Bjørn received his doctorate in City and Regional Planning from Cornell University. He has a master’s degree in Geography from the University of Kansas and a BA in Journalism from the University of Minnesota. A native of Ål, Norway, Bjørn’s research focuses on indigenous land rights, environmental and social justice, and alternative planning approaches, both in the United States and in Latin America. He is particularly interested in the dichotomies and tensions between local knowledge and traditional environmental management systems, and formal planning and management approaches. He has lived and worked in indigenous villages and border cities in Venezuela, investigating environmental conflicts and land rights struggles and conducting participatory mapping projects with the Pemon in the Gran Sabana and Yukpa in the Sierra de Perijá. As the director of the Institute of Latin American Studies’ (LLILAS) 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. In addition to his international work, Bjørn examines the relationship between pedagogy, planning practice, and environmental and social justice in low-income communities in Texas.

Bjørn teaches Geographic Information Systems, environmental and social justice, public space theory, and seminars and studio courses focusing on international planning and development. Through his partnership with PODER, GAVA, and other local groups, Bjørn offers critical service learning courses where students investigate issues of social and environmental justice in partnership with community members. He also teaches studio courses in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, where students work closely with community leaders, activist organizations and public officials in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, to address environmental and social vulnerability in the informal settlement of Los Platanitos. In spring 2008, students conducted a risk and vulnerability assessment; in spring 2010, a second group of students built on this study and developed a participatory solid waste management plan; in spring 2012, students built on this work to initiate a vermicomposting feasibility study with an EPA P3 Award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; and in 2014 students conducted an outcome assessment of the composting project and an ethnobotanical study to consider the role of composting for food security and green space development in Los Platanitos. Further projects were conducted in 2016, 2017 and 2018 and can be seen here.

Bjørn is an associated faculty member in the Department of Geography and the Institute of Latin American Studies (LLILAS), University of Texas.


photo of Bjorn Sletto
  • Latin American planning and development
  • participatory planning
  • environmental and social justice
  • social theory