College of Charleston Urban Studies Program Update

The Fall 2016 semester has been an exciting time for the Program, with signs of continued strength, interest, and growth.  Urban Studies is a vibrant program at the College of Charleston, and it is my hope that many great things are in store in 2017!

 

Health of the Program

The Urban Studies Program continues to draw interest from students at the College of Charleston.  As of this writing, there are 33 students majoring and 24 students minoring in Urban Studies.  This means that, in total, there are 57 students at the College, in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, participating  in Urban Studies.  There are currently 3 Honors College students who have chosen Urban Studies as a major, which equates to approximately 10% of the Program’s student body.

 

Participation in Campus Life and Other Exciting News

The Urban Studies Program continues to be an avid participator in the larger life of the Campus.  The Program offered a table at the Majors and Minors fair held on September 28, 2016 on the Cougar Mall.   Sixteen students visited the table and requested additional information about the program.  The Urban Studies Program also participated in two study abroad fairs to advertise the first ever study abroad being offered by the Program in conjunction with Todd LeVasseur from the Religious Studies Department.  The title of the Study Abroad is “Nature Ethics and Ecovillages in Europe” and it will be offered in Summer 2017.  Students who participate in this study abroad will receive credit for URST 313 “Sustainable Urbanism” and RELS 298/ENVT 395 “Special Topics in Religious Studies.”  The students will travel to ecovillages outside of Vienna, Austria and Berlin, Germany.  Students will live in 3 different communities that are pioneering innovative ways to achieve social, economic, and political sustainability.  It is hoped that these models will help students learn how to foster sustainability in their future jobs in urban and regional planning here in the U.S.  For more information about the program, please visit this web site: http://cofc.abroadoffice.net/internal-program-description-CofC-in-Austria-and-Germany-2017-Religious-Studies-Environmental-Studies-and-Urban-Studies-168220-18.html .

Four Urban Studies Students also attended the South Carolina American Planning Association’s Fall 2016 meeting, held in Augusta, GA in partnership with the Georgia Chapter of the American Planning Association.  This conference was held the last week of September.  Urban Studies was able to fully fund the student’s attendance at this 3 day conference, including transportation and lodging.  Attendance at these conferences is a great way for students to learn about the profession and network with professionals.   Additionally, the South Carolina American Planning Association continues to provide support to our students who are interested in studying and advancing planning, with generous commitment pledged in the 2017 academic year.  Our partnership with SCAPA is a wonderful example of the planning community’s commitment to the development of students and early career professionals.

 

Urban Studies Fall 2016 Convocation

The Urban Studies Program continued its tradition of holding a fall convocation that advances the College Reads! theme for the year.  This year, the program invited Dr. Junaid Rana from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.  Dr. Rana’s talk was delivered on November 3, 2016 in the Stern Center Ballroom and it was titled “One Freedom Fighter and the Terror Trap: A Tale of the Global City after 9/11.”  The convocation was packed with over 150 people in attendance, including several members of the Urban Studies Advisory Board, local planners, and other members from the broader community, including the President of the Charleston Central Mosque.  The presentation also offered CM credits to planners maintaining their AICP certification.

Dr. Rana summarized his talk as follows: This talk will address Islamophobia as a concept and as it relates to racism. For students and faculty this will provide a broad outline of the stakes of anti-Muslim rhetoric and some broad points to address the discussion of a more nuanced idea of race and racism. The talk is based in a discussion of urban politics in the New York City Borough of Brooklyn in terms of the prosecution of a Kashmiri activist based in the DC metropolitan area and the particular logic of law enforcement including the NYPD, FBI, and Justice Department to construct a case purportedly based in the rubrics of security and terror prevention. As this case showed, Islamophobia from the perspective of the US government has an international character related to the global war on terror that was assumed to be based in a legal framing in which terror is imagined through the terms of criminology.

After the talk, the students gathered with Dr. Rana for conversation over a meal held in the Stern Ballroom.  This provided the opportunity for the students to engage in community, talk with the presenter about themes from his presentation, and enjoy a good, fun meal with friends and professors.

One million “thank yous” to the many sponsors who generously helped make this convocation a success:

  • Office for the Academic Experience
  • Department of Art and Architectural History
  • First Year Experience – A College Reads! Event
  • School of Humanities and Social Sciences
  • Office of Institutional Diversity
  • School of Languages, Cultures, and World affairs
  • Department of Political Science
  • Office of the Provost
  • Department of Religious Studies
  • The Riley Center for Livable Communities
  • The Urban and Regional Planning Certificate, Public Administration Program

 

Student Ambassador Program

 The Student Ambassador Program offered another successful semester of programming to its inaugural class of 9 students.  This semester, the students participated in the 1-credit URST 350 “Junior Student Ambassadorship” class, which is designed to introduce students to the fundamentals of communicating with diverse audiences.  Via a generous grant provided by the South Carolina American Planning Association in the amount of $4,000, the ambassadors were instructed by Dr. Beth Sundstrom from the Department of Communication in basic aspects of writing press releases and communicating effectively using social media.  They also learned how to write grants, under the guidance of Caroline Mullis, Program Officer at Coastal Community Foundation, and Ali Titus, Awareness and Advocacy Manager at Center for Women in Charleston.  Six of the ambassadors also traveled to Clemson University, Department of City of Regional Planning, on November 11 to hear a lecture by Dr. Vern Baxter from the University of New Orleans, Department of Sociology titled “Slave Finance and Urban Development.”  The students were also paired with graduate students at Clemson University who will serve as mentors to the students.  A mentor kit was prepared to structure the relationship amongst these students.  In addition, the Ambassadors will also be paired with graduate student mentors in the Master of Public Administration Program along with community and business mentors in the Charleston area.  The goal of this dimension of the program is to provide a powerful, resourceful link for the students to learn about graduate school options and to develop as young professionals under the guidance of a committed community mentor.  The Urban Studies Program is currently conducting an assessment of the ambassadorships, which will involve surveying the students regarding their experiences thus far.  In addition, Dr. Stewart, Randall Goldman (a community collaborator), and I will be searching for mentors to guide the students as they develop as young professionals.

 

Curricular Issues

The Urban Studies Program now officially has a 3rd concentration in “Sustainable Urbanism” available within the major.  This concentration came online in Fall 2016, and currently 3 students have declared it as part of their program of study.  Jessica Rodman will be the first ever Urban Studies student to graduate with this concentration.

Several additional changes to the Urban Studies Program are pending review and approval by the College of Charleston Faculty Curriculum Committee in Spring 2017.  ECON 340 “Public Finance” will be added to the Urban Planning and Administration Concentration. This class will help students learn about the intricacies of financial management of cities and municipalities.  ARTH 396 “The Architecture of Memory: Museums, Memorials, and Monuments” will be added to the Urban Policy and Social Problems Concentration.  Because the memorialization process is fraught with politics, and memorialization is often connected to the process of understanding urban social ‘problems,’ the Executive Committee felt that this would be an ideal course for students studying the city.  Finally, HPCP 222 “Heritage Preservation and Environmental Conservation” will be added to the concentration in Sustainable Urbanism.  This class will add the perspective of historic preservation to the study of sustainable urbanism, which is particularly relevant vis-à-vis green building and smart growth.  Other minor curriculum changes will also be advanced in the Spring 2017 semester, including the addition of URST 450 “Senior Student Ambassadorship” to the URST Minor, and the updating of the URST Minor lists to reflect the classes available in the Sustainable Urbanism Concentration.  The Urban Studies Program is still seeking to develop a stronger linkage to the Master of Public Administration at CofC via an accelerated BA to MA program, and we are hopeful that at some point in the future this link will become a reality.  Stay tuned for more information on this endeavor in the Spring update.

 

Assessment of Student Portfolios

 In an excellent sign for the program, 3 students completed the URST Practicum this semester and all 3 of the students had their portfolios reviewed by members of the Advisory Board.  The Advisory Board members review the portfolios of graduating seniors and provide feedback on the quality of the portfolios and the readiness of the students for the work place (as reflected in the portfolio).  This year, all 3 students were rated as meeting or exceeding expectations.  These are independent evaluations, conducted by professionals in the field.  Special thanks to Jenny Werking, URST alumna and Planner II with the County of Charleston, Christiane Farrell, Director of Mt. Pleasant Planning and Development, and Dan Pennick, consultant and former director, Charleston County Department of Planning and Zoning.  These Advisory Board members have generously given of their time, and we are very grateful to them for it!

 

Executive Committee

The Executive Committee met in the Fall 2016 to discuss a variety of curricular issues, including ways to build the program.  The Committee also welcomed Dr. Kendra Stewart, Director of the Riley Center for Livable Communities and Professor of Political Science, to Carol Toris’s seat.  (Dr. Toris retired in the Spring 2016 semester).  The full list of Urban Studies Executive Committee members is available here: http://urbanstudies.cofc.edu/about/executive-committee/index.php  .  Dr. George Hopkins will also be retiring from the Executive Committee at the close of the spring semester.  (He is retiring from the College.)

 

Advisory Board

The Urban Studies Advisory Board welcomed Gwen Moultrie, Director of Planning and Zoning for the City of North Charleston, and Jacob Lindsey, Director of Planning, Preservation, and Sustainability for the City of Charleston.  The Advisory Board is now comprised of the most noted planners of the major offices of planning surrounding the College.  The full list of Advisory Board members is available here: http://urbanstudies.cofc.edu/about/advisory-board/index.php .

 

Comings and Goings

There have been several comings and goings related to Urban Studies.  First, Dr. Carol Toris, Associate Professor of Psychology, retired from both the College of Charleston and the Executive Committee at the close of Spring 2016.  Dr. Kendra Stewart, Professor of Political Science, assumed her seat on the Executive Committee this fall.  Johnsie Wilkinson also joined the Committee as the undergraduate representative.  Her term will last through the spring semester.  The Program also welcomed Ryan McClure, Planner II at the Berkeley-Charleston-Dorchester Council of Governments as an adjunct professor, delivering instruction in Urban Studies 101.

Six Urban Studies students graduated in the Spring 2016 semester: Kaitlyn Bush, Michael Drews, Logan Elliott, Christian Hughes, Jessica Kesten, and Brendan Williams.  We wish each of these students the very best in the future!

 

Goals for Spring 2017

There are several goals for the Spring 2017 semester.  First, the Advisory Board will be convened to discuss the status of the program, and to brainstorm ways to improve the prospects of our students once they leave the College and enter the job market.   Second, Dr. Stewart and I will be searching for professionals from the Charleston community who will be willing to serve as mentors to the Student Ambassadors, and we will further build out the program.  We will also be seeking a new class of Ambassadors to enter the program in Fall 2017.  Third, there will be a spring lecture focused on a professional dimension of planning, rather than the theoretical dimension discussed in the fall.  This lecture will coincide with the 44th Anniversary of the founding of the Urban Studies Program at the College of Charleston (April 2017).

 

Thank you for everything that you have done to support Urban Studies over the past semester.  I wish each of you the very best for the new year, and I look forward to continuing our work in advancing Urban Studies in the Lowcountry and at the College of Charleston.

 

Kevin Keenan, Ph.D., AICP

Associate Professor

 

Learn about Urban Studies @ CofC:   click here

Learn about Urban and Regional Planning @ CofC:   click here