About the Department
Mission Statement: Through a combination of coursework, internships, community-based projects, and research, the degree program prepares students to work as professional planners in public, non-profit, and private sector positions. In addition, non-majors gain a spatial understanding of social and environmental issues, and engagement with regional planning as a civic activity.
The Geography and Regional Planning Department (GARP) started out as a Geography Department when Westfield State University was incorporated as a normal school, or teacher's training school, back in 1839. In 1983 the Geography Department became the Geography and Regional Planning Department and began granting B.S. degrees in Regional Planning.
Today, we offer New England's only Bachelor of Science Degree in Regional Planning and offer a strong planning education that includes a foundation in physical and social geography as well as pragmatic techniques to solve planning and environmental problems. Our offerings include a strong focus on Geographic Information Systems (GIS).
Regional planners, also called city, community, or environmental planners, develop and implement programs that provide for sustainable growth and revitalization of communities ranging from small towns to the state and federal levels. One out of three planners work in the private sector and work with architects, developers, landscape architects, environmental scientists, and others to design residential, business, or industrial projects to meet the needs of the population and business community and the requirements of local governments. Some planners also work as private consultants, either as a part of a larger firm, or on their own.
The other two-thirds of the nation's professional planners work in the public sector, where they collaborate with local officials making decisions relating to social, economic, and environmental concerns. They often confer with land developers, civic leaders, and other public planning officials, and are called upon to present their ideas to city councils, at civic meetings, or before legislative commissions. Public planners analyze and prepare detailed studies on the needs and current conditions of their communities in terms of land use, finances, etc., and devise plans aimed at alleviating or eliminating current problems as well as meeting long term goals.
Planners work on a wide variety of projects. They estimate long-range needs for housing or transportation, formulate capital improvement plans to construct new schooling or public housing, examine community facilities such as parks and health clinics to be sure they meet the public demand, and so on. Smaller cities and towns often have a single planning director who is responsible for all the planning needs of the community. Planners who work for larger cities or for regional or state agencies usually concentrate on one of four areas: urban design, public facilities (including transportation), social planning, or community development.