Mapping a Path to Success: From Student Opportunities to Promising Career

Posted on 4/14/2017 11:54:41 AM
Melina Fuchs holds the award given to the Student Planners

Melina Fuchs holds the national award given to the IUP Student Planning Organization.

If professional regional planner and IUP alumna Melina Fuchs ’16 were to map out her college experience, her path to success would be one of leadership.

Major in Regional Planning

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It started with studying her way to honor-society standing in both Environmental Regional Planning and Spanish. It continued with a study-abroad trip that sharpened her Spanish and gave her new planning perspectives. It moved next to an independent study for 3-D regional planning.

“I learned in a class how to make a 3-D computerized version of a city, and I wanted to get better at it,” she said. “The professors always have their doors open and are always trying to help. They get to know you. It definitely helps your career and professional development, knowing your professors on that level.”

As she followed her path through college, she became involved in a variety of groups including the Andale Spanish Club, the Hispanic Heritage Council, and Women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics).

Finally, her college path ended with a chance to lead IUP’s Planning Student Organization as its president and help them win a national award for their efforts.

Award Winning Slate of Projects

The IUP PSO chapter’s full slate of projects earned the group the American Planning Association’s 2016 Outstanding PSO Award for Community Outreach.

The projects that helped the group win the national award included a bike rally to raise awareness about the Hoodlebug Trail, a Better Block event in New Kensington, a volunteer-effort in support of the APA state conference for Pennsylvania, the Indiana University District planning effort, a WalkWorks program outreach at a local festival, the building of a playground, and the construction of a temporary parklet.

To accept the award on behalf of the IUP chapter, Fuchs traveled to the APA national conference in Pheonix, Arizona, last year with Kayla Martinez, the IUP PSO vice president, and Calvin Masilela, the group’s advisor and the IUP Regional Planning Program director.

From Winner to Judge

This year, Fuchs was invited to return to the APA conference as a judge. She is one of eight professional planners who was appointed to the 2017 National Planning Awards Jury, which will select this year’s winners.

Her appointment, she says, would not have been possible without the success of the Planning Student Organization, its other dedicated student members, and the help of Masilela, professor Whit Watts, and other professors in the department.

Melina Fuchs, alumna“The professors in the department personally work with you and give you the opportunities to ensure you will be successful in this field,” said Fuchs, adding that the IUP Regional Planning program is one of only 16 undergraduate planning programs in the country, and the only one in Pennsylvania, to be accredited by the Planning Accreditation Board.

Loves Her Professional Planning Job

Fuchs is now working as an assistant project manager for Johnson & Johnson. Her duties include renovations to the building, facility maintenance, and updating floor plans.

It’s a job she loves—in a career field she discovered at IUP.

“It’s just a great atmosphere [at IUP],” she said. “There’s a lot going on. It’s not too big and not too small, and you have a lot of majors, so everyone can find one that is right for them.”