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«Highlights In 2006, the first national study of graduate programs in urban planning in many years ranked MIT’s Department of Urban Studies and ...»

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Department of Urban Studies and Planning


In 2006, the first national study of graduate programs in urban planning in many years

ranked MIT’s Department of Urban Studies and Planning (DUSP) the best in the nation.

Of 94 departments assessed in North America, DUSP was also ranked number one for

international development; housing, social, and community development; economic

development; and technology. DUSP ranked number two for real estate and number

three for environmental planning, land use planning, transportation planning, and urban design. In other words, the department as a whole and every program in it have been ranked among the top three in the country. The rankings were prepared by Planetizen, a public-interest information exchange for the urban planning, design, and development community. Also as testimony to the high quality of our program, the Planning Accreditation Board reaccredited our master’s in city planning (MCP) program for an unprecedented seven-year period. Not surprisingly, the number of applications to our MCP program is at the highest level it has been in decades.

Past achievements aside, this has been a busy and productive year. In March we launched the Just Jerusalem competition, which bridged across the MIT campus and the rest of the world. The competition is intended to produce ideas for a just and peaceful future Jerusalem. The public launch event in March featured a keynote address by Columbia professor Ira Katznelson, commentary from members of the international jury who were invited to Cambridge for the occasion, and participation by the project’s DUSP-CIS (Center for International Studies) steering committee. The event was covered by the Boston Globe, Reuters, AP, the BBC, and a variety of world media outlets. As of June 30, more than 375 individuals from more than 52 countries around the world had registered for the competition on its MIT-based website. Professor Diane Davis is the lead organizer of the Just Jerusalem project.

The Mayor’s Institute on City Design took place at MIT for the fifth time. This year’s institute brought mayors from seven northeastern US cities together with faculty and outside experts in city planning and urban design. The program aims to develop design consciousness within the leadership of cities and focuses on difficult local issues presented by each of the mayors for discussion and debate. Organized by Professor Mark Schuster, this event is sponsored by the US Conference of Mayors, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the American Architectural Foundation.

The year concluded with the presentation of the biennial Kevin Lynch Award, which recognizes individuals or programs whose exceptional contributions to quality of life and design of cities reflect the spirit of the late DUSP faculty member Kevin Lynch. This year’s recipient was the city of Vancouver and planners Ray Spaxman, Larry Beasley, and Ann McAfee, whoguided Vancouver’s transformation over the past 20 years into a beautiful, highly livable, and economically successful city.

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On the academic side, we offered our graduate students a new opportunity to earn a certificate in environmental planning that they can complete in conjunction with either an MCP or PhD degree. Students seeking this new certificate must complete one of several listed subjects in each of six predesignated subfields. We believe that this certificate will enhance the skills (and thus the professional prospects) of our graduates in the environmental field.

On the undergraduate front, we launched CityScope, an initiative funded by the d’Arbeloff Fund for Excellence in Education and crafted by Professor Davis (in her capacity as associate dean) that offers undergraduates an opportunity to participate in hands-on problem-solving exercises in New Orleans. Cotaught by DUSP professor J. Phillip Thompson and architecture professor John Fernandez, CityScope was a highly popular subject that introduced freshmen to the complexities of urban and environmental problem solving in a flood-devastated American city. Students spent time in New Orleans and worked in teams back at MIT to offer innovative solutions that showed an understanding of the relationships among community development, politics, resource scarcities, and the struggle to craft an economically and environmentally sustainable urban future. CityScope’s success can be measured by the fact that several freshmen in the class declared a major in planning. Though DUSP continues to have a small number of undergraduate majors, spring 2007 brought a double-digit intake for the first time in decades, suggesting that there may be new possibilities for modest growth in this program.

As for faculty, Judith Layzer was promoted to associate professor without tenure effective July 1, 2007, and Dennis Frenchman was appointed professor effective the same date. We were honored to have two Martin Luther King Jr. visiting faculty members this year: Eugene (Gus) Newport, who conducted the Springfield practicum course with professor of the practice Ceasar McDowell, and Professor William Harris, who taught a course on brownfields redevelopment. We also welcomed two new staff members.

Dayna Cunningham became the first executive director of the Center for Reflective Community Practice, and Dr. Robbin Chapman became the School of Architecture and Planning’s first manager of diversity recruitment.

In March 2007, the department held a facilitated daylong retreat for the full faculty at the Babson College conference center in Wellesley. The retreat focused on the need to enhance the sense of a department-wide commons, improve the department’s visibility within MIT and beyond, and develop more venues for social events and informal gatherings. Postretreat meetings set out ideas for implementing action on these agendas during the 2007–2008 academic year. Much of this is intended to coincide with events and activities associated with the 75th anniversary of planning at MIT, which occurs in 2008.

Faculty Awards Professor Lawrence Susskind was presented the annual Global Environmental Award by the International Association for Impact Assessment for his work establishing the field of environmental conflict. Professor Anne Whiston Spirn won both a Guggenheim

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Fellowship and a Fulbright Senior Specialist Fellowship to Denmark. Professor Richard Sennett won the 2006 Hegel Prize, one of Europe’s most coveted honors. Professor Eran Ben-Joseph won a Milka Bliznakov Prize Commendation.

DUSP’s Contribution to MIT-wide Efforts In addition to individual faculty achievements and the projects mentioned above, DUSP contributed to the following MIT-wide efforts: Committee to Assess Environmental Activities at MIT, MIT Energy Initiative, MIT-Portugal Program, New Century Cities, Campus Planning and Urban Ring initiatives, MIT International Advisory Committee, Program on Human Rights and Justice, Teacher Education Program, various MIT International Science and Technology Initiatives (MISTI) programs, and more.

Professors Susskind and Lawrence Vale represented DUSP and the School of Architecture and Planning (SA+P) on the Committee to Assess Environmental Activities at MIT. Much of this year was spent figuring out how to integrate MIT’s ongoing efforts to strengthen teaching and research on sustainable development with President Susan Hockfield’s new MIT Energy Initiative.

Professors Susskind, Frenchman, Ben-Joseph, Karen R. Polenske, and P. Christopher Zegras were active members of SA+P’s Energy Council. This group was established by dean Adèle Naudé Santos to ensure SA+P involvement in the campus-wide Energy Initiative. Working across all units of the school, the council recommended multiyear research and teaching efforts focused on the energy-efficient city. The hope is that SA+P can provide a “demand-side” balance to the supply-side emphasis on the rest of the campus. In addition, the council believes that a focus on patterns of city and regional development can combine with government support of renewable energy sources to reduce reliance on fossil fuels and cut the emission of greenhouse gases.

Professor Zegras is the leader of the Transportation Systems Focus Area of the MITPortugal Program, a multiyear research and educational program involving several Portuguese universities and MIT departments.

Professor Frenchman, with Professor William Mitchell of the Media Lab and senior lecturer Michael Joroff, continued a cross-campus interdisciplinary research effort involving design of the Digital Mile in Zaragoza, Spain, as part of the New Century Cities initiative. They also continue to serve on the international advisory committee for the project along with distinguished visiting professor Manual Castells. The Digital Mile will integrate advanced communications and media into the public environment of this ancient Spanish city, resulting in new activities, patterns of work, and urban structure.

Students and faculty from DUSP, the Media Lab, the Department of Architecture, and the Center for Real Estate participated in the project, which has been recognized as one of the leading efforts worldwide to design “digital space.” Also in Zaragoza, the SENSEable City Laboratory and associate professor of the practice Carlo Ratti worked toward implementing elements of the research as part of an international expo on the theme of water resources that will open next year. MIT will help design the gateway “waterwall” pavilion to the expo as well as an interactive bus stop system. Professor

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Frenchman was also appointed to serve on the MIT Framework and Urban Ring committees, dealing with critical issues facing the campus and its relationships with the Cambridge-Boston community.

The Program on Human Rights and Justice, sponsored by DUSP and CIS, hired a new assistant, organized several human rights talks, cohosted human rights events, and supported seven summer human rights internships with organizations around the world. The summer interns, many of whom were students from DUSP, were supported this year by a grant from the Graduate Student Council and an alum. Substantial time and effort were devoted to fundraising.

MIT’s Teacher Education Program (TEP), led by Professor Eric Klopfer of DUSP, continued to provide MIT students with a pathway to licensure entirely at MIT. This year, TEP saw a surge of interest in the introductory courses, indicating increased interest in this area. There has been continued student interest in the certification program, and with several students hired at local schools, the program has also demonstrated a value to the Greater Boston community. Through this program, TEP will continue to contribute to the field of teacher education and to the MIT community. In June, Joseph B. and Rita P. Scheller signed a gift memorandum to create an endowment for TEP. This endowment, which will support the certification program, outreach and research, and graduate fellowships, marks an important milestone in the long-term stability of this important program. TEP will henceforth be known as the Rita P. and Joseph B. Scheller Teacher Education Program at MIT.

TEP has taken on many new educational technology research and development projects over the past year. Professor Klopfer continued to run a project, funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), to train teachers using new technologies to improve science learning in New Mexico. Also continuing were two grants funded by the US Department of Education’s StarSchools initiative. One, Augmented Reality Games for Learning, is a partnership among MIT, the University of Wisconsin at Madison, and Harvard. This effort uses handheld technologies developed in TEP to build math and literacy skills among middle school students. The other, Learning Games to Go, is a partnership with Maryland Public Television and Johns Hopkins University that is building online and mobile learning games. TEP has also worked with UPS to use some of its technology and training expertise, is making chemistry games through a collaboration with Brandeis, and is part of a new research initiative surrounding the teaching of history and government through the NBC iCue project. It is about to start on a biodiversity project with the Columbus Zoo. Professor Klopfer was on sabbatical this year, during which he wrote a book on mobile learning games that will be published by MIT Press in 2008. For more information on TEP, visit http://education.mit.edu/.

Research and Teaching on Urban Planning The intellectual life of the department is organized largely around the activities of four program groups and several cross-cutting research initiatives. The program groups are City Design and Development (CDD); Environmental Policy and Planning (EPP);

Housing, Community, and Economic Development (HCED); and the International

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Development Group (IDG). We have also designated Urban Information Systems (UIS), Transportation Policy and Planning (TPP), and Regional Planning as cross-cutting initiatives intended to bring together faculty from the four main program groups.

City Design and Development CDD continued its program of urban design studios and workshops in the United States and abroad. Professors John de Monchaux (DUSP) and Julian Beinart (Architecture) led a fall urban design studio in the city of São Paulo, Brazil, focused on revitalization of an important downtown neighborhood. The city has adopted some of the recommendations of the studio. This continues our long record of involvement with urban design issues and solutions in major cities throughout the world. The studio was sponsored by the city of São Paulo and a private developer.

Students of Professors Terry Szold and Eran Ben-Joseph developed a master plan and implementation strategies for a civic realm along the Mystic River and Medford Square, sponsored by the city of Medford, MA. Their proposals for land use, development, and transportation improvements were prepared in concert with local stakeholders and received wide press coverage. This DUSP practicum built on the work of Ben-Joseph and Szold in their coedited book Regulating Place, published by Routledge in 2004, and BenJoseph’s recent book, The Code of the City, published by MIT Press in 2005.

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