2009 SRC Outstanding PSO Award

Best Practices

New York University
Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service
Urban Planning Student Association
Project: Student Conference – Planning Ahead: Opportunities for Professional Growth

NY Metro Newsletter: September-October 2008 (pdf)

APA Student Conference Program (pdf)


Description of project, activity, event, etc. and how it fulfills the award criteria:

NYU student conferenceThis past September, NYU Wagner and Columbia University's urban planning programs joined together to host a half-day student conference with sponsorship from the APA's New York Metro Chapter. The primary objective of the conference was to provide networking opportunities for current students and planning professionals in the New York City area. The event also aimed to increase collaboration between New York City's planning schools and the NY Metro Chapter. The conference was conceived, organized, and executed by two Student Representatives, Nikki Georges-Clapp from Wagner and Catherine Kim from Columbia.

The conference began with a catered Welcome Reception and Career Fair. The organizations that participated in the Career Fair included New York City agencies, university research centers and planning firms. The Career Fair was followed by welcoming remarks from Donald Burns, NY Metro Chapter President, and four student presentations. Two students from Columbia and two students from Wagner presented a brief overview of their internships from the previous summer.

After the student presentations, a keynote panel consisting of alumni from Wagner and other planning programs discussed how they navigated the complex world of urban planning in New York City. The four breakout sessions each covered specialized topics in the field of urban planning. A number of Wagner's alumni and adjunct faculty participated in these panel discussions as well as members of the NY Metro Chapter's Executive Committee. A Networking Happy Hour held at the Center for Architecture followed the conference.

In addition to the conference, UPSA has been active within the Wagner community throughout this semester.

  • During the first week of classes, we hosted a panel discussion on development in Coney Island and a field trip out to the area.
  • In October and November, we held two career panels, focused on economic development and transportation, with co-sponsorship from Wagner's Office of Career Services.
  • We also collaborated with other Wagner student groups to organize volunteers for a tree-planting day. This initiative was hosted by the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation as part of Mayor Michael Bloomberg's PlaNYC initiatives.

Description of the planning process, implementation, and level of success:

For the conference, a team of ten Wagner and Columbia students helped with much of the coordination of the conference over the summer. We were also in frequent contact with Michael Marrella, Vice President of Committees for the NY Metro Chapter, and Mary Findlen, Chapter Administrator. Michael provided us with guidance on panelists and breakout session topics and Mary helped us with promotion of the conference.

We also received support from our respective school administrators. The team was given guidance from Professor Ingrid Ellen, Director of the Master of Urban Planning Program at Wagner, with the initial proposal and panelist solicitation. Debra Cabrera, Program Administrator, granted UPSA funding from the MUP program for the catering. Columbia supplied the funding for the Networking Happy Hour. We did not charge students for anything.

The implementation process for the conference was fairly smooth. However, it required a large time commitment and great attention to detail. We started planning six months in advance. Cathy and Nikki were working on the coordination of the different sessions throughout the summer. We strategically chose to hold the conference during the third week of September. This allowed students time to adjust to school, but was early enough to be a helpful introduction to planning and internship opportunities in New York City.

The conference was very successful. Over 100 students from planning schools throughout the New York City area attended. The Career Fair was packed for the entire hour. Each panel session consisted of rich, interesting discussions. The Networking Happy Hour was also well attended by students and many of the panelists. This allowed students from the different schools to network with each other and planning professionals.

The rest of the UPSA Board contributed by volunteering at the conference and organizing many of the other events that we have been held during the semester.

Contact for more information on this project:

Nikki Georges-Clapp
NYU Student Representative
Master of Urban Planning Candidate, May 2009
Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, NYU
nikki.georgesclapp@nyu.edu