Students in the Community and Regional Planning Master's or PhD Program can customize their curriculum through their choice of electives and by pursuing opportunities to work with faculty on their research. Faculty offer electives that reflect their own interests and often integrate elements of their own research projects. Below we group these interests under five broad headings. We do not use these headings to imply that these areas are independent of each other. As you will see through the descriptions of faculty interests and recent research, there is increasing understanding of the interrelationship between these topics. We offer a formal specialization in one of these areas--Historic Preservation.

  1. Social and Economic Equity
  2. Environmental Planning
  3. Land Use, Transportation and Infrastructure
  4. Urban Design and Development
  5. Historic Preservation

 

1. SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC EQUITY

Faculty contacts: Elizabeth Mueller, Michael Oden, Bjørn Sletto and Patricia Wilson.

Elective courses and research under the broad heading of social and economic equity offer students a theoretical and practical understanding of the challenges and opportunities facing communities as a result of changing economic and environmental conditions and the role that planners, as well as non-governmental and community organizations, can play in responding to these challenges. While the challenges we face are longstanding, our understanding of how we as planners can shape solutions, and partner with others, is evolving. Practitioners will need to understand the interconnections between economic, social and environmental aspects of cities and communities to devise integrated, creative solutions. Faculty offering electives and practicum courses under this heading do work in both the US context and in other countries--particularly in Latin America.

By focusing on electives and practicum courses that emphasize social and economic equity, students can develop expertise in a number of related areas including:

  • Historical context and current debates regarding the challenges and opportunities facing local communities and local responses to economic, social and environmental change;

  • Strategies for working with governments, communities (at different scales) and private sector actors on integrated strategies for goal setting, planning and implementation;

  • Research methods and analytic techniques for documenting and evaluating the structure, performance and potential of regional or local economies;

  • Techniques used in the design, implementation and evaluation of development projects in the United States and in international contexts;

  • Organizational skills including facilitation, team building, conflict resolution, and participatory planning.
     

About the faculty in this focus area

Elizabeth Mueller teaches courses on affordable housing policy, community development, and urban politics, as well as qualitative research methods. Her research focuses on social and political inclusion in cities, how city planning and development politics shape the quality of life and opportunities available to historically vulnerable residents and communities. Her current work focuses on these topics through investigations of tensions between the goals and policies of local planning agencies and local housing agencies, as seen in current thinking about strategies for building sustainable cities.

Professor Mueller and her students' work is described on the Texas Housing Lab page. Recent projects and practicum courses include Creating Inclusive Corridors: Austin's Airport Boulevard, development of the Corridor Housing Preservation Tool, the Green and Inclusive Corridors practicum, and Coming Home: The benefits of housing choices for low-wage commuters. Her co-authored 2011 Journal of Urbanism article, "Sustainability and Vulnerabliity: Integrating equity into plans for central city redevelopment," won the 2012 UT Coop Prize for Best Research Paper. She was advisor to the first place winning School of Architecture team in US Department of Housing and Urban Affairs' Innovation in Affordable Housing competition.

Michael Oden's  teaching and research areas include local and regional economic development, regional growth dynamics and regional governance challenges. While serving as Associate Dean and Program Director, he is teaching a core CRP course, Financing Public Services. He intends to return to teaching his elective course, Sustainable Urban Economic Development in Spring 2017. Professor Oden's current research interests include the development of a comprehensive evaluation tool for alternative land use, transportation and housing affordability models; the potential of environmental industry growth for regional and local economic development strategies, and the role of the artistic and cultural industries in urban economies.

Recent research projects and publications include: the Sustainable Places Project, the article "Better is Better than More," co-authored with Architecture Professor Michael Benedikt, and his update of "Equity: the Awkward E" in colleague Steven Moore's edited volume, Pragmatic SustainabilityHe also co-authored a report on the economics of historic preservation in Texas.

Bjørn Sletto's research focuses on indigenous land rights, environmental and social justice, and alternative planning approaches, both in the United States and Latin America. As the director of the Institute of Latin American Studies'(LILLAS) Research Initiative in Participatory Mapping, Bjørn works closely with partner institutions in South America to further international scholarship on representational politics and social justice in vulnerable communities. He is also engaged with research on informality and community development in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, focusing on the role of critical pedagogy for insurgent planning in neoliberal contexts. Bjørn teaches Geographic Information Systesm, environmental and social justice, public space theory, and seminars and studio courses focusing on Latin American planning and development. In his practicum course in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, his students work closely with community leaders, activist organizations and public officials to address environmental and social vulnerability in the informal settlement of Los Platanitos.

Recent presentations on his work in Austin and Latin America include the east Austin environmental justice project, and mapping risk and vulnerability in Los Platanitos. For an overview of the work of practicum courses in Los Planatinos over time, take a look at the Cañada project website.

Patricia Wilson's research in sustainable community development focuses on individual and social transformation through civic engagement and collaborative action. She uses the methods of appreciative inquiry, social narrative, and participatory action research, and draws upon the theories of communicative action, dialogue and deliberation, and holistic emergent systems. She directs an ongoing action research project on sustainable community development. Dr. Wilson teaches participatory planning and international sustainable social development, along with a freshman signature class on participatory democracy.

Recent practicum courses and writing include Mexcio Practicum: participatory action research in the Guadalupe dam watershed, a new course on tactical urbanism, and her recent Planning Forum article, "The Naked Practitioner: Participatory Community Development in Peri-Urban Mexico." 
 

2. ENVIRONMENTAL PLANNING

Faculty Contacts: Katherine Lieberknecht, Robert Paterson, Rachael Rawlins, Bjørn Sletto, and Robert Young.

Elective courses and research under the broad heading of environmental planning provides students with a grounding in the theoretical and methodological foundations, legal/policy aspects, social justice dimensions, and planning and management techniques used to address some of the most pressing environmental issues facing communities and regions today. Environmental planners play central roles in a diversity of issues that range in scale, including: remediation of individual brownfield sites; city-wide park planning; regional air and water pollution planning; habitat conservation planning; planning for climate change adaptation and mitigation for cities and regions; avoiding and mitigating health impacts from environmental contaminants; and planning for socially and ecologically just communities, cities and regions.

Through electives and practicum courses, students trained in this specialization develop a variety of theoretical, organizational and technical skills for effectively addressing the complexity of environmental issues facing communities today. These skills include:

  • identifying and coordinating expertise in scientific and technical areas;

  • developing frameworks for environmental planning related policies;

  • working with communities within different social and cultural contexts; and

  • integrating justice or ethical considerations into environmental planning strategies.

 

About the faculty in this focus area

Katherine Lieberknecht's research areas include urban water resources planning, metropolitan-scaled green infrastructure planning, and food-energy-water systems of metropolitan areas. She currently teaches courses on urban agriculture systems, water resources planning, and urban ecology and has taught courses on land conservation, non-profit management and property rights.

Recent practicum courses and research projects led by Dr. Lieberknecht include Texas City Lab and urban agriculture in Colony Park. She has also contributed to the discussion of the future of water in Texas.

Robert Paterson specializes in land use and environmental planning. He teaches graduate level courses in Sustainable Land Use Planning, Environmental Impact Assessment, Sustainable and Disaster Resilient City Planning, and Plan Implementation. Dr. Paterson’s three most recent research projects are focused on better metrics for Scenario Planning for Sustainable Communities, Scenario Planning for Disaster Resilience, and Plan Implementation theory and practice.

Recent practicum courses and research projects include the Sustainable Places Project, Project Connect, the Urban Information Lab, City of Hutto activity center planning, and Sustainable Buildings and Communities: Climate change and the Case for Federal Standards.

Rachael Rawlins has been teaching inter-disciplinary law and planning classes at the University of Texas since 1996, including Environmental Law and Environmental Dispute Resolution. She has served as a Planning Commissioner and has practiced both law and planning working with neighborhood planning coalitions, non-profit environmental groups, private law firms, and local and state government.

Ms. Rawlins was the winner of the 2014 University Co-operative Society Best Research Paper Award for “Planning for Fracking on the Barnet Shale: Urban Air Pollution, Improving Health Based Regulation, and the Role of Local Governments.” Other recent research includes Sustainable Buildings and Communities: Climate change and the Case for Federal Standards.

Bjørn Sletto's research focuses on indigenous land rights, environmental and social justice, and alternative planning approaches, both in the United States and Latin America. As the director of the Institute of Latin American Studies'(LILLAS) Research Initiative in Participatory Mapping, Bjørn works closely with partner institutions in South America to further international scholarship on representational politics and social justice in vulnerable communities. He is also engaged with research on informality and community development in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, focusing on the role of critical pedagogy for insurgent planning in neoliberal contexts. Bjørn teaches Geographic Information Systems, environmental and social justice, public space theory, and seminars and studio courses focusing on Latin American planning and development. In his practicum course in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, his students work closely with community leaders, activist organizations and public officials to address environmental and social vulnerability in the informal settlement of Los Platanitos.

Recent presentations on his work in Austin and Latin America include the east Austin environmental justice project, and mapping risk and vulnerability in Los Platanitos. For an overview of the work of practicum courses in Los Planatinos over time, take a look at the Cañada project website.

Robert Young works in the fields of urban planning, sustainable economic development, and urban ecology. His research centers on the planning, governance, and financing of metropolitan green infrastructure and on economic development initiatives for sustainable cities and regions. As a practitioner Dr. Young served as the Director of Planning of the Philadelphia’s Recycling Office and was appointed by New Jersey Governor Christine Whitman as Director of the New Jersey Commerce Department’s Office of Sustainability. He has also served as an advisor to Governors Ted Kulongoski and John Kitzhaber of Oregon on issues of sustainable economic development.

Recent projects include Planting the Living City, published in the Journal of the American Planning Association, the Texas CityLab Zero Waste Project, and most recently the 2nd Annual Symposium on Ecological Wisdom.
 

3. LAND USE, TRANSPORTATION AND INFRASTRUCTURE

Faculty contacts: Katherine Lieberknecht, Robert Paterson, Gian Claudia Sciara, Robert Young and Ming Zhang

The electives and practicum courses under the broad heading of land use, transportation and intrastructure are designed to provide students with an understanding of theories, methods and techniques for integrated land use, transportation and infrastructure planning and policy-making. Students are encouraged to approach these issues from a critical perspective and to consider questions such as: What are the critical land use, transportation and infrastructure issues facing our communities? What sorts of goals do conventional methods or analysis and analytic techniques promote? Where and how should these methods and techniques be improved? What are the implications -- social, economic, environmental -- of our choices about land use, transportation, and infrastructure policies and investments? Students focusing on these topics have found jobs with cities, counties, metropolitan planning organizations, transit agencies, non-profit organizations, and private consultants.
 

About the faculty in this focus area

Katherine Lieberknecht's research areas include urban water resources planning, metropolitan-scaled green infrastructure planning, and food-energy-water systems of metropolitan areas. She currently teaches courses on urban agriculture systems, water resources planning, and urban ecology and has taught courses on land conservation, non-profit management and property rights.

Recent practicum courses and research projects led by Dr. Lieberknecht include Texas City Lab and urban agriculture in Colony Park. She has also contributed to the discussion of the future of water in Texas.

Robert Paterson specializes in land use and environmental planning. He teaches graduate level courses in Sustainable Land Use Planning, Environmental Impact Assessment, Sustainable and Disaster Resilient City Planning, and Plan Implementation. Dr. Paterson’s three most recent research projects are focused on better metrics for Scenario Planning for Sustainable Communities, Scenario Planning for Disaster Resilience, and Plan Implementation theory and practice.

Recent practicum courses and research projects include the Sustainable Places Project, Project Connect, the Urban Information Lab, City of Hutto activity center planning, and Sustainable Buildings and Communities: Climate change and the Case for Federal Standards.

Gian Claudia Sciara researches and writes about transportation and land use decision-making in intergovernmental contexts, and regional institutions are a longstanding focus of her work. Her current research studies implementation of California’s Sustainable Communities and Climate Protection Act of 2008 (SB 375), which asks regional planning organizations to integrate land use and transportation in order to reduce auto reliance and greenhouse gas emissions.  She is also examining how transportation funding structures support or undermine sustainability objectives. 

Recent research projects include Tracking Land Use Changes that Support Sustainable Mobility and Statewide Advanced Mitigation Funding and Financial Strategies.

Robert Young works in the fields of urban planning, sustainable economic development, and urban ecology. His research centers on the planning, governance, and financing of metropolitan green infrastructure and on economic development initiatives for sustainable cities and regions. As a practitioner Dr. Young served as the Director of Planning of the Philadelphia’s Recycling Office and was appointed by New Jersey Governor Christine Whitman as Director of the New Jersey Commerce Department’s Office of Sustainability. He has also served as an advisor to Governors Ted Kulongoski and John Kitzhaber of Oregon on issues of sustainable economic development.

Recent practicum courses and research projects include Planting the Living City, published in the Journal of the American Planning Association, the Texas CityLab Zero Waste Project, and most recently the 2nd Annual Symposium on Ecological Wisdom.

MIng Zhang's research and teaching interests include urban transportation planning, transportation impacts on land use, urban form and travel behavior, GIS applications in urban and transportation planning, and land use/transportation issues in developing countries. His recent research has focused on the influence of the built environment on travel mode choice for work and non-work purposes, development of metrics of urban form, Transit-Oriented Development and high-speed rail and urban spatial development.
 

Dr. Zhang is principal investigator for the five-year multi-million dollar Cooperative Mobility for Competitive Megaregions project. Other recent practicum courses and research projects include Sustainable Transportation in the International Context – China Planning Workshop, Emerging Trends of Interregional Commute in Mega-Regions: Evidence from NHTSEmerging Trends of Interregional Commute in Mega-Regions: Evidence from NHTS, the Sustainable Places Project, and Project Connect.
 

 

4. URBAN DESIGN AND DEVELOPMENT

Faculty Contact: Dean Almy, Junfeng Jiao, Ming Zhang, Michael Holleran, Jake Wegmann

The land development and urban design focus area provides students with specialized training and prepares them to become capable of engaging effectively with design professionals (such as architects and landscape designers), developers, and institutions around issues of real estate development, urban form and design. Students will develop an understanding of how land development policies and urban design interventions can alter the human built environment. Students in this specialization learn to delineate the legal, regulatory, economic, and social context within which real estate development and physical design can occur. Students will also be exposed to concepts and approaches used by designers in the processes of place making, and will learn to develop plans and policies that support good land development and urban design.

Study of land development and urban design is especially well suited for two types of students:

  • Those who are interested in public sector employment with regard to the policy and practice of the land development regulatory review process; urban design review and design guideline development and implementation process.

  • Those who are interested in private sector development of land with regard to the practice of the real estate marketing and development process; urban design master planning process.

Most of the built environment results from the activities of the public and private sectors with regard to land development and urban design, and this specialization prepares the graduate to participate professionally in those activities.
 

About the faculty in this focus area

Dean Almy is the Director of the Graduate Program in Urban Design and The Texas Urban Futures Laboratory. He is also Chair of the City of Austin’s Design Commission and the Texas Society of Architects, Urban Design Committee. Professor Almy focuses his teaching and research on the relationships between housing, urbanism and landscape infrastructure. As Director of the Texas Urban Futures Lab, an applied research initiative of the Graduate Program in Urban Design, professor Almy leads students in projects that address issues of densification in the Texas Triangle.

Recent practicum courses and research projects include the Austin Urban Futures Lab, Mixed-Use Development on South Lamar, Texas CityLab urban design studio, Austin South Shore Design, and Ciudades Integrales para Tamaulipas: Best Practices for Urban Planning and Design for the Tamaulipas Border Region.

Junfeng Jiao's primary interest is in urban form and environment. He wants to understand how people react and reflect the built environments where they live, work, and play. He has investigated the relationship between food/built environment and obesity, built environment and grocery shopping travel, the identification of food deserts, and how people reflected urban spaces on Twitter during a Super Bowl week. He also interests in using different techniques to represent and quantify urban form. These techniques include Big Data Analysis, GIS, GPS, 3D Modeling, Social Media, and Statistics.

Recent practicum courses and research projects include the Urban Information Lab, Austin Food Access, Identifying Transit Deserts in Texas Cities, Austin South Central Waterfront District planning studio, Web Scraping and Airbnb Rentals in Austin, Boston, Chicago, D.C., and San Francisco, and the Beijing planning studio.

Michael Holleran is interested in historic preservation, the history of urban design & development, vernacular landscapes, and water history. He teaches Preservation Planning/Practice and Preservation History and Theory.

Recent practicum courses and research projects include the Cedar Pass Developed Area cultural landscape studio, Austin Historical Survey Wiki, the Leander Texas ‘Placemaking’ Historical Assets Inventory, and the Fifth Street Project.

Jake Wegmann’s research lies at the nexus of housing, real estate development, and planning. He has published research on the racialized restructuring of metropolitan space, microhousing infill, and the measurement of affordable rental housing cost efficiency in Urban Geography, Journal of Urbanism, and Housing Policy Debate.  

Recent practicum courses and research projects include Strategies to Help Homeowners Finance ADUs in Austin and Web Scraping and Airbnb Rentals in Austin, Boston, Chicago, D.C., and San Francisco.
   

Ming Zhang's research and teaching interests include urban transportation planning, transportation impacts on land use, urban form and travel behavior, GIS applications in urban and transportation planning, and land use/transportation issues in developing countries. His recent research has focused on the influence of the built environment on travel mode choice for work and non-work purposes, development of metrics of urban form, Transit-Oriented Development and high-speed rail and urban spatial development.

Dr. Zhang is principal investigator for the five-year multi-million dollar Cooperative Mobility for Competitive Megaregions project. Other recent practicum courses and research projects include Sustainable Transportation in the International Context – China Planning Workshop, Emerging Trends of Interregional Commute in Mega-Regions: Evidence from NHTS, the Sustainable Places Project, and Project Connect.

 

5.HISTORIC PRESERVATION

Faculty Contacts: Michael Holleran, Sarah Lopez, Rachael Rawlins

This specialization provides students with the tools and skills appropriate for planning in communities and contexts where we find cultural value in the existing built environment. Students are expected to take four preservation courses (see below), and to complete a preservation studio and a PR or thesis on a preservation topic. Through the classes, students are exposed to social, political, environmental and economic issues in the identification and interpretation of cultural resources; historic preservation as an engine of economic and community development (heritage tourism, Main Street programs, incentives for adaptive use and housing rehabilitation); the regulatory and legal environment at the federal, state and local levels; and policy and design issues involved with integration of new development within existing built contexts.

Coursework is supported by the rich stock of diverse cultural resources found in Texas. Students also have numerous opportunities to engage in research or coursework in international settings, as exemplified by recent projects in Mexico, Chile, Berlin, and London. Other resources include the School's significant architectural and planning documents collection, the Architectural Conservation Laboratory and Materials Laboratory, and collaborations with the National Parks Service, the State Historic Preservation Office, and the City of Austin. Recent PRs and theses have studied: the National Register's treatment of resources less than 50 years old; implementation of the new Investment Tax Credit for historic rehabilitation in Texas; Evaluation of the LEED/NC standards as applied to historic neighborhoods; Cultural Landscape Inventories for the LBJ National Historical Site, Heritage Planning for the Route of the Liberator Simón Bolivar.

Methods requirements: Students in this specialization are required to take the following methods courses:  the Quantitative/Analytic methods sequence (unless placing out); Public Economics and Finance; and either Participatory Planning/Dispute Resolution or GIS/Viscom.

Required Courses for Historic Preservation Specialization:

  • CRP 392C/ ARC 386M Preservation History and Theory (Holleran, Fall)

  • CRP 389C/ARC 386M Preservation Planning and Practice (Holleran, Fall)

  • CRP 381 Preservation Law (Rawlins, Spring)

  • CRP 398R or CRP 698A/B PR or Thesis (see below)

  • CRP 696 Preservation Studio (see below)

(Note that two required courses are scheduled in Fall semester, and thus CRP/HP specialization will ordinarily require taking one of them in Fall of year 1)

and at least one of:

  • National Register Documentation (Smith, Fall)

  • Sustainable Preservation (Holleran, Spring)

  • U.S. Cultural Landscapes (Lopez)

  • (other special topics courses from time to time)

Professional Report or Thesis Requirement:

  • CRP 398R Professional Report or CRP 698A/698B-Thesis. The topic of the Professional Report or Thesis must be approved by CRP/HP faculty and should focus on a preservation planning related issue.

Preservation Studio requirement: The CRP Practicum/Studio requirement must be met with a Preservation Studio. A Preservation Studio will be offered each semester with a CRP cross-listing, or a CRP studio will be available with preservation content.
 

About the faculty in this specialization

Michael Holleran is interested in historic preservation, the history of urban design & development, vernacular landscapes, and water history. He teaches Preservation Planning/Practice and Preservation History and Theory.

Recent practicum courses and research projects include the Cedar Pass Developed Area cultural landscape studio, Austin Historical Survey Wiki, the Leander Texas ‘Placemaking’ Historical Assets Inventory, and the Fifth Street Project.

Sarah Lopez is a built environment historian, as well as a migration scholar. Lopez' research focuses on the impact of migrant remittances—dollars earned in the U.S. and sent to families and communities in Mexico—on the architecture and landscape of rural Mexico and urban USA. By approaching architectural history within the context of migration, Lopez examines multiple sites across international borders, arguing that we must examine the spatial and built environment histories of discrete places simultaneously. Broadly speaking, she teaches about U.S. cultural landscapes, the interface between migration, architecture, and cities, the use of interdisciplinary methods to study space and society, and world architectural history. She also teaches about how to incorporate ethnographic methods into built environment research. 

Recent practicum courses and research projects include States of Incarceration and the Remittance Landscape.

Rachael Rawlins has been teaching inter-disciplinary law and planning classes at the University of Texas since 1996, including Environmental Law and Environmental Dispute Resolution. She has served as a Planning Commissioner and has practiced both law and planning working with neighborhood planning coalitions, non-profit environmental groups, private law firms, and local and state government.

Ms. Rawlins was the winner of the 2014 University Co-operative Society Best Research Paper Award for “Planning for Fracking on the Barnet Shale: Urban Air Pollution, Improving Health Based Regulation, and the Role of Local Governments.” Other recent research includes Sustainable Buildings and Communities: Climate change and the Case for Federal Standards.

 

China_Beijing urban planning museum.jpg

Beijing urban planning museum
CRP students visit Beijing urban planning museum