Calvin College

CALVIN - Minds in the Making

Strengthening Liberal Arts Education by Embracing Place and Particularity

Case Study

Connecting Students and Neighborhood Master Planning


Involving students in an Area Specific Plan has the potential to be a venue where engaging place has significant impact on their liberal arts education.  Beyond that, it would also afford the opportunity for students to influence significantly the future design and development of a specific place.  The process would have to include considerable discussion of a number of theories – including recent work on issues such as social capital.  In addition, it might also present opportunity to discuss the limits (1) of design when comes to creating “good places.”  Furthermore, the Area Specific Plan process would give students exposure to city employees, neighborhood leaders, members of the nonprofit sector, and business owners.  Most importantly, this milieu would be a vibrant learning environment wherein students could see both the limits and potential when theory intersects with practice.  It would be an opportunity to consider creatively the concept of place and how it might inform liberal arts education.  In the end, involving students in neighborhood master plans is replicable.  In Grand Rapids alone there are over 30 identified neighborhood associations or organizations (2).  Institutions such as Grand Valley State University, Aquinas College, and Cornerstone University are all located in areas where any number of neighborhoods eligible to submit an Area Specific Plan would be accessible to students. 


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