Planning for the land's future
It was at the Ontario Professional Planners Institute’s annual conference in the fall of 2011 that Margaret (Dearden) Walton, Artsci’76, MPL’81, was asked by her colleague and former classmate, School of Urban and Regional Planning (SURP) director David Gordon, Sc’76, MPL’79, if she would be willing to visit her alma mater and speak to current students.
“I really enjoy speaking to young people and hearing their ideas,” says Margaret, one of Ontario’s leading experts on issues related to agriculture in urbanizing areas. “I think that planning, especially for rural areas, is often perceived as not being as exciting as urban work or policy work, and yet I think it’s one of the most important things we have to manage, and so I like to bring it to students’ attention.”
Margaret spoke to a student group in February about issues and challenges in agricultural planning. As the owner of a successful planning company, Planscape, based in Bracebridge, ON, she has worked extensively throughout Muskoka, the Golden Horseshoe, and Niagara Region. After her talk, the students were invited to chat with Margaret about projects they’re currently working on.
This academic year, SURP’s Academic and Professional Events Committee has organized 10 events, including a professional planners panel comprised of six speakers, all of whom studied at Queen’s. The first panel was held in 2010 as a way of connecting students and alumni.
“Students are always interested in learning what alumni [in their field] do after they graduate, especially in regard to career prospects,” says Simona Rasanu, MPL’12. “Alumni can act as key network contacts, and SURP students are fortunate to have a strong alumni network across the country.”
The visit to campus wasn’t the first for Margaret since she graduated. She and her husband, Ron Walton, Sc'78, made many trips while their three children – James, Andrew and Kathryn -- were studying for their degrees.
“I enjoy coming back, seeing how some things have changed while others are very much the same,” says Margaret. “My Queen’s education gave me good analytical skills and a solid foundation for dealing with rural planning issues. I appreciate any opportunity to share my experiences with current students, who are very much our future.”