Nine University of Texas at Austin students have won the statewide 2019 Texas Planning Award for Best Student Project. Given each year by the Texas Chapter of the American Planning Association (APA-TX), the prestigious award recognizes an exceptional class project or paper by students in a board-accredited program that contributes to advances in the field of planning.
Students involved with the project will be formally recognized at APA-TX’s Planning Awards Luncheon in Waco, Texas on Friday, November 8th. They include: Plumeria Alexander, Camille Garcia, Mauricio Leal, Eric Nava-Perez, Ariel Quintana, Leon Staines, Mary Stycos, Ricardo Venegas, and Jorge Zapata.
The award-winning project, “Engaging Urban Informality in Monterrey, Mexico,” was based on work completed in a Spring 2019 Community & Regional Planning Practicum taught by Professor Patricia A. Wilson which immersed students in an informal community located in the heart of urbanized Monterrey, Mexico: El Cerro de La Campana. Using Participatory Action Research (PAR) as their base, students worked with La Campana neighbors to envision and plan projects in their neighborhood according to their priorities – demonstrating how PAR can move planning projects forward, not by interrupting and fixing, but by listening, engaging, and participating in the process with and alongside the community.
Through a cross-border partnership made possible by a ConTex grant, the class worked with local nonprofit Barrio Esperanza and a team from the Universidad Autónoma de Nuevo León to develop relationships with and to immerse themselves in the La Campana community. In March 2019, the group visited La Campana to host a series of meetings, workshops, and visioning sessions with neighbors in order to better understand the community and its priorities. During the visit, students also supported the community’s transformation of an empty, trashed lot into “El Parque de los Niños,” a new pocket park for use and named by the local children.
As demonstrated in their award-winning APA-TX submission, over the course of the semester the student team learned that community engagement works – particularly when it is done in a way that builds trust, promotes reflection, and empowers communities. In the case of La Campana, it empowered the community to plan for and take ownership of improvements to their neighborhood. This momentum continues to this day, well after the semester’s work has ended.
For more information about the La Campana project, including photos, videos, and interviews from the Spring 2019 semester, visit the students’ project website: https://sites.utexas.edu/lacampana.
More information about the 2019 Texas Planning Awards is available at: https://www.txplanning.org/2019planningawardwinners/