Alex Berryman: Planning Vibrant Communities
Alex Berryman, ’17 Master of Urban and Regional Planning, is the new planner for the town of New Market, Virginia. He’s responsible for assisting in long-range planning for the town and for the review, updating, and enforcement of zoning and subdivision ordinances for the town of approximately 2,200 citizens.
Hometown: Moyock, North Carolina
Why did you attend Virginia Tech’s Master’s in Urban and Regional Planning program (MURP)? I became passionate about community-level problems – particularly facing low-income families in rural and small town communities – while completing my undergraduate studies at Roanoke College. My experiences with independent research motivated me to attend graduate school, and I identified planning as a field I could transition to from sociology and develop a professional skillset relevant to my interests. The small size of the MURP program and its eclectic faculty mix represent the deciding factors as to why I entered the VT MURP program rather than attending UNC or WVU. Opportunities exist to study and respond to intertwined economic, equity, and environmental matters.
How did SPIA and your program prepare you to succeed in your position? My current position possesses a diverse array of responsibilities, and I completed a variety of elective courses at Virginia Tech rather than developing a specialty. The town’s planning and zoning department consists of one individual: me. I am uncertain of the contemporary demand for “jack-of-all-trades” planners, but it is exactly what the Town of New Market depends upon.
What do you enjoy most about your job? I thoroughly enjoy how my job requires I work in both creative and practical capacities.
What attracted you to New Market? The variety of responsibilities associated with this position led me to apply. The hospitality of staff, elected officials, and citizens I encountered upon merely visiting for an interview strongly influenced my decision to come to New Market.
What are you most looking forward to in your new role? Administrative obligations and updating the comprehensive plan will occupy much of my time through the remainder of this year, but there’s space to work on additional projects as well. I appreciate having the space to innovate or pursue additional ventures here.
What would you tell people considering studying urban and regional planning at Virginia Tech? I would encourage students to use their capstone project as well as an independent study course to study a topic that intrigues them and is not offered within a course. A faculty member’s specialty is likely close enough that they can advise you. Both the student and advisor can learn a lot.
What projects as a student at Virginia Tech were most rewarding to you? My studio classes created the foundation for a new zoning scheme for the Town of Fincastle and an economic development report for the New River Valley Economic Development Alliance.
I also very much enjoyed working as a research assistant for Dr. Thomas Skuzinski and later at the Virginia Center for Housing Research.