News | USC's Reaghan Murphy wins First Place SCAG 2021 Planning Student Showcase

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by Monty Hughes, BS student in Public Policy at the USC Sol Price School of Public Policy

The Showcase is an annual ArcGIS StoryMap competition for local college students.  This is the first article in a series spotlighting this year’s winners.  The official announcement, with a list of all winners, can be found here:  Student Showcase - Southern California Association of Governments.


Reaghan Murphy, Master of Urban Planning 2021, USC


University of Southern California (USC) Master of Urban Planning (class of 2021) Reaghan Murphy was recently awarded first place in the Planning Category for the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) 2021 Student Showcase. This article highlights Reaghan and her award-winning StoryMap, which can be accessed here.


While at USC, Reaghan led the METRANS Mentor Program and was the co-chair of the Associated Students of Planning and Development, the graduate student organization for the USC Price Master of Urban Planning degree. “Reaghan distinguished herself throughout her time at Price,” said Dr. Marlon Boarnet, chair of the USC Price Department of Urban Planning and Spatial Analysis.  “I am so pleased to see her win this award, but not surprised. Her StoryMap displays technical skill, illuminates equity and racial justice issues that are central to planning, and charts a way forward.”


Reaghan moved from Pennsylvania, where she completed high school, to the University of South Carolina for her undergraduate studies, where she earned two bachelor’s degrees, a BA in Global Studies and a BS in Geography. It was there in South Carolina where she experienced her first major reckoning between the robust public transportation networks of the Northeast United States and the reality of lackluster transportation for much of the rest of the country. “It opened my eyes to public transportation… how helpful it can be but also how harmful it can be,” Reaghan told METRANS for her feature interview. That perspective is instrumental in her recent award-winning storyboard project, Surviving SoCal's Streets: The Case for Vision Zero.


Reaghan’s StoryMap challenges norms, confronts history, and makes deliberate calls for change: she not only shines a spotlight on the unacceptable number of traffic fatalities and serious injuries in LA, but goes further, employing an “equity lens” to explore how transportation, and lack of transportation, has been weaponized historically. To illustrate this, she includes a captivating graphic that overlays the most dangerous modern roadways with maps of historic redlining in Los Angeles. The clear and positive relationship between areas redlined for people of color and the number of dangerous roadways is glaring.


Reaghan’s StoryMap


While this data is sobering, Reaghan acknowledges that “we [planners] are moving in the right direction,” though she emphasized to stop these modern preventable roadway deaths and serious injuries through planning, we must include more transportation users in the room, challenge norms in planning, and invest in “concrete policies that have been proven to help protect people.”


Reaghan emphasized her identity as a woman and personal transportation experiences while discussing her project and perspective, as well as her time and experiences at USC’s Sol Price School of Public Policy, where she obtained her master’s degree this past summer, just after winning this award.


“My time at USC was formative and I attribute a lot of that to my classmates”, Reaghan shared. In particular, she stressed the value of her conversations with fellow students and faculty, which “elevated my vocabulary around equity” and “actually dove into what it [equity] meant for our field.”  She also notes that the opportunity to study in the dynamic urban environment that Los Angeles provides was a significant supplement to her education. Reaghan advises current students to “keep asking questions. Push your classmates and professors to think and talk about the topics that matter. They may not all be comfortable conversations, but that’s where the real learning starts. Get out in the community… get to know the communities that you’re a part of and communities that are segregated from your communities.”


Reaghan is now a regional planner with the Centralina Regional Council-- a planning organization serving Charlotte and the surrounding nine-county region of North Carolina.


Author Bio: Monty Hughes is a METRANS student writer and a sophomore studying public policy at USC Sol Price. When he can’t be found bustling between classes or writing, he is likely running, exploring paths less traveled, or working on his latest political assignment or campaign. Upon graduation, Monty hopes to work in politics and media, or in public service.