Urban Design & Planning Interdisciplinary PhD

Annual Symposium

The Annual PhD Symposium

Presented by the Interdisciplinary PhD Program in Urban Design and Planning at the University of Washington

2020: Pandemic Urbanism Symposium

In lieu of a traditional Annual Symposium, the Urban Design & Planning PhD and the College of Built Environments are sponsoring a special student-run Pandemic Urbanism Symposium, Friday, May 29.  Organizers include current and recent URBDP PhD students Evan Carver, Peter T. Dunn, Katie Idziorek, Lan T. Nguyen, Boyang Sa, Elizabeth Umbanhowar, and Yiyuan Wang.

Academics, practitioners, civic leaders, and activists will contribute around four themes:

    • Mobility (e.g., geographies of accessibility; transit funding and operations; travel patterns and mode shift)
    • Sociability (e.g., social infrastructure; parks and public space; social distancing; communications technology)
    • Politics (e.g., role of government; civic engagement; community organization; equity; resilience; activism and protest)
    • Density (e.g., health and contagion; critical infrastructure; built environments; land use; service delivery; agglomeration economies)

Those interested in participating may complete a Participant Form or email or email pandemicurbanism@uw.edu. Calls to present are due May 1.



Deferred to 2021: Just Sustainabilities in Policy, Planning and Practice

Keynote Speaker: Julian Agyeman PhD FRSA FRGS

In his talk, Julian will outline the concept of just sustainabilities as a response to the ‘equity deficit’ of much sustainability thinking and practice. He will explore his contention that who can belong in our cities will ultimately determine what our cities can become. He will illustrate his ideas with examples from urban planning and design, urban agriculture and food justice, and the concept of sharing cities.

Julian Agyeman PhD FRSA FRGS is a Professor of Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning at Tufts University. He is the originator of the increasingly influential concept of just sustainabilities, the intentional integration of social justice and environmental sustainability. He centers his research on critical explorations of the complex and embedded relations between humans and the urban environment, whether mediated by governments or social movement organizations, and their effects on public policy and planning processes and outcomes, particularly in relation to notions of justice and equity.

He believes that what our cities can become (sustainable, smart, sharing and resilient) and who is allowed to belong in them (recognition of difference, diversity, and a right to the city) are fundamentally and inextricably interlinked. We must therefore act on both belonging and becoming, together, using just sustainabilities as the anchor, or face deepening spatial and social inequities and inequalities.

He is the author or editor of 11 books, including Just Sustainabilities: Development in an Unequal World (MIT Press, 2003), Cultivating Food Justice: Race, Class and Sustainability (MIT Press, 2011), and Sharing Cities: A Case for Truly Smart and Sustainable Cities (MIT Press, 2015), one of Nature’s Top 20 Books of 2015. In 2018, he was awarded the Athena City Accolade by KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden, for his “outstanding contribution to the field of social justice and ecological sustainability, environmental policy and planning.”

2019: Trends in Interdisciplinary PhD Education and Research in Urban Design and Planning


Thursday, May 30

50th Anniversary Celebration

Friday, May 31

Panel discussions with alumni, students, and faculty.

2018: Urban growth challenges and social justice: Learning from the past and looking to the future 


Keynote Speaker: Dr. Leonie Sandercock

Friday, May 4, 9:00 a.m.–4:30 p.m.

Native Chicano Suite, Samuel E. Kelly Ethnic Cultural Center

The connections between urban growth and social justice are complex. The current housing affordability crisis, increasing income disparity, and threats of natural disasters are felt disproportionately by those without voice and power in our current political and economic structure. As we look to the future, how can we learn from past lessons to meaningfully address the challenges of growth by considering problems and approaches through a lens of social justice?

Leonie Sandercock is a Professor at UBC’s School of Community and Regional Planning (SCARP). Her main research interest is in working with First Nations, through collaborative community planning, using the medium of film as a catalyst for dialogue, on the possibilities of healing, reconciliation, and partnership. Her documentary (with Giovanni Attili) ‘Finding Our Way’ serves as a catalyst for dialogues in BC communities (see www.mongrelstories.com and www.facebook.com/FINDING.OUR.WAY.thefilm). Her other research interests include immigration, cultural diversity and integration; the possibilities of a more therapeutic model of planning; the importance of stories and storytelling in planning theory and practice; and the role of multimedia in planning.

Dr. Sandercock’s current work focuses on the work of healing, reconciliation and the possibility of partnerships between Native and non-Native Canadians as well as community development and cross-cultural dialogue in historically divided communities. Since 2010, Leonie has been working on a new curriculum, Indigenous Community Planning (ICP), within SCARP’s Masters degree.

This event is presented by the Interdisciplinary PhD Program in Urban Design & Planning and is co-sponsored by the Canadian Studies Center in the Henry M. Jackson School of International Studies and UW Department of Urban Design & Planning with additional support from the College of Built Environments.

2017: Program Building Workshop 

Thursday, May 4, 9:00 am — 4:00 pm

Petersen Room of Allen Library, Room 485

Panel Topics


Planners are comfortable describing, analyzing, and intervening in cities on spatial terms, but what about the temporal aspects of cities? How do we account for the city’s gradual or sudden changes, its rhythms, memory, long-term visions, or rare events?


Ann Bostrum, Weyerhaeuser Endowed Professor in Environmental Policy, Evans School of Public Affairs
Tracy Fuentes, PhD Candidate
Boyang Sa, PhD Student
JD Tovey, PhD Candidate
Moderator: Phillipe Valliant PhD Student


Our current national political discourse has reminded us that basic notions of “fact” and “truth,” to say nothing of the more complex practices of science, are never uncontested. This points to longstanding issues in planning practice (whose knowledge counts in political decision-making?) and in urban research (what counts as evidence?), but also raises more immediate concerns about urban planning in an era of attack on science. Also, what do you do when the data sources you have relied on are no longer available?


Christopher Campbell, Department Chair, Urban Design & Planning
Bob Mugerauer, Professor and Director of PhD in the Built Environment Program
Ihnji Jon, PhD Student
Moderator: Susmita Rishi, PhD Candidate

Lightning Talks


Mary Roderick, PhD Candidate. Strategic Green Infrastructure: A Geodesign-based Planning Support Approach
Marina Alberti, Professor and Director of PhD Program, Urban Design and Planning. Cities: EcoEvolutionary Dynamics
Qing Shen, Professor in Urban Design & Planning. My current research in Urban Environment & Transportation
Dorian Bautista, PhD Student. The Importance of a Systemic Framework for Resilience: Feedback from Complex Adaptive Socio-Ecological Systems (CASES).
Ann Bostrum, Weyerhaeuser Endowed Professor in Environmental Policy, Evans School of Public Affairs. Bringing Climate Change Home with the CIG Time of Emergence Tool.
Mingyu Kang, PhD Student. Quantification of Urban Form and Human Behaviors

2016: The Future City: Emergence of a New Science 

Keynote Speakers: Drs. Luis Bettencourt & Carlo Ratti

Thursday, May 5, 9:00 a.m–4:00 p.m

Intellectual House

What drives urban evolution? Are there underlying mechanisms and universal laws of urban change? What are the scenarios of plausible urban futures? What do we know, and what do we not know? How can big data and new technologies transform the sciences, decision-making, and the practice? What are the emerging challenges for future research? What kinds of cities do we want to live in? How can communities imagine and direct urban change to create the cities we desire?

Luis Bettencourt, from Santa Fe Institute, is a theoretical physicist who studies the city as complex system with an emphasis on identifying underlying laws that drive innovation and urban change as well as the role of social networks within these urban systems.

Carlo Ratti, from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, directs the Senseable City Lab which explores urban imagination and social innovation through design and science.

2015: Scale and Resilience in Planning: from the Salish Sea to the Chengdu Plain 

Keynote Speakers: Drs. Lance Gunderson & Frans Padt

Thursday, May 7, 9:00 a.m.–4:15 p.m.

Petersen Room of Allen Library, Room 485

The intellectual focus of the Symposium will be the ways in which socio-ecological system processes operate across scale, and the methodological implications for scholarship and planning practice. The Symposium will focus on two case studies (Western Sichuan, China, and the Salish Sea Basin, US-Canada) to address concepts and theories of cross-scale interactions. We aim to gain a better understanding of how to choose relevant scales for analysis of specific problems, and how approaches from various disciplines are useful at different scales. Our wish is to make this event a time when we can benefit from the application of theories and concepts about scale and resilience to concrete case studies.

Lance Gunderson, from Emory University’s Department of Environmental Sciences, has served as the Executive Director of the Resilience Network and is Co-Editor in Chief of the online journal Ecology and Society.

Frans Padt, from Pennsylvania State University’s Department of Agricultural Economics, Sociology, and Education and the Department of Landscape Architecture, is a pioneer in addressing issues of scale-sensitive governance of the environment.


2014: The Centrality of Urban in the Anthropocene: Implications for Graduate Research and Education

Keynote Speakers: Drs. Geoffrey West & Henrik Ernstson

Tuesday, May 6, 10:00 a.m.–4:00 p.m.

Center for Urban Horticulture, NHS Hall

The study of cities is gaining a new centrality. Planetary-scale changes pose inevitably new challenges to understand complex interactions among ecological, socio-economic, and political processes that govern urban development. A very diverse and complex landscape of disciplinary studies ranging from ecology to public health, sociology and political science is shifting the focus of a significant component of their inquiry towards the “urban”. The emerging urban centrality gives “urban studies” a new responsibility and offers our field a unique opportunity for leading a long term interdisciplinary research agenda, transforming modes of inquiry, and reconfiguring educational settings.

Geoffrey West is Distinguished Professor and former President of the Santa Fe Institute. He has a BA from Cambridge and PhD in physics from Stanford, where he was on the faculty. West’s interests are in fundamental questions ranging from elementary particles and universal scaling laws in biology to developing a science of cities, companies and global sustainability. His research includes metabolism, growth, aging & death, cancer, ecosystems, innovation, and the accelerating pace of life. He has received many awards and been featured across the media. His work was selected as a breakthrough idea by Harvard Business Review in 2007 and for Time’s 2006 list of “100 Most Influential People in the World.”

Henrik Ernstson‘s background lies in system ecology (PhD) and applied physics (MA), but he has developed a core interest in urban political ecology and social movement studies. He is currently Stig Hagstrom scholar at Department of History, Stanford University and was previously at the Stockholm Resilience Center. He is PI of two research projects that combine ethnographic, critical and social network studies around ways of knowing urban ecologies and socioecological movements in Cape Town, New Orleans and Stockholm. Recently he published on urban ecology and African/postcolonial urbanism in Antipode and Regional Studies and leads an book project with studies from Lagos, Rio, Delhi, Yixing (China), San Francisco and Berlin.

2013: History of Settlement 

Panel Discussion: Chaired by Dr. Steve Harrell
Tuesday, May 21st, 12:30 p.m.–2:30 p.m.
Gould Hall, Room 208J

Please join us in our Annual Symposium exploring the history of the evolution of urban development, and what role this history has in what we see today in current urban development and more importantly, what does it mean for the future of cities.

2012: Urban Resilience 

Keynote Speaker: Dr. Charles Redman

Panel Discussions
Wednesday, April 25, 10:00 a.m.–4:00 p.m.
Petersen Room, Allen Library, Room 485

Please join us in our Annual Symposium exploring the diverse dimensions of resilience in urbanizing regions and the implications for urban scholarship and planning practice. The symposium will begin with a keynote address by Dr. Charles Redman, Virginia M. Ullman Professor of Natural History and the Environment, Distinguished Scientist at the Global Institute of Sustainability, and Founding Director of the School of Sustainability at Arizona State University. Dr. Redman is a pioneer in thinking about urban resilience in coupled human-natural systems and offers a broad perspective on resilience and sustainability. The talk will be followed by a UW faculty panel and discussion addressing the social, economic, ecological, institutional, and cultural aspects in developing a framework for thinking about urban resilience.

2011: Our Intellectual Identity and Emerging Synergies

John Friedmann: Reflections on a life in planning
April 28, 7:00 p.m.
Johnson Hall, Room 102

John Friedman is an Honorary Professor in the School of Community and Regional Planning at The University of British Columbia and continues as Professor Emeritus in the School of Public Affairs at UCLA. His current research is on urbanization processes with special reference to China. His most recent book is Insurgencies: Essays in Planning Theory (Routledge, 2011), a collection of essays on the history and evolution of planning theory.

Panel Discussions
April 29, 10:00 a.m.–4:00 p.m.
Parrington Hall, Room 102

Join us in a discussion on what is unique about our program intellectual domain, what are the emerging opportunities for cross-fertilization and how planning theory and practice link our research areas. The day will be structured around four panels, each addressing a specific area of planning specialization, with John Friedmann serving as the general discussant. 

2010: Charting Our Future by Reflecting on Our Past

April 22, 9:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m.
April 23, 9:30 a.m.–12:30 p.m.
Peterson Room, Allen Library, Room 485

2009: Bridging Academia and Practice in Planning Research

April 20, 11:00 a.m.–3:00 p.m.
Peterson Room, Allen Library, Room 485

In this year’s symposium, we will reflect on the opportunities and challenges in linking academic research and practice in the field of planning. This symposium will be structured around a panel discussion featuring key scholars and practitioners in the field of planning, and a session presenting the current dissertation research from the students of the Interdisciplinary PhD Program in Urban Design and Planning and the PhD Program in the Built Environment.