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MPA graduate makes her capstone research reality

Transportation Planner Kristen Jud helps transform Nashville’s East Bank with equitable and sustainable development

Janel Shoun-Smith | 

Kristen Jud with the East Bank in the background

View more about Kristen Jud's experience in Lipscomb’s MPA program

Kristen Jud (MPA ’23) hasn’t even held her Master of Public Administration for a year yet and she is already contributing to a major project that is destined to change the face of Nashville: the Imagine East Bank Vision Plan, adopted by the Metro Planning Commission in 2022 to steer development of 338 acres of underutilized land directly across the river from Downtown Nashville.

As a transportation planner at Fairpointe Planning, a woman-owned, Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (DBE) planning firm in Nashville, Jud is helping to make sure that the community’s voice is heard during the East Bank development, especially in regards to equitable and sustainable transportation solutions.

“We do a lot of community engagement on different projects at Fairpointe,” said Jud. “We work closely with NDOT, the Nashville Department of Transportation, to carry out their sidewalk and bikeway program, and we also do a lot of different research projects, which is what I’m heavily involved with. We do something new every day.”

Fairpointe’s work with the East Bank project falls right in line with Jud’s capstone project, where she chose to use the Imagine East Bank plan as a case study for her exploration of the relationship between sustainable development and gentrification in surrounding neighborhoods. The Imagine East Bank Vision Plan was adopted by the Metro Planning Commission in October 2022.

Her research emphasized the significance of community engagement in the planning stage to counteract gentrification.

Nashville's East Bank area

The East Bank, 338 acres of underutilized land directly across the Cumberland River from Downtown Nashville.

“There is a huge relationship between new development coming into an area and that development negatively affecting existing residents,” said Jud.

“I interviewed a few people in the Metro Planning department to get a sense of the planning process and one thing that I kept hearing over and over was to engage the community in every step of the planning process to make sure your community planning is equitable and engages every demographic, through every walk of life.” 

Jud found that Metro Planning used everything from survey methods to boots-on-the-ground and festival engagements among other outreach efforts to engage the public in the vision development. Metro’s engagement led to the creation of four vision concepts — Equitable and Affordable East Bank, Safe and Simple Multimodal Connections, Respect for the River, and Neighborhoods for Nashvillians.
“When it comes to sustainability and growth in Nashville, you need to continually go back to communities that are underinvested and disadvantaged and ensure that their voices are brought to the forefront of the planning process,” she concluded.

Today Fairpointe, a company well-known for equitable engagement, is on a team with the primary consulting firm for the East Bank project and is working with transportation planning and demand management for the area, said Jud. Fairpointe works with traffic flow and placement of parking for the planned new football stadium and strives to protect the desires and needs of the existing residents, she said.

Jud found her place at Fairpointe after she worked as a summer intern there during her MPA studies. After earning her undergraduate studies in social justice and public policy in 2021, she decided to immediately pursue her master’s degree in order to hone her learned skills and gain practical expertise. 

“I had all my different passions, but I had no idea what kind of career that I wanted,” admitted Jud. “I originally started the program thinking that I wanted to work for the government.”

Nashville's East Bank with the Titans Stadium

Fairpointe works with traffic flow and placement of parking for the planned new football stadium, to replace the existing Titans Stadium, also in the East Bank area.

Lipscomb’s MPA courses, however, especially those highlighting the cross collaboration between different sectors, “really helped me realize that I could work in a different sector like private or nonprofit. It “really helped me narrow down what I didn't want to do, but also made me recognize that public administration is so broad,” she said. 

“With this degree, I have the capability to move from sector to sector. I have the knowledge of resources to move into whatever sector I want to work in.,” she said.

Jud said she is excited to be even a small part of the huge East bank project that some have called “a planner’s dream.”

“It's building something from the ground up, and doing it in a way that will be sustainable and equitable for the future generations that come to live here on the East Bank or those who already do live on the East Bank,” said Jud. “It’s really exciting, and I hope we can do it with the proper respect that the process and the residents do deserve.”

Read more about Kristen Jud's experience at Lipscomb.