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New Planning Program to Help Communities Handle Growth, Rail

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By Karen Guin

As Central Florida communities struggle with growth and prepare for new high-speed and commuter rail lines, the University of Central Florida is poised to train more planners who can help them.

UCF launched a new master's program today in Urban and Regional Planning. The first comprehensive planning program for students in Central Florida is tailored for working adults, who should be able to earn degrees after three years of taking courses part time.

Graduates will be able to work for government agencies, private firms or nonprofit organizations at the local, state and federal levels, said Mary Ann Feldheim, chair of the Department of Public Administration. A master's degree is needed for most planning jobs in the current market, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Planners identify and recommend actions involving land use, urban design, environmental protection, real estate and housing. Central Florida is ripe for such a program because of the region's practices in handling rapid growth, urban innovations such as the planned communities of Celebration and Baldwin Park and the new high-speed and commuter rail initiatives. 

The program's holistic approach considers the collective health of individuals, communities and the natural environment. Students learn how these components interrelate in courses on planning methods, transportation policy, environmental program management, economic development and planning healthy communities. Students also choose one of three areas for focused study:  healthy community planning, environmental planning or transportation planning. 

"All three areas are important to the health and sustainability of our Central Florida communities," said Feldheim, who added that UCF's program is the only one in the state to offer a focus on healthy community planning.

Faculty members from many departments, including Public Administration, Sociology, Political Science, Engineering and Health Professions, are teaching in the program. The Central Florida planning community also helped to develop the courses.

"Almost every national firm in planning has a presence in Orlando," Feldheim said. "The planning community has made a strong commitment to supporting the new program through its willingness to offer internships, mentorships and studio experiences." 

A dozen students began their studies this week, and the program's enrollment could increase to 80 students by fall 2012.

"The university can be a laboratory for advancing the best practices for urban and regional planning and a great partner to both the public and private sectors in developing solutions to our most serious urban problems." said Jim Sellen, an urban planner in Central Florida for more than 30 years and currently a principal with the Orlando-based firm VHB Miller Sellen.

Feldheim, Associate Professor Jay Jurie and Assistant Professor Christopher Hawkins, all of Public Administration, led the development of the new program. 

For more information, visit Under "Health and Public Affairs," select "Urban and Regional Planning M.S."

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Mentioned : Mary Ann Feldheim


The health care informatics master's program at UCF really helped me connect with the industry, meet people at conferences and sit for the most-desired certification exams."
— Michael Neimann M.S. in health care informatics ('14)
My internship with the District 9 Medical Examiner’s Office was one of the greatest experiences of my life. I gained an excellent understanding of the medical examiner’s office and the criminal justice field in general."
— Adam Stubley B.S. in criminal justice, criminal profiling certificate ('11)
UCF provides its physical therapy students with an excellent education and prepares them to work in the most challenging of settings."
— Jamie Dyson Rehabilitation Supervisor, Orlando Regional Medical Center
UCF's program provided me the opportunity to expedite my student experience while attaining practical experience working within local health systems."
— Daniel Barr V.P. at National Children's Hospital; M.S. in health sciences, health services administration track ('04)
My master's education helped me see the big picture of the nonprofit industry. UCF showed me how to see the different fundraising tools within the Central Florida area."
— Krysti Griffith Executive Director of Growth from Grief; Master of Nonprofit Management ('12)
The course opened my eyes to grant writing ... I learned a great deal and you [Barbara Howell] are truly an excellent instructor."
— Deborah Reith Master of Public Administration student who secured a $10,000 federal grant through a course project; B.S. in criminal justice ('86)
The skills I learned during my time at UCF are what made my transition to law school so seamless."
— Jacqueline Iaquinta Touro Law Center student; B.S. in legal studies ('10)
As an inaugural graduate of the M.R.A. program at UCF, I can attest to the outstanding curriculum developed for research administrators. "
— April Heyward Post Award Services Coordinator, University of South Carolina; Master of Research Administration ('13)
It was at UCF that I first learned many of the skills that I’ve since honed, including mapping with GIS software - an ability I found invaluable to my search for internships, graduate-level coursework, and employment."
— Richard "Ben" Hagen Research and Communications Associate, New Economy Project, New York City; B.S. in public administration ('10)
I am excited to be able to give back to the program that invested so much in me. It is truly and honor and a privilege."
— Carlos Gual Instructor of Athletic Training; B.S. in athletic training ('09)
The faculty advisor [at my medical school] was amazed that I had the opportunity to truly participate in the full spectrum of research as an undergraduate. "
— Chase Cavayero, medical student at Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicince, B.S. in health sciences - pre-clinical ('13) 
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