2016 Walking College FAQs

Application Process and Eligibility

Are applications from outside the U.S. accepted?

Yes, we will accept applications from Canada and other countries as long as the applicant will be able to participate in all of the Walking College activities, including attending the Pro Walk, Pro Bike, Pro Place conference in Vancouver, BC, September 12-15, 2016.

Is there a minimum size of community that will be considered?

There is no specified minimum size. We want every Walking College Fellow to be working in a community where they can make a measurable difference, so a hamlet of three houses, isolated by several miles from the nearest neighboring community might fail that test. However, if you can make the case that you could increase walking and improve walkability in your village, town, or city, however small or large it is, we encourage you to apply.

How many applicants do you expect to receive?

During the 2015 application cycle we received 75 applications and we are expecting to receive at least 100 during the 2016 cycle. We will award a maximum of 25 Fellowships.

Of the 25 selected fellows, do you anticipate selecting a percentage distribution from different types of organization (i.e. community foundations, non-profits, consultants, government agencies, etc)?

We do not have any specific targets.  We would like a healthy, diverse mix of independent advocates, community organizations, and professionals in a variety of fields (public health, planning, transportation, education, non-profit/social service groups, businesses., etc.) but fellowships will be awarded based on the application, not on specific targeted criteria.

Is this a good opportunity for a person working in a large county Public Health Department?

Yes, the Walking College is very well suited to public health professionals working on how the built environment impacts health behaviors.

Would this program be appropriate for a state department of transportation’s pedestrian transportation coordinator? 

The program is focused on local action at the community level.  Therefore, if the state-level pedestrian transportation coordinator is going to be working with specific local communities and helping them improve their walkability, the program would be very appropriate. For the purposes of this program we would ask that the prospective Fellow identify a particular “community” or “neighborhood” where he/she is working to increase walking and improve walkability.

Our organization (a regional planning commission) is hiring a new planner to coordinate a new Healthy Communities program, but hiring will not be complete by the Walking College deadline. Can I (as permanent planning professional) apply for us as an organization and potentially move the “Fellow” title over to the new employee when she/he is hired?

No, this will not be possible. The intent of the program is to take energized but inexperienced advocates for walkability through a comprehensive training and expand their capacity to make positive changes in their own communities.   We certainly welcome Fellowship applications from a variety of professionals, including those working for planning agencies. However, we will award Fellowships to the 25 applicants who meet our criteria most closely, based on their individual characteristics and the work they are already doing in a community.

Course Logistics

 How flexible is the timing for the online portions of the instructional component, and the mentor video conferencing?

Most of the work during the instructional component can be done at times convenient to Fellows’ personal schedules.  The two exceptions are the broadcast webinars (which will be archived and so they can be reviewed afterwards, if necessary) and the Mentor-led Video-conference Discussion Forums.  We strongly encourage 100% attendance for these sessions, so we will work hard to schedule them when the whole group (typically 5 Fellows and 2 Mentors) can attend.

How much time per week should Walking College Fellows plan to commit during the course?  What are the expectations upon graduation from the program?

We estimate that Walking College Fellows will commit at least 5 hours/week during the instructional portion of the program (June-August). At the end of the course you will write a realistic “Walking Action Plan” for your community, based on your (or your organization’s) time, resources, etc.  America Walks will want to follow up with you after 6 months and after a year to see how implementation is going.

Do we need to stick to one community? If I plan to move to another city for a summer internship but move back in August, how do I deal with this?

We are looking to stimulate the walking/walkability movement in a specific city, town, or neighborhood, rather than simply provide a stand-alone training.  The field work Walking College Fellows will do in their communities is integral to the program’s success – it will not only give them general experience/skills, but also connect them with the issues of their own community, where we want to make a difference.  If you’re spending the summer in a different city, it will be difficult for you to develop a Strategic Action Plan for your community when you return home. Unfortunately, you may have to wait and apply for the Walking College in a future year when you are settled and involved in the walkability efforts in one community.

In my community, one of the main barriers to new sidewalks seems to be residents who don’t want a sidewalk installed in front of their house.  Some of their concerns are liability and having to bear the responsibility of snow removal.  Have you all found effective ways to overcome these concerns, and will that be covered in the Walking College program?

Yes, this is a common problem, which we will cover in the course.  There are strategies and data/resources available (for example, liability can be shown not to be a real issue, and property values are higher in neighborhood with sidewalks) which can be helpful.  It’s also important to prioritize which streets you want to install sidewalks on and explain why (for example, if it is on a walking route to a school) – especially when there is opposition.

When you say, “America Walks staff will assist Walking College Fellows efforts to fundraise for these costs,” can you explain which specific costs you are referring to?

Walking College Fellows are responsible for the $100 Walking College registration fee and their travel costs to attend the Pro Walk, Pro Bike, Pro Place conference in Vancouver, BC, but America Walks will help fundraise these amounts. Conference registration and three nights’ hotel stay will be provided free of charge.