Cameron Conyers is a 2019 graduate of the Regional and City Planning program here at Gibbs! Today, he works as an Associate Planner in the Current Planning and Urban Design Division in the City of Oklahoma City Planning Department. We talked to Cameron to learn about what he is up to after college and why he chose the field of planning.
What year did you graduate from the Gibbs College of Architecture (GCA)?
What degree did you graduate with?
Master of Regional and City Planning
What made you want to go into the field of planning?
The field of planning was always a subject I worked closely alongside without knowing exactly how to define it. I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Sustainability from OU in 2017. The Department of Geography and Environmental Sustainability at OU does a great job educating their students on the necessary balance that must be struck between society and the physical environment. Gaining knowledge through my undergraduate curriculum and working with the Chickasaw Nation, I began to understand the importance of placemaking. My goal was to work with spaces that could incorporate the best features of the community without detracting from the natural environment. Planning provides these types of opportunities and I have been fortunate enough to work on projects where I felt that harmony was achieved. As my experience in planning grows, I look forward to using my background in new and exciting ways. The field of planning has many topics for planners to specialize in and it was reassuring early in my career to know that I would have room for expansion in whichever direction I chose to go.
What role are you in now? How did you arrive at your current role?
I currently work as an Associate Planner in the Current Planning and Urban Design Division in the City of Oklahoma City Planning Department. When I started the RCPL Program I was working part-time for the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality in the Land Protection Division and for Oklahoma City in Storm Water Quality. As I transitioned into the second year of the program, I moved from Storm Water to the Planning Department as a Historic Preservation Intern. An increase in hours allowed me to drop from two jobs to one, and while I was sad to leave ODEQ, it made my final year in the program a bit easier to manage. As I finished my degree, I was fortunate enough to gain a full-time position in the Current Planning and Urban Design Division, where I remain today.
A map recreation of Waurika, OK for a project to reinvent downtown Waurika in Ron Frantz’s Historic Preservation Planning class.
What is something that inspired you as a student or early on in your career?
As a student, one of the things that inspired me was a project from the Community Development and Revitalization course with Dr. Harris. The project was a collaborative effort with Urban Education students from Langston University that aimed to assist in the work of Beautification of Northeast 23rd Street Committee (BONE23) on a community mural program. Working alongside Urban Education students was an early example for myself that as a planner I would be working with professionals in all types of fields, not just other planners or potentially engineers as I would have previously thought. Seeing the murals along NE 23rd St in the coming years was a truly rewarding experience, as I knew how many people were involved in bringing those to life.
Early on in my career, I believe the thing that has inspired me most is the willingness of my more experienced colleagues to treat me, and my ideas, as equal. During my time at the City of Oklahoma City I have worked with many great professionals, and they have often incorporated my ideas into projects that I wasn’t confident I was experienced enough to be included on. Thanks to those who have believed in me, I have full confidence when bringing ideas to the table.
What experiences at the Gibbs College of Architecture contributed to your success?
The factors that likely contributed most to my success at the GCA were the relationships I built with my classmates and faculty within the College as well as the flexibility of facilities at OU. I began my time in the Regional and City Planning program with the added comfort of former Environmental Sustainability graduates either starting the program alongside me or starting their second year in the program. Having a proven support system from the start was an experience that I appreciated greatly. The GCA faculty quickly became a part of my support system, as well. One of the experiences that I think helped most with my pursuit of a degree, and my early planning work experience, was their flexibility in assigning projects. Many of the students within the program were working at the time and allowing us to coordinate our projects with our work experience was invaluable. This not only allowed us an opportunity to determine areas in which we had future interest but also gave us a significant advantage heading into the workforce. I am extremely grateful to the faculty for their role in my career. GCA faculty and staff were always willing to assist in providing improved environments for us to grow. As a student that was working long hours and commuting, it was very important to be efficient with my time. The on-campus facilities allowed me to work in whatever environment was needed at the time, whether that be a computer lab, a quiet studio, or a table outside near the Oval.
One of Cameron Conyers’ aerial images of Waurika, OK.
What is one of your favorite memories from being a student in the College of Architecture?
One of my favorite memories from my time in the Regional and City Planning program was spending a day in Waurika, OK as part of Ron Frantz’s Historic Preservation Planning course. The class field trip was just one step in a larger, collaborative effort to “REINVENT DOWNTOWN WAURIKA”. I was working as a Historic Preservation Intern with the City of Oklahoma City at that time and preservation had become my primary focal point for projects in the classroom and at the office. Our class was tasked with completing an inventory of the historic structures in the downtown area. That experience was beneficial to my career as I was soon to embark on an inventory of a historic neighborhood in Oklahoma City later that year. As part of the Waurika project, I was able to fly my drone and provide aerial images for comparison between existing structures and 3-D renderings of historic building layouts. All the aspects of this project were special to me, as I grew up in a town very similar to Waurika and not far from the area. It is always a great aspect of the planning field to feel you have made a difference, and it can be especially rewarding when your impact feels closer to home.
What is the biggest piece of advice you would give to GCA students or recent grads?
The biggest piece of advice that I would give GCA students is to look for internships in the subject area they intend to work within. I was able to dramatically narrow down the types of jobs that I was searching for after finding specific areas that I really enjoyed. As I mentioned before, it makes the coursework for your classes more rewarding and frankly easier to complete when you can relate the material to projects you are doing at your job. As for recent grads, I would say networking is especially important in the first few years after you complete your degree. Planning is such a collaborative field so building relationships with people from many different disciplines will only assist in the development of your career.
Who was the most influential person that you met in the Gibbs College of Architecture?
I met, and learned from, many influential people during my time in the Gibbs College of Architecture. I would be hard-pressed to narrow down who I consider to be most influential. In no particular order, I will try to mention a few people who had an impact during my studies, and beyond. Dr Charles “Charlie” Warnken was the Director of the RCPL Program during my time at GCA and I would say my primary point of contact for all matters, education or not, during my two years in the program. I am thankful to Charlie for the advice and instruction throughout my time in Gibbs. The current Director for the RCPL Program Dr John Harris was the instructor for the Community Development and Revitalization course that had a great impact on my early concepts of community planning. I believe his ability to effectively listen to communities and adequately understand how best to assist them in their projects is exceptional and I hope to have that level of understanding at some point in my career. Dr Bryce Lowery taught some of my favorite courses during my time at Gibbs. Nearly all the skills that I would suggest are my best as a planner were either introduced or sharpened by Dr Lowery and I greatly appreciate getting to have learned from him. As preservation started to take over my work life, I could not have gotten more lucky entering Ron Frantz’s Historic Preservation Planning course. Ron has a significant love for preservation and for life in general. He was always just as excited for my projects as I was, and I cannot express my appreciation for his ability to spread joy to anyone around him. There are too many faculty and staff to mention here but I am thankful for everyone at Gibbs and they are one of the many reasons it is a great place to learn.