This is Vassar: The newsletter for Vassar College Alumnae/i and Families

Photo credit: Tiffanie Duncan

Sarah E. Brown ’09: Field Work: Building Bridges

This semester, my last at Vassar, I have had the unique opportunity to intern at the City of Poughkeepsie Planning Department through Vassar’s Office of Field Work. Each year, Field Work places about 500 students in community organizations, nonprofits, government agencies, human-services organizations, and businesses. Most of these placements are in the Poughkeepsie area, but the office also places students in New York City (particularly students interested in publishing, the fashion industry, or entertainment) and Albany (particularly those students interested in government and public policy).

My internship has focused primarily on two of the city’s most important current projects. The first is the Walkway over the Hudson campaign, which involves preserving the old Poughkeepsie-Highland railroad bridge and transforming it into what will be, when finished in the fall of 2009, the largest pedestrian walkway bridge in the country. 6,767 feet long and 212 feet high, the reclaimed bridge will allow visitors to run, walk, bike, or skate from one side of the river to the other, all while taking in a spectacular view of the scenic Hudson Valley. The walkway will also be an important link in the regional bicycle network, connecting existing and planned facilities on both sides of the river. If all goes according to plan, it will be finished in time for the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson’s voyage up the river that bears his name. Poughkeepsie also plans to redevelop the land surrounding the waterfront, making more available park space for visitors and community members to enjoy. From meetings with the sign designers to learning about budget proposals, I have been inculcated in many aspects of this very exciting project. It will definitely be something current students and visiting alums can enjoy!

The second project I am currently involved with is the reworking of City of Poughkeepsie zoning codes. My field work faculty adviser, geography professor Susan Blickstein, is working in partnership with River Street Planning on this project. Zoning helps to determine responsible urban growth, promote sustainable design practices, and ensure that residential areas are adequately shielded from high-volume traffic. I am learning that good city planning means answering tough questions: What will benefit a community most? How are we making sure that homeless, low-income, or historically underrepresented populations are being taken into account when making policy changes? The ways in which city planners answer these questions is incredibly important in terms of how it will impact the lives of local residents.

This internship has shown me the value of broadening the scope of my Vassar education through applying skills learned on campus to the world beyond Vassar’s gates. Because — let’s face it — for myself and the other members of the class of 2009, we will be using our Vassar education in this way for the rest of our lives.

May 2009

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