ASU student planners receive national award for leadership, community advocacy, and professional advancement


David Rozul

ASU’s Student Planning Association (SPA) received second place in the 2021 Planning Student Organization awards for best student-led planning group, besting more than a hundred other organizations from universities across the nation. 

Hosted by the American Planning Association (APA), a national trade association for planning professionals, the Planning Student Organization award recognizes student organization excellence in creating activities that “connect students to APA, contribute to their communities, and provide enhanced educational experiences for the students.”

Over the course of the past year, SPA led an array of professional development activities, educational programming, and volunteer events that created a welcoming space for urban planning students and others interested in the field. 

“For both the Student Planning Association and myself, this award validates the time, effort, and commitment we've put into rebuilding our program,” said Laney Corey, SPA president and Master in Urban and Environmental Planning (MUEP) student. “This time last year, SPA was barely starting back up after being inactive for years. We've put in the work to grow our organization and this national recognition goes to show that our efforts in community outreach, professional development, and member engagement are working.”

From actively engaging Arizona’s chapter of APA with new collaborative ideas to participating in annual professional planning conventions to leading development workshops and generating new ways Arizona’s planning professionals can respond to COVID within their local communities, SPA has successfully mobilized students to get further involved in the professional urban planning field, while forging beneficial relationships and building community.

“We’ve adapted and grown through challenging situations,” Kendra Ellner, SPA board member and MUEP student, said. “But we were committed to providing a space for students who wanted to connect and explore their capabilities as upcoming professional planners.”

SPA was also recognized for its participation in various community volunteer projects including bi-monthly work at Tempe’s Clark Park Community Garden and for co-hosting a successful clothing drive benefiting the International Rescue Committee. SPA board members also held virtual educational events to educate high school students and others about the impact of urban and environmental planning locally and to raise the visibility of the professional field.

“SPA has done incredible work to strengthen and grow itself as an organization serving planning students at ASU, as well as to build stronger connections with Arizona’s planning professionals,” Meagan Ehlenz, assistant professor in the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning and faculty advisor to SPA, said. “I truly cannot emphasize enough the deep commitment, innovation, and community spirit of SPA. I have been immensely proud to support their efforts as a faculty member and even more enthusiastic about their leadership efforts within the larger AZ-APA organization.” 

Comprised of more than 130 student-members, SPA is led by an executive leadership board of both graduate and undergraduate students. 

“SPA would like to dedicate this achievement to all its hard-working students, faculty and staff that make it all possible to be a part of a wonderful community and help towards success,” Ellner said. “SPA’s goals will continue to foster opportunities for future cohorts and serve as motivation to grow as an organization.”