February 28, 2023

Knowlton Nomads: Have Map Will Travel

The new student organization hits the road to learn about the design and planning practice.

Knowlton Nomads: Have Map Will Travel

One of the Knowlton School’s newest student organizations takes to the open road for disciplinary engagement and discovery. The Knowlton Nomads extend the classroom experience by visiting local and regional destinations to see first-hand how planning and design concepts are put into practice in the field.

“The catalyst for the organization originated in the Planning History course,” said Georgia Papakirk, president of the Knowlton Nomads and an MCRP student. “We were learning about urban renewal and redlining, as well as Frederick Law Olmsted’s historical legacy, and recognized that we have really robust amenities around us. We thought travel would be a great way to add to our understanding of these concepts and how they affect the physical environment.”

Travel activities began in the summer of 2022 with an overnight, multi-city trip to Nashville, Cincinnati, and Louisville. In addition to a walking tour of the location, speakers are arranged to present to the traveling group. In Nashville, the group met with Don Watt (MCRP ’92), the Chief Programs Officer at Tennessee Housing Development Authority. In Louisville, the group was given three presentations by city and regional planning officials that covered the subjects of historic preservation, redlining, and accessory dwelling units as a mechanism for affordable housing.

Four Knowlton Nomads students showing O-H-I-O with their arms during a regional city visit.

“In learning about the places we visited we were able to get a deeper understanding and connection to what we will do in our careers,” added Ruthann Richards, who is also an MCRP student and serves as treasurer for the Nomads. “Our time with our speakers and in these locations adds a real-life layer to the work we will do after graduation.”  

Trips this past autumn semester included Pittsburgh and Yellow Springs/Dayton as well as a local village and park tour within Columbus. This semester, the Nomads have visited Dublin, Ohio and have two regional trips planned. The group typically plans two trips outside of Columbus within a four-hour radius and two Columbus-area trips per semester. The disciplinary focus of a trip depends on the location and who will be making the trip.

“If just planning students are traveling, then we will be talking about walkability, public transportation, and access to places,” said Papakirk. “If we have landscape architects on the trip, then we may talk about how a body of water shapes the landscape. But it’s very holistic.”

While covering the Knowlton School’s three disciplines, membership is open to both undergraduate and graduate students from any university discipline.

A group of Knowlton Nomads gather in front of a park.

“When students ask me why they should join Knowlton Nomads, I ask them what do you like?” commented Richards. “If you like having friends, join Knowlton Nomads because this is the place to make interdisciplinary friends. If you want more professional development, join Knowlton Nomads. If you want more networking, join Knowlton Nomads. If you want to travel and explore the Midwest, join Knowlton Nomads because that is what we do.”

Lean more about the Knowlton Nomads and follow their adventures on Instagram.