Muskingum University Professor of Political Science Walter Huber and Associate Professor of Geology Stephen Van Horn are leading their students in helping Zanesville City Council redistrict their political wards in response to the 2020 census. The project marks the third time that Muskingum students have helped Zanesville with redistricting, including in 2000 and 2010.
Dr. Huber explains that “After the 2020 census, Zanesville’s six wards need to be redrawn to balance the population equally. We shared ten potential priorities with Council in a recent presentation to them, so they could choose the criteria they believe is most important. Our students are now developing several alternative maps for Council to review, and they are learning the ultimate transferable skill – the ability to solve complex problems with no fixed solution and no single correct answer.”
The initiative is being carried out through the “Regional Planning” course, which is team taught by Drs. Huber and Van Horn. Each semester, a different community-based project is chosen for the course. Dr. Van Horn notes that “The defining character of the course is its interdisciplinary approach. We blend both our disciplines in our teaching, our students enroll from majors across campus, and they learn in a hands-on way how techniques from the sciences and social sciences can be combined to solve real world problems.”
For Zanesville City Council President Dan Vincent, “The project is a win-win for everyone. We receive a valuable product which solves a key need for our city, and it is free of charge which is a savings for our taxpayers. The students gain a real-life experience by working with city government in action. They bring their knowledge and suggestions, educate us on what they have found, and prepare us to make a decision which best serves our city.”
“My favorite part of the process is hearing the students’ perspectives on the issues – their input is impressive!” President Vincent said. “Muskingum gives back so much to the communities in our area, and it is a tremendous benefit. We are so appreciative of everything they do for us.”
Muskingum’s community connections with Zanesville are strong through alumni who hold leadership positions in city government. They include Mayor Don Mason ‘79, Law Director David Tarbert ’90, Auditor Andrew Body ’13, Budget & Finance Director Kade Haddox ’16, Community Development Director Matthew Schley ’16, Associate Planners Jenna Durant ’19 and Dane Miller ’19, and City Councilperson at Large Joey Osborn ’07G.
The projects are delivered through the University’s Center for Regional Planning and Development, of which Dr. Huber serves as Director and Dr. Van Horn as Associate Director.
Dr. Huber also serves Muskingum as Chair of the Department of Political Science and Criminal Justice. His research interests include best policy practices in the U.S. and China, international political economy, and comparative public policy.
Dr. Van Horn chairs Muskingum’s Geology Department. His research interests focus on Geological Applications of GIS (Geographic Information System), environmental geology, and surface processes.
The Zanesville Times-Recorder recently covered the redistricting project.