Planner a go-between for university, community

By 8:30 a.m., Bobbie Ryder is darting around the office, making suggestions to project managers, glancing over maps and graphics and meeting with various committee members. By 7 p.m., her day is not quite over as the College Hill Association meeting calls to order. 

Ryder earned her undergraduate degree in landscape architecture, her master’s degree in regional planning from WSU in 1987 and taught architecture 1988-1996, when she became the senior campus planner for Capital Planning and Development. She is the keeper of WSU environmental permits and land-use requests, and she works with academic departments through relocation and negotiation of land assignments, handling everything from requests for research plots to animal grazing acreage.

Her duties include reviewing landscape plans for major capital projects and providing staff support to numerous university committees such as the Arboretum Committee and Historic Preservation Committee.

 Aside from her procedural day-to-day work, another component of Ryder’s job is community development. This allows her to serve as a liaison between the university, the city and both the College Hill Association (CHA) and the Better Neighborhoods for Pullman committee. Her role in each committee is to facilitate communication to improve the conditions of College Hill and Pullman neighborhoods. 

“The hill is a complex mixture of problems,” she said, clicking through pictures on her computer of houses with overflowing trashcans and couches sitting on porches. 

For the CHA, Ryder helped coordinate a door-to-door survey in 2002 to understand how residents felt about the conditions of College Hill. Responses indicated the top concerns were noise and behavior, parking, density and traffic, trash and overall quality of life.

In one of many actions taken to resolve the trash problem, Ryder coordinated the Adopt-a-Block project. She is hopeful that student leaders will take more action to clean up the area and believes the solution is changing social norms about some basic behaviors, such as how students and rental agencies manage trash or treat their neighbors.
“Students need to understand what it is like to be a part of a neighborhood and know when they are crossing the line,” she said.
Ryder tries to help committee members understand how to get their voice heard, and because she is involved in so many projects, she brings strategic information to the table.

“I don’t have all the answers, but I feel like I play a key role in getting people talking and information shared so people can make informed decisions,” she said.

Allison Munch-Rotolo, CHA member, describes Ryder as a vital member who helps get things done, a person who has the know-how to put together professional documents and work with maps and provide insight.
Staff Spotlight is an occasional series about WSU staff. If you have a suggestion of someone to be featured, please contact intern Kelly Peterson at