Ball State’s UrbanPlan Workshop Aims to Introduce High School Students to Urban Planning

Register for the next UrbanPlan workshop

This free College of Architecture and Planning program will host its final UrbanPlan workshop on December 4 at the Muncie Mall. Secondary students in grades 9-12 are invited to learn about managing community growth and change through the lens of urban planning. The event will take place on December 4 from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

Each student will receive a copy of the UrbanPlan Student Handbook and other resources. Students will need access to a laptop to receive prep materials for the required Zoom meeting with UrbanPlan team members on December 2 from 7-8:30 p.m.

To register or for more information, contact

Source: UrbanPlan Workshop website

Since the mid-1960s, Ball State’s College of Architecture and Planning (CAP) has trained the next generation of planners at the master’s and bachelor’s levels. Today, almost 60 years after its creation, the CAP has taken its educational objective a little further and teaches urban planning to high school students.

During the fall semester, the CAP offers three workshops for high school students interested in urban planning. The workshops, originally designed to educate the general public on real estate development concepts, were adapted to educate high school students by Scott Truex, Associate Professor of Urban Planning and Director of the Department of Urban Planning, and Mary Banning, Teacher of Urban Planning. .

Truex, a 1981 Ball State alumnus, began his planning career in 1974 as a Ball State student. In 1986, after spending a few years in the workplace, Truex returned to Ball State as an educator.

“Planning is very important because otherwise you have no direction — you don’t know where your community is going,” Truex said. “So the purpose of a plan is to build community consensus, to engage the public, to discuss publicly, and to have a vision of where the whole community wants to go.”

Truex has been teaching students the fundamental and technical skills necessary for success in the landscaping field for over 30 years. In the Introduction to Planning (PLAN 100) course, Truex and Banning introduce students to a simulation known as UrbanPlan.

During UrbanPlan, students are presented with a simulated city that has suffered from a major fire, and participants are asked to play different roles representing varying and sometimes conflicting interests. Students receive letters from local residents, just as a real planner might see, and must figure out how best for the community to rebuild the space.

UrbanPlan was developed approximately 15 years ago by the Urban Land Institute (ULI), a non-profit organization that conducts research and educates the public on real estate concepts as a simulation to educate the public and students on the operation of town planning. Since UrbanPlan’s introduction, Truex and Banning said they have seen an increased interest in urban planning among Ball State students.

Through UrbanPlan, Elise Jones, a junior urban planning major, found her interest in planning despite arriving at Ball State unsure of what she wanted to study. Jones said that by taking PLAN 100, she saw all of her interests align in the area of ​​urban planning.

“I was asking around, talking to older planning students, and [the major] I just felt good, so that’s when I jumped,” Jones said. “The [urban planning major] covers many topics and you can access many different careers…I knew I would find a way into planning.

Now Jones, along with a handful of other urban planning students, has embarked on a new task. Led by Truex and Banning, students introduce UrbanPlan to high school students through departmental outreach programs.

The second of these UrbanPlan Workshop events took place on November 6 and saw nine high school students from across the state of Indiana walk into the CAP classroom in the Muncie Mall. Nathaniel Curtis, a senior from North High School in Evansville, Indiana, attended the event and said his interest in problem solving was a big factor that drew him to urban planning as a possible future career.

On the morning of the event, Curtis and his mother drove about four hours from Evansville to attend, and he said he had to wake up at 1 a.m. to get ready. Curtis was assigned the role of neighborhood liaison during the simulation and was responsible for representing local communities within his group.

“The role of the Neighborhood Liaison is to review, read, and draw responses from letters that groups with broad affiliation or political power have offered ideas to developers,” Curtis said. “What that means in the developing group is that you’ll have to tell other team members where things need to be placed for the best current social response and to attract new people.”

Curtis said the neighborhood liaison role was a good fit with his interests and personality. In the future, Curtis said he hopes to attend college, possibly Ball State, to earn a degree in urban planning.

Brenden Resnick, a sophomore in urban planning, interned with Truex at Ball State last summer and helped develop the UrbanPlan program for high schoolers. Resnick said UrbanPlan’s goal is to introduce the basic concepts that real estate developers, city planners and regional planners use on a daily basis.

“What [UrbanPlan] just introduces people to a lot of real estate concepts and makes you think about what planning is and how it impacts places you want to see develop,” Resnick said. “We planners are supposed to go to communities and ask them what they need, and that’s [a] love relationship. This [relationship] is really important for the success, not only of the plan for the community, but really in our careers as well.

Resnick said soft skills, such as communication, are also needed to pass the simulation. Additionally, Resnick said making mistakes in the simulation is okay, even at the graduate and undergraduate level.

“CAP tends to emphasize…in all of our courses, the iterative design process,” Resnick said. “The reason we do this is that your first attempt often isn’t the best, and you don’t know that until you keep trying.”

Urban planning major Dylan Gehring is another Truex student helping to train the next generation of urban planners. Gehring said he discovered his interest in planning in seventh grade and has been pursuing planning training ever since.

“[Urban planning] is something that has tended to be in the shadows,” Gehring said. “People don’t really know – there’s not a lot of public exposure until something goes completely wrong. We’re really trying to get the message out to high school students and working with [them] so we can spread the word [about] plan and help them embark on a career that will interest them.

Last spring, Gehring returned to Northfield High School in Northfield, Minnesota, where he graduated, to speak to students about urban planning. Gehring said the experience of introducing urban planning and its associated jobs to students is exciting for him.

“I think [UrbanPlan] really highlights all these different aspects of the profession,” Gerhing said. “Truly, [it] creates a time to learn what planning does, instead of just lecturing on planning topics. »

Contact Eli Houser with comments at