Lance Kollman prepares for a future in urban planning
As a boy, Lance Kollman pored over an old globe and atlas that his grandfather owned. There was something about the tattered, worn objects and the way they depicted space, he says, that fascinated him.
It was an interest shared by his grandfather, who, in addition to being a map and atlas enthusiast, was a successful contractor. Time spent with his grandfather, Kollman says, was time spent thinking about the construction of space. How do people go about building the environments they occupy? he wondered. How does space shape life? And, most importantly, how can those who plan environments shape a sustainable future that meets human needs?
The questions lingered, eventually moving Kollman to imagine a career in city planning. As he began taking courses related to his interests at the University, Kollman began to appreciate just how interdisciplinary those interests were, spanning economies and governments, history and architecture, urban politics and conservation biology--fields of knowledge that initially seemed as sprawling and scattered as the Twin Cities' suburbs.
Luckily, Kollman quickly found the Department of Geography. With its unique undergraduate major in biology, science, and the environment, geography was a place, Kollman says, where disciplines come together in a way that was relevant to his interest in urban planning.
"A good planner needs to be able to see things from different angles and come up with a variety of solutions," explains Kollman, who graduated last spring. "The geography degree gave me a great background, from the history of cities and the urban social fabric to today's issues regarding population pressures, environmental degradation, and smart growth."
Best of all, his program gave him the ecological context that he knew would be essential for addressing problems that city planners face. "My interest in biology has a lot to do with environmental issues, land preservation, wildlife conservation, and overall sustainability, especially in urban areas," Kollman says. "With respect to issues like sprawl and brownfields, a biology background will help me investigate unforeseen consequences to the natural environment and develop things like environmental impact statements."
Looking back on his time at Minnesota, Kollman says he is impressed that one of the country's top geography programs was so hospitable to undergraduates. "I really enjoyed the close-knit atmosphere of the department, the small classes," he says. "You get to know the professors by name, and they know you."
A scholarship pays forward
University academic scholarships, Kollman says, made his education possible. During his senior year in high school, he was awarded a Minnesota Gold Scholarship, a prize given to students who graduate at the top of their high school classes and demonstrate leadership, creativity, community involvement, and a contribution to diversity.
"The scholarship lightened my financial burden and enabled me to focus more on my classes," Kollman says. It also enabled him to pursue internships that immersed him in urban planning issues. While he was interning with the environmental services division of the Hennepin County Public Works Department, he learned about the challenges of brownfield redevelopment. And in connection with a planning class, he worked with the Sierra Club on a project to generate public response to a development proposal affecting neighborhood savannas in Maplewood, Minnesota.
Currently, Kollman is working at the University on the National Historical Geographic Information System, a National Science Foundation-funded project to make aggregate census data accessible in a GIS framework for historical population research. His job is to make sure maps are accurate. He also is doing an internship in city planning for the City of Woodbury, Minnesota, while he is completing his senior geography paper analyzing livable communities.
Kollman's next step is a master's degree in planning. Ever cognizant of the need to think across disciplines, he plans to complement that work with an M.B.A. to help him understand the "underlying business and economic forces [that] guide development and planning within urban areas as well as private real estate development."
Kollman hopes, ultimately, to put his skills to use in planning the future of those parts of cities most steeped in the past. "Ideally, I would like to work in a large urban setting, especially in the older core of a city," he says. "I have a lot of interest in redevelopment of older uses, addressing the economic and environmental challenges that often go along with redeveloping within the urban core."
Vibrant, economically balanced, and environmentally sound urban cores are key, says Kollman, to a sustainable future. And he wants to be part of their revitalization.