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Passion for art sparks interest in urban planning

ASU Dean's Medalist Amanda Bayham is drawn to field's potential to make a difference in well-being of people living in a city

Amanda Bayham

April 29, 2017

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of profiles for spring 2017 commencement. See more graduates here.

Amanda Bayham grew up with a paintbrush in her hand. “My parents have kept every piece of art I’ve done since I was probably about 2 years old,” she said.

She packed her high school years with a variety of art courses, and when not in class she spent her free time in the art studio. As the Tucson native began thinking about college and possible careers, she wanted to make sure the creativity she loved wasn’t forgotten.

“I was gravitating towards the architecture program because there is a mix of art and the built environment,” said the Arizona State University student. “But while skimming the major map, I discovered the urban planning program.”

As she describes it, urban planning mixes the built environment with the people who live there and how those two subjects integrate to become a city. Urban planners also have the ability to make an influence on the lives and well-being of the people in a city. The combination struck a chord for Bayham and set her onto her new path where she could use her creativity to have an impact.

“Amanda is driven to study urban planning not just to develop skills to qualify for jobs but to improve the quality of life in Arizona,” said Deirdre Pfeiffer, professor of Urban Planning. “She has a growing passion for planning for infrastructure, such as place-making along canals and housing.”

She didn’t have to look far from campus for inspiration on how an urban planner can effect a city.

“When my dad was attending ASU, Tempe Town Lake was just an empty wash. Someone had the vision to fill it with water from the CAP canal, and now there is crazy growth around the area,” Bayham said. “My goal as an urban planner is to continue this trend of innovation and design.”

Bayham is graduating this month with a bachelor’s from ASU’s School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning. She still has her paintbrush, though, and will also be completing her minor in studio art. 

She was recognized for her outstanding scholastic achievements as a recipient of the Dean’s Medal Award. Bayham answered a few questions about her experience at ASU:

Question: What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in?

Answer: I have always wanted to work with people and the surrounding environment. In high school, I really enjoyed painting, drawing and working with public art. I thought that I may want to go into the architecture program at ASU, but when I discovered the Urban Planning program, I realized that I could study all aspects of a city, its people and the environment that fosters community and connections.

Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you, that changed your perspective?

A: There is a vast array of learning, networking, and hands-on experience ASU provides. One of the most surprising aspects was the fact that one of the largest universities in the country was able to foster development and growth on an individual basis. I not only learned more about myself while attending, but was able to meet and learn about the beautiful, diverse cultures and mind-sets that the world has to offer. 

Q: Why did you choose ASU? 

A: I chose ASU because I wanted to stay in Arizona, close to my family and friends, but I knew that branching out to a new city would be beneficial for my personal growth as well as career.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: Continue to foster the connections that you make here because these will be your lifelong friends. Cherish every single moment you spend in college — even if you dread waking up in the morning or going to class, you will never be able to get this back. 

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?

A: My favorite spot on campus is the Life Sciences building near Hayden Library. Whether walking across campus in 110 degrees or just taking a break in between classes, this is a covered, yet open building with plants all throughout the first-floor lobby area. I also had a garden for a couple years with ASU Grow around the perimeter of the building.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: I am continuing my education to receive my master's in Urban and Environmental Planning in the fall. I am planning to graduate next spring and think about the real world then.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: I would head straight to Flint, Michigan, to rebuild their water infrastructure system. More attention needs to be paid to those individuals and families that are living without clean water to drink and bathe in. 

Top photo: Amanda Bayham accepts her Dean's Medal Award at the annual awards reception for the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning. 

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