Environmental Design Program Helps Students Serve Communities, Learn by Doing

Students complete Parking Survey

The OU Environmental Design program regularly collaborates with the OU Institute for Quality Communities (IQC) to help students engage with local cities across the state of Oklahoma. This year, the program has incorporated three different projects into its course offerings. All three projects benefit Oklahoma communities, provide valuable experiential learning for students across the Gibbs College of Architecture, and were funded by the Oklahoma Municipal League.

This past fall, students enrolled in Ron Frantz’s Historic Preservation Planning and Historic Buildings of Oklahoma classes engaged with the City of Waurika to survey its downtown Main Street area. The 31 undergraduate and graduate students looked at fire insurance maps from the OU Western History Collection to identify historic buildings.

They then took a field trip to Waurika to tour its Main Street and historic structures. It just so happened that the trip coincided with a classic car show and barbecue, which the students heartily enjoyed.

The students—from Environmental Design, Architecture, Regional + City Planning, Construction Science, and Interior Design— were able to share their respective expertise with city representatives and contribute to the IQC’s “Waurika Proud!” project. When asked why he has students engage with small towns, Frantz says that he “wants to combat the idea that nothing happens outside of metropolitan areas.”

“I want students to see the good that’s happening in these communities and to show students that even at their current age and experience level, they have the tools and knowledge to positively impact communities.”

During the Spring 2019 semester, the IQC is sponsoring two separate projects in Chickasha, Oklahoma. Students in the Environmental Design Capstone are working with the City of Chickasha to help inspire the town to capitalize on its unique history and attributes. The students have been reviewing maps and previous Master Plans for the city and have had the opportunity to interact with presenters knowledgeable about place tourism and the city’s previous development.

The students also toured properties being developed by CMS Willowbrook, a Chickasha-based construction management company and GCA industry partner. Jeff McClure, Vice President of the Self-Performance Division, led a walking tour through CMS Willowbrook’s projects in downtown Chickasha and pointed out features of note. The trip was coordinated by CMS Willowbrook employee Brandi Whitehead.

The other project in Chickasha involves students enrolled in the Environmental Design Practicum course. Students in this course are completing a parking survey for the city. They conducted field work on February 14. The students were divided into teams, and each student team was assigned a section of downtown Chickasha. The students photographed the areas and noted the conditions on site. This work allowed each team to identify the occupancy rates for each parking area, observe accessibility challenges between parking areas and businesses, and make note of unclear or confusing markings of parking spaces.

Students from both Spring 2019 courses will present their work during the statewide, annual Oklahoma History and Preservation Conference in Chickasha, Oklahoma. The presentations will occur on April 25 and 26.

[Featured Image: Students complete a parking survey in Chickasha, Oklahoma]