By Anthony Howard
Five Jackson State University Department of Urban and Regional Planning (DURP) doctoral candidates and two faculty members will be traveling to the University of California in Berkeley for the department’s first exchange program. Berneece Herbert, Ph.D., professor and chair for DURP, collaborated with UC Berkeley professor, Matt Kondalf, Ph.D., to make this opportunity possible. During their time in Berkeley, the exchange students will study the revitalization of various cities’ riverfronts.
“We want to see how cities can revive their riverfronts and make them economically sustainable, but environmentally friendly,” says Herbert. “There’s a lot of issues with riverfronts and riverfront access. The government used to use rivers mostly for transportation of resources, but they realized people are attracted to water, so the idea is to figure out how to make it economically feasible for people to move there.”
The JSU scholars are set to travel to California on May 19th to study the ports and socioeconomic status of waterfronts in California. After two years of planning, Herbert and Kondalf were able to earn grants to fund the exchange program. Not only will the students study the economic impact of riverfronts, but also the ecological effects on the area following land development.
“As human beings we tend to not think about the ecological consequences of what we do and sometimes when building homes, we push every tree down and clear everything when the natural environment has so many functions. The students will understand the dynamics between the urban part of planning and the ecological part of planning along with understanding the benefits of waterways,” Herbert explains.
JSU and UC Berkeley students will work in tandem while studying abroad, both in California and in Mississippi, to gain perspective on what waterfronts are like in two vastly different regions of the country. In recent years, Mississippi has endured historical flooding as opposed to California experiencing widespread droughts and water shortage. Another goal of the exchange program is for the students and universities to establish more diverse connections.
“The name Berkeley is a big deal for us and working with an HBCU is a big deal for them as well, and we want to show them we have good students here at Jackson State,” says Herbert.
The five Jackson State doctoral candidates traveling to UC Berkley are Tanisha Hinton, Ras Tafari Cannady II, AICP, PMP, Jon-Vincent S. Holden, Lakesha Stewart, MURP, and BriAnna Baber. Both Hinton and Cannady are DURP students with a concentration in environmental and land usage who are familiar with what it’s like to live in or near a city with a riverfront. The students are eager to use this experience to acquire knowledge to improve some afflictions they’ve witnessed in their hometown communities.
“As a native of Los Angeles, California, I am very familiar with the rivers in California. I would love to successfully conceptualize a proposal that improves public access in light of current land use, flood control constraints, and evolving opportunities, says Cannady, “in turn, this would allow me to explore my passion which lies in the intersection of place making and blue ways.”
“Living in Vicksburg, Mississippi there are several flooding issues regarding levees failure or not working to their full extent,” Hinton explains, “Although these areas are progressively esteemed as open space along large waterways, urban communities and towns are cut off from their streams by flood control levees.”
During the 2022 fall semester, exchange students from UC Berkeley will travel here to research riverfronts along the Mississippi River. Professor Herbert will facilitate the study of marine transportation issues along the river ports. Through the grant awarded to JSU’s Department of Urban Research and Planning, she plans to explore the infrastructure of ports along the river and how they can adapt to climate change.
“We’ll be looking at issues in terms of climate change that results in flooding and how it impacts the coarse land of these rivers. Ninety-nine percent of goods imported into this country comes through barges and through the Mississippi River,” shares Herbert. “When you have climate change and flooding, it impacts these rivers, which impacts everything.”
Jackson State University is one of four HBCUs with a Department and Urban and Regional Planning program. Herbert hopes programs like this will create a broader interest in the field of studies. JSU exchange student, Stewart, who also has a concentration in Environment and Land Use, is grateful for the opportunity and recognizes the need for the work done by urban and regional planners.
“I thank Dr. Herbert, Professor Kondolf, and others who have created such opportunities for JSU and the UC Berkeley students,” says Stewart, “This innovative collaboration will help change the students’ lives and the communities we serve.”