Fresno State is offering a new city and regional planning major. Here’s what it’s about

Photo Courtesy of Department of Geography and City & Regional Planning

Have you ever wanted a career like Mark Brendanawicz from the TV show “Parks and Recreation?” Fresno State has a new major that can get you that – or something like it.

A new bachelor of science degree in city and regional planning (CRP) was introduced this spring. A city planner is responsible for determining the use of land and resources necessary for creating a community. From infrastructure to the environment to transportation, city planners help play a role in the development of a city.

Dr. Michelle Calvarese, an associate professor and the chair of the department of geography and city & regional planning, said that the major is separate from a previous option of city and regional planning that was available to students seeking a degree in geography.

“A lot of our [students] as geography majors were already going into planning, but they didn’t necessarily have all the courses a county agency would like to see,” Calvarese said.

The new CRP program was created after faculty discussions and community inquiries.

“Over the years, we started being contacted by local planning agencies, developers, nonprofits asking if we were ever going to have a degree in planning, because there is no planning degree in the Valley,” Calvarese said. “This program has been highly supported by the community, and they’re waiting for our students to graduate so they can hire them.”

The community has shown its support through internship opportunities and donations earmarked for scholarships, Calvarese said.

The CRP program allows students to have theory background and learn the requisite material for planners as well as take part in classes that provide field experience and opportunities for networking.

One such class is a case study class taught by Calvarese this spring. Students worked with the development firm McCaffrey Homes as it designs a new community called Tesoro Viejo near Madera.

“The students have taken six site visits up there this semester where they can actually have boots on the ground – I mean, it’s dirt essentially right now,” Calvarese said. “They’re getting to learn material from the McCaffreys themselves as well as all their subcontractors.”

Students have been able to meet with different members of the project including a biologist, project manager, planning consultant and individuals working on infrastructure, historic preservation and environmental preservation.

Fresno State senior Valerie Binion, who is in the case study course, said that she and her peers are working on a paper giving recommendations and opinions on the project.

“We’re able to see a town being planned from the ground up,” she said.

Senior Ryan McKelvey, who is also in the class, said that the site visits have been beneficial experiences for the class.

“Every single meeting, there’s always something new, like something being built. It’s always changing, so we actually get to see the development occur,” McKelvey said.

Also introduced this spring is the environmental planning certificate, Calvarese said.

Students can earn the certificate upon completion of Geology 128, Environmental Pollution; Geology 132, United States Environmental Law; Geology 184, Environmental Planning; and another approved course.

“In a way, it’s learning how to help companies and help public agencies work with the environment instead of against it, which is kind of big right now,” Binion said about the certificate.

Students will also have internship opportunities within the CRP field working with the city and county, developers and nonprofit organizations and providing more real-world experience, Calvarese said.

“When they graduate from this program, there should be no doubt in their mind as to what their job is going to look like,” Calvarese said.

The CRP program has been structured with new curriculum to ensure that any students who enter can graduate in two years, whether they are transfers or changing majors, Calvarese said.

For sophomore Eileen Mitchell, who is majoring in CRP, said the program has offered a lot of valuable field experience.

“I’ve seen a lot of departments, and this one is, by far, the funnest, the most exciting, and I think I actually have the most experience compared to all the other ones that I’ve actually had the opportunity to actually work with,” Mitchell said.

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