Featured Faculty: Bonnie Johnson
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Bonnie Johnson, Ph.D., AICP

Bonnie J. Johnson, PhD, AICP is Associate Professor in the University of Kansas’ Urban Planning Department and has been an ACSP member for more than a decade. Bonnie teaches planning theory, sustainable land use, and politics and planning courses. Research interests include: civic bureaucracy, staff reports, television and citizen participation, planners working with city managers, and competitive elections. Bonnie is particularly interested in whatever improves the effectiveness and resilience of practicing planners. She will be presenting two sessions at the up-coming 2017 American Planning Association (APA) national conference. One of Bonnie’s sessions will be focused on staff reports, while the other will compare the codes of ethics of planners and city managers.

Bonnie was part of the wave of double majors in political science and Latin American Studies after the Reagan era and then earned masters degrees in political science and urban planning from the University of Kansas. Before returning to school for her doctorate in political science/public administration, Bonnie was a practicing city planner for eight years. Her first planning job was with the City of Amarillo, Texas, followed by Liberty, Missouri, and lastly Johnson County, Kansas. While at the City of Liberty, Missouri, she was project manager for Liberty’s national award winning Blueprint for Liberty: Land Use Plan. The plan was honored with the APA’s “Outstanding Planning Award.” In addition, she wrote Liberty’s Wireless Communication Facilities Plan and Ordinance, which received an “Excellence in Planning Award” from the Missouri Chapter of the APA.

Education was inevitable for Bonnie, and she began her teaching career at the University of Kansas in 2006. In 2009, her course in planning history and theory won the “Best Use of Technology for a University Urban and Regional Planning Program” from the Technology Division of the American Planning Association for her use of digital storytelling as a learning and communication tool. Because her interests bridge planning and public administration, she publishes in planning journals (Journal of the American Planning Association, Planning Theory & Practice, Planning Practice & Research) and public administration journals (American Review of Public Administration, International Journal of Public Administration, International Public Management Journal).

Until recently, Bonnie did not realize that her research would uniquely prepare her for insights into the Donald Trump administration. Her 2005 article on “Identities of Competitive States in U.S. Presidential Elections: Electoral College Bias or Candidate-Centered Politics?” Publius: The Journal of Federalism 35 (2): 337-355 emphasizes that competitive states change according to the unique qualities of the candidate. Then she and her co-author Michael Graves’ 2011 article, “Keeping It Real: What Planning Can Learn from Reality TV”, Journal of the American Planning Association, 77 (3), 214-231 addresses how to use the methods of reality TV to engage the public.

Currently, Bonnie is the Professional Development Officer for the Kansas Chapter of the APA and can be seen in the association’s training video on “Preparing for Planning Commission Meetings: Staff Reports.”

Here’s more from our conversation with Bonnie:

Q: What's your favorite project you’ve worked on?
A: The Blueprint for Liberty: Land Use plan. Nothing beats working with thoughtful engaged citizens, elected officials, and great colleagues.

Q: What future goals do you have in your field?
A: To expand my research into how city planners and city managers can learn from each other and collaborate to make great communities.

Q: How has planning school changed your daily habits?
A: As I recall, planning school tried to get me to come to 9:00 a.m. classes on time. It sort of stuck. . .

Q: What did you want to be when you were growing up?
A: First woman governor of Oklahoma

Q: How many different cities have you lived in and which was your favorite?
A: Six - Lawrence, Kansas

Q: If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?
A: I would go to Paris. I have to go there and walk in Edmund Bacon's footsteps. I already did Rome!

Q: What is the title of the last book you read? What did you learn from it?
A: "Healing After Loss" by Martha Whitmore Hickman. I learned we all are carrying around with us a lot of loss and it would help if we all felt we could share that more freely. It would make it easier for the next person to know others have been there and made it through.

Q: What’s your favorite color and how would you creatively incorporate it into a planning project?
A: Orange. You can never go wrong with using the complimentary colors of orange and blue. Try it in your next staff report!  

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The Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning promotes education, research, service and outreach in the United States and throughout the world by seeking to:

  • recognize diverse needs and interests in planning;
  • improve and enhance the accreditation process, and;
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  • extend planning beyond the classroom into the world of practice.

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