Dr. Robert Goodspeed, University of Michigan Associate Professor of Urban and Regional Planning, designed this course as a modified version of his existing graduate offering. The course is tailored to meet the needs of working professionals and is presented in a condensed format. Participants gathered in a collaborative environment to learn valuable insights on methods and techniques for creating resilient and sustainable cities.

Unlocking the Power of Scenario Planning

Scenario planning offers a transformative approach to urban development. Through an examination of theory, review of case studies, and interactive activities, participants discovered the value of envisioning multiple future scenarios. This collaborative and comprehensive process deepened their understanding and passion for shaping their communities. Students left with first-hand knowledge of scenario planning and concrete ideas on how to implement scenarios in their cities. Learner Austin Edwards shared his thoughts on bringing new ideas home with him:

"We're already thinking about the next big initiative for transit funding in the future of urban development in Chicago. [Scenario planning] offers a different way to engage the general public, elected officials, business leaders, and civic leaders on how to approach uncertainties that we can't even begin to predict. It helps us to fill in that map of the unknowns and think about what would be required to make that future more equitable."

Collaborating in a Hybrid Learning Space

Nexus offers a hybrid platform for this course, providing maximized convenience and access to resources for both students and instructors. Co-Instructor Heather Hannon from the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy reflected on her recent experience partnering with Nexus:

"We have tried hybrid events on our own, so I know how challenging it can be. And the setup at Nexus was very smooth and seamless. There's a lot of support and staff around to help. We had virtual and in-person breakout groups for students to collaborate, as well as virtual speakers. Overall, I think it's been a great place to hold an event."

The seamless integration of technology and Nexus resources made it possible for there to be a diverse range of participants. Students enjoyed the added benefit of collaborating with practitioners who are innovating in different areas of urban planning. Learner Nicole Hall shared her thoughts on working with the other participants:

"I think just being here in Ann Arbor felt like a very collaborative process. Hearing from other people who are in the same field as me but perhaps have a different experience setting up an urban scenario, as well as being able to interact with the instructors and learn from their past experiences, was very beneficial."

The Path to Implementation

The primary goal of the course is to motivate participants to use scenario-planning techniques in their professional contexts. Course alumni leave with the ability to advocate for the benefits of scenario planning within their organizations and communities. After the course, Instructor Dr. Robert Goodspeed reflected:

"I think one reason I wanted to develop this course is because scenario planning isn't just one specific method. It's a family of different approaches that share a kind of common philosophical approach. And so, I'm hoping that the course inspires [students] to adapt the ideas to do planning projects that make sense in their community and their context."

Learn more about Scenario Planning for Urban Futures

ABOUT THE CONTENT AUTHOR AND SPONSOR: Nexus at THE University of Michigan Engineering

Nexus supports continuing education by offering professional education certificates and designing and supporting online degree programs from the University of Michigan College of Engineering. With Nexus, lifelong learners across all fields can engage with renowned U-M faculty either online, on campus, or location.

February 1, 2024