Several of MCP classes include a significant community outreach component. These outreach projects are consistent with the mission of the MCP program which is to educate students to become outstanding professionals by using Alabama and the Southeast U.S. region as a living laboratory to provide hands-on student learning experiences. MCP faculty make considerable efforts to convey skills and knowledge in a way that students find meaningful and relevant in their future careers.
Several of our courses include a project component in collaboration with local communities. Student projects are inter-disciplinary, bringing together sophisticated analysis and creative solutions in planning and policy, and also equip students to collaborate and develop project management skills in real-life settings. Our students have won the state planning student/team awards several times from the American Planning Association (Alabama Chapter), and frequently present their projects before city officials and stakeholders. Some of the collaborative work undertaken in this class with Alabama communities is described under the "Community Partners" tab. These projects provide rich, real-world project experiences that actively engaged students with the local communities and their planning officials in the state of Alabama.
Students have the opportunity to gain both a deep and broad understanding of the issues in a city, while providing the city with valuable information and ideas. Through site visits with city planners, mayors, community groups, and the public, students are able to gain extensive and valuable insight about planning practice. They present their work in professional forums such as city council meetings, planning commission meetings, to community groups, or through public participation processes. The program provides local planning departments and city officials with fresh ideas to address their issues. It also allows students to develop a comprehensive portfolio of work that helps them showcase their expertise to future employers.
The process includes identify communities that want to collaborate on student projects (community planners/staff approach faculty, AL-APA conference, etc.). Before the start of the semester, faculty typically identify the project in collaboration with community, study area, approach, etc. They meet with community partner/stakeholders to determine scope of work, work plan, outreach events (e.g. student volunteer in public meetings), develop the scope of work (sometimes this may be complimentary to consultants’ work). Some of cities that the MCP program has partnered with in recent years have included Montgomery, AL; Dothan, AL; Mobile, AL; Birmingham, AL; Prattville, AL; Tuskegee,AL; Auburn-Opelika, AL, LaGrange, GA and others. More projects from other cities will be added as they are completed.