Middle Tennessee State University’s Jennings and Rebecca Jones Chair of Excellence in Urban and Regional Planning hosted a recent panel discussion that addressed critical regional challenges related to sustainability, mobility and livability.
Sponsored by Cumberland Region Tomorrow, the panel was moderated by David Urban, marketing professor and dean emeritus of the Jennings A. Jones College of Business, and featured three experts who shared their insights and recommendations:
• Andy Lucyshyn, representing Gresham Smith, a leading architecture and engineering firm, brought a wealth of experience in infrastructure, community development and industrial programs in Middle Tennessee.
• Robbie Hayes represented engineering consulting firm HNTB, which specializes in urban planning and environmental planning, with a specific focus on transportation.
• Alan Thompson is a seasoned professional in landscape architecture and plays a pivotal role in planning for his company Ragan-Smith Associates, encompassing civil engineering, surveying, transportation and land planning.
The Oct. 27 panel provided a platform for students and faculty members to gain deeper insights into the transformation of the Middle Tennessee region. This marked the third session this fall of the chair’s COE-URP Scholars Program, an interdisciplinary program that kicked off this fall and pairs 11 selected scholars with faculty mentors from across the university.
Murat Arik, chairholder for the COE-URP, celebrated the latest panel, saying, “one of our objectives is to provide a forum for the discussion of regional and urban issues and for the development of solutions to promote effective economic development. The panelists have done an outstanding job covering some of the region’s most pressing issues.”
During a Q&A portion of the event, COE-URP Program scholar and communication studies major Leah Kimbro of Smyrna, Tennessee, asked panelists, “Regarding livability and mobility, what innovative strategies can be employed to enhance public transportation infrastructure and accessibility, particularly in less densely populated areas?”
Hayes and Thompson emphasized the importance of seeking new resources, improving infrastructure, and leveraging data and technology to make informed decisions. Lucyshyn stressed the need for diverse transportation options tailored to the region’s growing needs.
Regarding sustainability, Thompson underscored the significance of proper planning and allowing density in key areas, while all panelists recognized the role of political representation and tax base considerations in these efforts.
Another focal point was improving the quality of life for residents in the region. When scholar and computer science major Usman Saeed of Murfreesboro, Tennessee, asked, “How does planning help us achieve affordable housing and quality of life in the region,” the panelists pressed the importance of cooperation between the public and private sectors in enabling homeownership and community development.
In pursuit of improving quality of life, Hayes emphasized the importance of raising awareness about social isolation, encouraging community support, building community facilities and generating strategies for creating stronger and more resilient communities.
Thompson concluded the panel by highlighting the significance of intentional, collaborative efforts between counties, with the aim of developing comprehensive, adaptable, and resilient solutions that benefit all residents.
The COE-URP Scholars Program The program consists of 11 faculty mentors: Iris Gao, Jake Avila, Keith Gamble, Kristie Abston, Patrick Geho, Richard Tarpey, Sean Salter, Tony Johnston, Sam Zaza, Steven Livingston and David Urban. They study a variety of diverse fields, including concrete management, agriculture, information systems, political science, and more.
The student cohort includes Abraham Hernandez, Anna Collins, Eli Askren, Elijah Mitchell, Justin Dohrmann, Mingxuan Liu, Lula Baldriche, Nathaniel Harrison, Nottely Seagraves, Leah Kimbro, and Usman Saeed. Much like the faculty, the students in the program are from equally diverse backgrounds: business administration, mathematics, public policy, economics, geosciences, agribusiness, marketing, and data science.
About the COE-URP
The Jennings and Rebecca Jones Chair of Excellence in Urban and Regional Planning produces and disseminates information relevant to the planning needs and issues in the Midstate region. It encourages dialogue on these important issues among area policymakers, opinion leaders, and the broader community of interest.
For more information on COE-URP, visit https://mtsu.edu/urp/.
— Rima Abdallah (Rima.firstname.lastname@example.org)