Ellen Emeric is a designer of context. From her imagination, cities will rise and streets will be paved. As a city planner, she will build the stage on which life performs; and as a senior sociology major at The University of Tulsa, Emeric has learned “Increasing connectivity, efficiency and sustainability between the spaces where people live out different parts of their lives improves the quality of life for everyone.”
Last year, Emeric took part in the TrueBlue Neighbor Public Service Internship program, which allows TU students to complete 160 hours of community service and earn three academic credit hours. Placed at the City of Tulsa’s Planning and Development division, Emeric practiced survey development, policy research, community outreach and even graphic design. She studied how adequate green space and infrastructure are crucial factors to economic development and workforce attraction. Ease of transportation affects everyone: “No one lives in a completely self-sufficient bubble, which means that everyone has to move between the spaces where they live, work, shop and play,” Emeric explained.
Once the course ended, Emeric continued her internship with paid status. This real-world experience led her to believe, “We can potentially solve a lot of social and economic problems through better planning.”
Discussions in her sociology classes helped Emeric understand community space from a multicultural perspective. “The sociology department really encourages a sense of community… Being able to engage with different people who come from different backgrounds has made a huge difference in my preparation for the real world,” Emeric said.
Although Emeric likes to “geek out” about bike lanes and timed stoplights, her most significant lesson from TU is a broader concept. “My professors do a wonderful job distinguishing between criticism and cynicism, and they consistently show that you can be critical of the world around you without getting trapped in a cynical mindset,” Emeric said.
In the fall, Emeric will be conducting research for the Highway Safety Center and pursuing a master’s degree in city and regional planning at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
As for Chapel Hill’s design, Emeric is ready to set the scene.