Reflection: Department of Urban and Regional Planning

Daniel B. Hess, Professor and Chair – Department of Urban and Regional Planning.

by Dr. Daniel B. Hess

Published May 14, 2021

In planning, design, development, and preservation, our approach to education is place-based and people-based. This is a reflection of the ways in which we engage communities and offer pathways for improvement to help address pressing challenges.

Some faculty report that they are able to offer instruction in a focused way via digital conferencing tools. Certain class discussion are enhanced through digital conferencing, and some students are emboldened to engage more in discussions and group activities via Zoom than they would in an on-the-ground classroom.

In particular, the engaged teaching and learning setting of a studio-workshop course has sometimes been enhanced through digital conference, where team building and collaboration can happen and flourish. Students have benefited from experts and professionals from throughout the U.S. and across the globe visiting their classrooms as everyone adjusted to life in the pandemic and became more comfortable delivering presentations via Zoom. Our faculty members and instructors strive to create an inclusive learning environment that takes into account unique circumstances for class members and challenges that students might experience.

This reflection was originally written for our journal of student work, Intersight 23. View the digital publication here.

We do miss, however, the opportunity to assemble together in activated shared space for teaching and learning, to engage with client and community groups who are participants in and consumers of our work, and to experience first-hand the places that are the sites of our interventions in planning, design, development, and preservation.

Our faculty members have demonstrated both resilience and flexibility during the pandemic in the continuation of their research and scholarship. This is a point of pride for us. Faculty members have applied for - and been awarded - more research grants. I consider this a significant accomplishment in our remote work environments and given all of the complications that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought us. Many faculty researchers have adjusted/modified their research programs to accommodate experiences related to the pandemic. In the department chair’s office, Norma Everett and I miss seeing students on a day-to-day basis, but we have smoothly adjusted advising, student support, and other administrative aspects of students’ academic programs to a distance/remote format. This has been effective so far; however, we look forward to a return to greater in-person engagement.

We are in the process of gauging the after-effects of our pivot to remote learning during the pandemic. Some aspects of remote instruction may remain with us. And we will take away certain things we discovered about teaching and learning planning, design, development, and preservation. In planning the future of our academic programs, we will keep in mind the student experience, as we try to create inclusive settings for engaged learning.