I have won three teaching awards in 10 years of teaching service. Since these usually come from the students, I’m especially happy about receiving awards from them.  I teach five classes, switching in and out as needed. My primary teaching methods are project-based and student-centered.

PPD 245: The Urban Context (Introduction to Cities)

  1. PPD524Syllabus2014__page_1_of_14_This class is an introductory undergraduate class on cities and human life.  I teach it in three modules: urban economics, urban politics, and urban design and culture.

This course examines the twentieth and twenty-first century cities as the context for urban governance, policy, and planning with a strong emphasis on places and communities. We will begin by examining how the urban context is represented in our collective experience and imagination, and the alternative approaches to studying, analyzing, and understanding the urban phenomenon. We will explore the historical development of the urban world, its spatial and economic structure, its natural and human environments, the demographic and social processes that drive the ongoing transformation of the places where we live, and the policies and regulations that mediate our dreams and aspirations.

A future career in planning, policy, management, development will be inevitably situated in the urban or metropolitan context. A good understanding and appreciation of this context is fundamental to the pursuit of a successful career in these fields.

Learning Objectives

At the end of this course students will have:

      • a general understanding of the alternative ways–from economics to culture—in which we can study can be studied;
      • an engaged understanding of the components, organization, and the experiences of urban form and the built environment;
      • some knowledge of the history, economics, and politics of the development of American cities and suburbs;
      • appreciation of the social consequences of contemporary urban development;
      • some understanding of the interactions between institutional structures, politics, and the social ecology of metropolitan areas;
      • the ability to document, represent, analyze, and interpret urban concepts and issues;
      • an interest about cities more generally (we hope) – urban form, urban experience, urbanism, urban space, urban aesthetics, urban community, urban processes, and so on.

PPD 524: Planning Theory

Planning draws on many different types of theory: political theory, social theory, economic theory, and urban theory—and all of those overlap with each other.  For planning theory, however, we focus on several key questions:

  1. How does planning affect urbanization? How do culture, markets, and institutions affect planning?
  2.  What role does urban design in play in shaping environments, and what role does environment play in shaping neighborhood environments?
  3. How should planning and public policy balance between individual rights to property and the need that groups have to control their public spaces and environments?
  4. Who should have a voice in democratic conflicts about what to build and where to build?
  5. What is the proper balance between the majority’s collective good and the protections needed for democratic and social minorities?
  6. What does one generation owe the next? How do we know anything about the future? What do experts know about the city? What do residents know?
  7. How do we make up for the mistakes of the past and present in future decisions about the city?
  8. What role do professional planners have in adjudicating all of these questions?

If you are looking for easPPD524Syllabus2014__page_5_of_14_y answers to these questions, this class is not going to give them to you—and that’s because there aren’t any easy answers, as you can imagine.

Together, we’ll work on deriving some answers, but you will find yourself struggling with these questions throughout your professional life. And you may find yourself forming different answers at different stages of your career, or in different types of planning contexts and conflicts.

Learning Objectives

Though out the course of the semester, we will accomplish the following tasks;

Distinguish between normative and descriptive planning theory

  • Explore your own values and how they inform who you are and what you want to accomplish as a planner and as a citizen;
  • Learn the basic planning theories most relevant to contemporary practice;
  • Write clearly and concisely about abstract planning concepts; and • Learn to defend your ideas verbally and think on your feet.

PPD 628: Urban Planning and Social Policy

Whether the United States even really has urban social policy can become a lively topic of debate. Other countries very much have explicit urban policy goals. In our case, we will think about social policy enacted at the Federal level that have a unique impact on particularly vulnerable populations, and how urban structures and urban form affect community development in cities.

Nonetheless, our current policy debate around social policy requires attention: many American conservatives believe that the national government has no business intervening in social justice issues, or in trying to improve impoverished urban neighborhoods, or dealing with cities at all. Instead, they argue, people who are poor are better off with greater opportunities wrought through more neighborhood capacity for both business and philanthropy. Conversely, those who support federal involvement argue that state and local governments will undersupply a social safety net and lead to a “race to the bottom” among locals unwilling to maintain a decent standard of living for their fellows. The say that sharing financial costs and risks  with higher levels of government allows for a better, more comprehensive net of social services.

Theory and Content Knowledge Objectives:

  1. Define important theoretical concepts in the field of comparative social policy, including social citizenship, risk sharing, de-commodification, and welfare regimes.
  2. Examine the historical welfare regimes and how institutions have implemented and enforced them.
  3. Evaluate the fundamental political economy drivers of poverty in US cities.
  4. Analyze contemporary policy issues affecting US welfare regimes, including globalization, demographic aging, labor market instability, and gender equality.
  5. Contrast international urban social policy regimes (against one another as well as against the US.)

Practice Objectives:

  1. Evaluate and discuss policy from multiple perspectives
  2. Employ effective writing and communication skills to reach multiple audiences, including: Political leaders and voters, donors and board members, clients and patrons.
  3. Communicate ideas about social policy and social justice through multiple media:
  4. Writing policy memos, cases, news briefs, and Op-Eds
  5. Speaking for podcasts and case presentations
  6. The art of the sound bite
  7. Improved both the mechanics of writing and your capacity to construct analytical writing that aims to persuade.

PPD 599: Seminar on Social Justice and Public Policy

Justice is conscience, not a personal conscience but the conscience of the whole of humanity. Those who clearly recognize the voice of their own conscience usually recognize also the voice of justice. ~~~ Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

Why must we think about justice in a public policy, a field largely dominated by analysts, like economists? What value does a theoretical understanding of justice bring to your professional life? The politics of public policy and urban planning are, as often as not, driven by competing claims about what is the right, or just, thing to do. Dueling notions of individual liberty and private property are often set against collective notions of the collective good. Where do these ideas come from, and what effect do they have on our professions? In this course, our goals are to learn:

—The major theories of social justice prevalent in the US and globally;

—How these theories of social justice influence policy, urban planning, and public administration;

—How to reconcile conflicting ideas about justice for your own professional identity and practice.

PPD 599: Urban Mass Transit

Urban mass transit is a complex and difficult field, with many topics ranging from its politics to its operations. This class helps students understand the issues confronting transit agencies in the US.

This class assumes you have some basic knowledge of transportation, but there are no formal prerequisites. Given how prevalent transit advocacy is, we spend virtually no time on it. We start from the assumption that transit has a role to play in metropolitan regions and work from there. The questions we examine in this class pertain to what types of investments make sense and the timing of those investments; how to resolve funding and financing issues over the long term; and what institutional structures best support service.

Our learning goals center on those questions. In this class, we seek to

  1. Master and apply the basic concepts and vocabulary in transit finance, operations, and planning;
  2. Apply concepts and problem-solving to contemporary transit issues in
both domestically and internationally;
  3. Identify some of the big, unanswered questions in the field; and
  4. Develop the basic skills necessary to entering a career as a transit planner.