The goal of the Master of Regional Planning Studio is to develop a student’s techniques for collecting, analyzing, and synthesizing spatial and non-spatial data and then presenting that collective data in a manner (i.e., report, video, presentation, and charettes) that is understandable to academics, professionals, and the public. Planning Studio allows students to integrate knowledge from coursework and research, and apply such knowledge to resolving representative planning problems. At UMASS Amherst, these problems are found in neighborhood, rural, urban, and/or regional settings.
In the fall of 2014, three local governments contracted with the MRP Studio to create separate vision plans that focused on key aspects of community revitalization. Like other New England mill towns, the Town of Athol has been subject to the economic shocks of the last half century, which has seen major industries relocate out of state or off-shore. The consequences of the loss of major industry can be seen boarded up factory buildings and a Main Street struggling to maintain its identity. Athol tasked the graduate student team (Millers River Consulting) with delivering creative, out-of-the-box suggestions to help revitalize its downtown.