WINTERVILLE—As Spencer Crawford prepares to enter the workforce, Pitt Community College instructor Scott Temple can’t help but feel proud, knowing his former student’s path to a community and regional planning career began in one of his humanities courses.
Several years ago, Crawford took Temple’s “Cultural Studies” class at PCC. As part of a discussion on public spaces and planning for inclusive communities, Temple invited East Carolina University Associate Professor Misun Hur to share her expertise, along with details on the Community & Regional Planning program she directs at ECU.
“Spencer heard her lecture and, after class, asked her about her program,” Temple said.
The rest, as they say, is history.
In weighing his educational and professional options, Crawford says it was important that he pursue a career in which he could “provide a meaningful impact on the local community.” Hur’s presentation, he said, helped him realize community and regional planning would provide opportunities for developing comprehensive plans and programs that guide municipalities on using land and physical facilities for the benefit of all citizens.
After completing an associate in arts at PCC in 2018, Crawford moved on to ECU and earned a bachelor’s degree this spring in Urban and Regional Planning with a minor in Applied Geography. He also finished a Geographic Information Science (GIS) Certificate, saying the combination of training allows him to understand spatial environments and how the human element factors into developing plans for their use.
A Winterville resident and graduate of South Central High School, Crawford excelled in his ECU studies, just as he did at PCC. After receiving his program’s S.M. Hankins Scholarship in 2019, ECU faculty nominated him for the American Planning Association’s (APA) Outstanding Student Award. He won the national honor, which is given to senior students who show strong academic and professional promise.
“Personally, it means that others have recognized my hard work and love for planning,” Crawford says of the APA Award. “For my professors, it means they believe in my ability to accomplish great things in the future. The award is an invitation to go forward and achieve greatness.”
Crawford’s accomplishments at East Carolina include helping Sampson County update its land use plan and a Public Service Fellowship that gave him a chance to assist the Association of Mexicans in North Carolina (AMEXCAN) with planning and implementing events for the local Latino community. Applying his GIS training, he also mapped migrant farm camp locations through the fellowship, helping AMEXCAN develop relationships with migrant farmworkers and farm owners to assess worker needs and ensure they are receiving proper care.
As an undergraduate research assistant in the ECU School of Social Work, Crawford called upon his GIS skills to help create targeted interventions for increasing breast cancer screening rates among Korean immigrant women living in North Carolina. For his efforts, which included maintaining a database and using statistical software to analyze data, he received an ECU Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity Award.
For his planning practicum as a senior, Crawford created a transportation plan for Greenville that links municipal busses with ridesharing companies to create mobility on demand. In addition to working with Greenville Area Transit to identify community needs, he sought feedback from municipalities and transit agencies with similar programs and identified possible funding sources from the Federal Transit Authority.
“His report provided several innovative ideas that Greenville Area Transit may use in the future,” Hur said.
Though he doesn’t have a job lined up as of yet, Crawford has an interview ahead and says job prospects are getting better. “Many municipalities enacted hiring freezes due to the coronavirus, but the jobs are starting to come back,” he said.
Looking back on his academic career as he prepares for the future, Crawford says his start at PCC gave him the necessary footing to succeed in higher education.
“The college transfer program at PCC creates an educational foundation in which you could build whatever you would like,” he said. “You leave with a good understanding of general education topics … [which] allowed me to jump into my degree program at ECU and focus on more advanced concepts, without having to backtrack to the basics.”
As for Temple, he considers Crawford a role model for PCC Bulldogs to emulate, saying, “I believe his success is inspirational and hope other students and the community find it inspirational as well.”
Crawford’s advice to current and future university transfer students at Pitt is simple: dream.
“Go on to do big things,” he says. “The transfer program is the base in which you can go forward and achieve your goals.
“You will have to work hard for it, and it won’t always come naturally. I can promise that if you dream and work hard, you will find yourself where you need to be.”