Jarrell Smith Leads URP Advisory Council into New Era

Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2023
By: Kyle Niblett

Maya Angelou once said, “I’ve learned that you shouldn’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on both hands. You need to be able to throw something back.”

Coming up on the 50th anniversary of the University of Florida Department of Urban and Regional Planning, Jarrell Smith recognizes how much the nearly 800 graduates from the program have followed this advice in the built environment thus far. While most of them have had an instrumental impact at the neighborhood, city, regional, state and national level in shaping the world we live in, the 2017 URP graduate has continued to preach the theme of giving back as the newest chair of the URP Advisory Council.

“My focus area in this position will chiefly involve increasing the profile, ranking, and visibility of the URP graduate program, along with enhancing connections to the UF URP alumni base,” said Smith, who is currently a transportation planner with VHB out of Orlando. “Participating in the advisory council for URP gives me an opportunity to offer guidance to future students pursuing a degree in this field at UF, along with helping provide proactive input on the curriculum.”

In his current role inside the UF College of Design, Construction and Planning, the 2023 Emerging Planning Alumnus of the Year award winner has a unique opportunity to help increase alumni engagement within his department, as well as assist with professional development and ethics training for students. In addition to all that, he plans to support development and fund-raising activities that position URP as one of the best programs in the country.

One of the things the program is most known for is its annual Ernest R. Bartley Memorial Lecture. This year’s event takes place Nov. 16 and is highlighted by keynote speaker Ashon Nesbitt, CEO of the Florida Housing Coalition. As the leader of the URP Advisory Council, Smith will tell anyone who will listen about the research and work faculty and alumni are producing and the reverberations said research is having on the entire urban and regional planning community and profession.

“Similar to all Ernest Bartley Lectures, I hope students receive a renewed focus for being change agents that create resilient environs,” Smith said. “More specifically, considering Ashon’s extensive experience in housing, I am looking forward to students being exposed to the important role the housing sector plays in increasing an individual’s overall well-being. Moreover, I hope to grasp a better understanding of the complexity involved with constructing adequate affordable housing in Florida.”

To Smith, the lecture serves as a reminder of Bartley’s legacy, which he says exemplified a passion for public service and collaborative planning. It also highlights the importance that urban planners play in creating thriving communities. The annual event gives him an opportunity to sit under the learning tree and soak up animated stories from past alumni who had the opportunity to be a student of Bartley, even if admittedly a few of the stories are a bit difficult to imagine happening.

Just like Bartley, Smith agrees Florida is at the forefront of some of the nation’s most critical planning issues, which include, but is not limited to, rising sea levels, intense hurricanes, rapid population growth, and significant development demands.

“I foresee URP assisting in research development and preparing future planners to address challenges associated with the following: intelligent mobility; green planning; inclusive services and planning; digital innovation ecosystems; data driven urban spaces; and the long-term colonization of space,” Smith said.

One example of URP’s tangible way of preparing for the future needs in urban planning is contributing to the development of the Master of Science in Urban Analytics (MSUA) program at UF. The MSUA program is designed to equip students with a strong foundation in computing, data analysis, and visualization skills for urban science.

“Our department will meet the needs of today while considering its impact on tomorrow.”

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