Bronco Spotlight: Whitney Newberry

Photo of Whitney Newberry

Master of Science in geography, 2018

Community Planner at Williams and Works and Adjunct Professor at Cornerstone University 

I currently work two part-time jobs, one in community planning and the other in teaching. My work in the community planning department involves updating recreation and master plans for cities and townships in Southwest Michigan. This often involves researching and compiling US Census Bureau data, working with parcel data on GIS, and using Michigan GIS data to create city and township maps. I also review requests for Zoning Ordinance amendments, variances, site plan reviews, and rezoning, helping make recommendations to the local Planning Commission. I also work as an adjunct professor of Geology and Environmental Science courses. This job involves the creation of class lectures, quizzes, exams, and labs, including several student field trips. I also grade the quizzes, labs, and exams. 

What is the most rewarding and the most challenging part of your job?

I have found the most challenging part of community planning to occur when I have to write a report where there is not a clear right or wrong answer. Sometimes we receive requests where the answer is not clearly stated in the Zoning Ordinance or there are several strong and opposing opinions expressed by members of the community. In these cases, it can be difficult to find out what the 'best' solution is to a specific problem. However, working in this job is most rewarding when I am able to work with a team to encourage positive growth in a community. An example of this would be updating a master plan, during which we survey members of the community and analyze different aspects of the area such as natural features, cultural features, demographics, and public services. We then help write goals and objectives for the community to encourage growth based on their needs and community preferences.     

The most challenging part of being an adjunct professor is class preparation and grading. Clear and engaging lessons help students understand and interact with course material. Because there are many different learning styles, it can be difficult to figure out the best way to help students succeed in the course based on their own style of learning. It can also be challenging to keep a fast turn-around on quizzes, labs, papers, and exams. I have found students to learn best when they receive their assignments back in a fairly quick time frame. The most rewarding part of this job is when students ask good questions in class and get excited about learning. When students get excited about course material, it often leads to many good class discussions and a positive learning environment. 

Which of your skills had the biggest impact on your success? 

Knowing how to write for different types of audiences has had a significant impact on my career. During my undergraduate and graduate degrees, many of my classes taught me to write different types of papers, use different formatting guidelines, and conduct research. Writing my thesis during graduate school also greatly increased my ability to organize thoughts at a high level. My jobs involve a lot of writing, so being able to quickly formulate a thought and type it in a clear format has increased my ability to finish reports and assignments. 

What advice would you offer students to help them decide on a career path? 

As you sit in classes during school, find out what makes you excited. Finding out what skills come naturally and connecting them with your passion will help you pursue a job that is interesting and suited to your abilities. Developing a career takes a lot of effort, but it becomes rewarding when enjoy what you do and apply the skills you have learned during school to contribute to a workplace.

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