Community and Regional Planning

Environmental Planning and Policy Class Adapts amid COVID Challenges

The COVID pandemic has changed the typical UNL student experience and regular class attendance in a myriad of ways. Students are regularly tuning in to Zoom lectures remotely, submitting assignments online and are struggling to network in the community and with their course peers.

Community and Regional Planning’s Environmental Planning and Policy course instructor Belinda Fowler wanted to alleviate some of the challenges with working remotely, enabling students to meet one another in person and learn from an in-person field visit and guest speaker from the Washington, DC office of the US Army Corp of Engineers.

“Students just need a break from Zoom and need to connect the dots from the textbook to real-world examples,” said Fowler.

The class met at Trago Park pavilion, along the Antelope Valley Creek Floodway on September 30th . Students shared their learning concepts related to their recent field work assignment with guest speaker Gwyn Jarrett, who works as a professional planner for the US Army Corp of Engineers Flood Risk Management Program.

Jarrett is also an alum of the University of Nebraska that “wanted to give back locally” as she was preparing for another speaking engagement. Jarrett spoke on a study and project near Denver that spans portions of Wyoming, Colorado and Nebraska that directly impacts headwaters and streams that eventually reach Nebraska. She addressed topics of ecosystem restoration principles along the South Platte River and Flood Risk Management along the Weir and Harvard Gulch floodways; and the associated tributaries in and around Denver.

The study and project implementation was done in response to a resolution passed by the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure through the House of Representatives. Students learned about the importance of public engagement, public/private partnerships, the role of government, project costs and the factual basis required for future planning efforts. Additional topics discussed included, flood impacts, mitigation strategies, water quality and economic considerations of implementing a project spanning multiple states and local jurisdictions. Jarrett also spoke on the importance of networking and will be a resource for students in the future.

Sean Nedabylek, a graduate student in the course said, “This was great! It was so nice to get out away from Zoom, meet my classmates and actually do some learning in the field.”

Fowler said she wants to thank the students and Gwyn Jarrett for continuing to follow CDC guidelines and enhancing the student experience amidst the challenges of learning “outside of the norm” during the COVID pandemic.

-Belinda Fowler