Jennifer Minner is an assistant professor at Cornell University. Her research explores tensions and areas of opportunity between land use planning, historic preservation and community development. She is focused on methods of care, conservation, and sustainable adaptation of the built environment. Additionally, her research emphasizes analytical and participatory mapping; and creative and critical approaches to technology.
Jennifer's experience includes planning, research, and community mapping projects related to land use and sustainability, historic preservation, community and economic development, and institutional research. She has been a principal investigator, project director, co-principal investigator, and project manager on an array of research projects sponsored by government agencies and nonprofits including the U.S. Department of the Interior, Department of Housing and Urban Development, Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, US Department of Agriculture, Texas Historical Commission, and City of Austin. She served as chair and heritage commissioner on the Olympia Heritage Commission and on the Ithaca Landmarks Preservation Commission. She is a past president and a founding board member of the MidTexMod chapter of Docomomo U.S., a nonprofit dedicated to documentation and conservation of the Modern Movement in Central Texas.
Jennifer’s education background includes a B.A. in anthropology from the University of Washington (1995), an M.U.R.P. from Portland State University (2000), and a Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin (2013).
Here’s more from our recent conversation with Jennifer:
Q: Are you involved on the ACSP Board or an ACSP Committee?
A: My service to ACSP has been limited; I would love to get more involved. I have participated in discussions led by the APA Academic Membership Task Force and I have helped to organize several roundtables on pedagogy and technology.
Q: Have you won any awards?
A: This year, I was on a research team that won a Smart Cities Award from the American Planning Association Technology Division and an Exemplary Implementation Award from the Scenario Planning Applications Network. The team included: Dr. Elizabeth Mueller (PI), Dr. Thomas Hilde, A. Micklow, Alex Steinberger, Dr. Marla Torrado, and me (Co-PI). More information on the Corridor Housing Preservation Tool is available here. An article I authored with Jeffrey Chusid was awarded the 2016 Oliver Torrey Fuller Award for “demonstrating technical excellence and innovation in preservation practice" from the Association for Preservation Technology.
Students in two of my courses have won awards. In 2017, students from the Land Use, Environmental Planning, and Urban Design Workshop received a New York Upstate Chapter APA Student Project Award for their analysis of Ithaca's Southside neighborhoods. In 2015, a poster designed by students in my course Special Topics in Urban Design: Sustainable Adaptation of Large Modern Footprints won an award from the American Planning Association.
Q: What's your favorite project you’ve worked on?
A: My favorite research projects are those that require the triangulation of mixed methods - especially spatial analysis, participatory action and/or field observation, and archival research. This includes mixed methods research I am presently conducting on collective memory, public space, and former mega-event sites (expo sites); research developing and applying the concept of 'equity preservation' in Buffalo, New York; and the analysis of urban redevelopment patterns along commercial strips using mixed methods including building permit data.
I have also enjoyed working collaboratively on research including development of a scenario planning tool for equitable transit corridor planning (w/ the research team mentioned above), the publication of the book Lost Utopias (w/ artist Jade Doskow); the Austin Historical Survey Wiki project (w/ Dr. Michael Holleran, Dr. Andrea Roberts, Josh Conrad); and mapping of urban-rural linkages between urban farmer's markets and rural producers (w/ Drs. Todd Schmidt, Becca Jablonski, and David Kay).
Q: What future goals do you have in your field?
A: I believe strategies for understanding and responding to patterns of gentrification, displacement, and disinvestment are essential. I think we still have a long way to go in developing land use planning methods and tools that fully incorporate the value of existing communities and existing building stock and respond to the complexities of planning for sensitive and equitable infill development. I would like to participate in the continued development of spatial and temporal tools and methods in the interest of sustainability, particularly with regard to its equity dimension. I would like to participate in helping to forge greater alliances between planning and preservation in creating and sustaining inclusive communities.
Q: How has planning school changed your daily habits?
A: From my alma maters, University of Texas at Austin and Portland State University, I learned from excellent mentors who demonstrated the value of translating theory into action. I now try my best to create an environment conducive to deeply exploring ideas and theories, while providing students with opportunities to engage directly with community planning projects.
Q: What did you want to be when you were growing up?
A: An astronomer. I was a fan of Carl Sagan and wanted to design space habitats. I also wanted to be a detective, a psychologist, and an anthropologist.
Q: How many different cities have you lived in and which was your favorite?
A: I have lived in: Olympia, WA; Kent, WA; Seattle, WA; Portland, OR; Eugene, OR; Idaho Falls, ID; Boise, ID; Indianapolis, IN; Creston, IA; Austin, TX; Ithaca, NY; and for a few months at a time - Los Angeles, CA and Hanoi, Vietnam. I have enjoyed and learned from each of these communities. Now that I am here, I do love Ithaca.
Q: If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?
A: Over the summer, I visited Australia for research purposes and to attend a conference. I would love to return to learn more. I would also like to return to Asia to witness the incredible changes that have occurred over the past decade since my last visit to Vietnam. In general, I would like to travel to communities around the world to understand methods of community memory and stewardship of the built environment.
Q: What is the title of the last book you read? What did you learn from it?
A: I recently finished reading Robert Beauregard’s Planning Matter: Acting with Things. I was inspired by the synthesis of actor-network theory and social justice. I also enjoyed reading Why Preservation Matters by Max Page and I wish that I had read the book before teaching my Equity Preservation Workshop. I would have assigned it! Finally, I was deeply impressed by the exhibition catalog for Jonathan Jones’ art installation in Sydney called barrangal dyara (skin and bones). It represents a profound expression of Aboriginal language and culture and a powerful vision for social practice art and collective memory. I also want to give a shout out for recent books by Karen Chapple (Planning Sustainable Cities and Regions: Towards More Equitable Development) and Sonia Hirt (Zoned in the USA), which have greatly enriched my classes.
Q: What’s your favorite color and how would you creatively incorporate it into a planning project?
A: I'm drawn to the many colors used in existing and future land use maps. These are strange, beautiful, and dangerous abstractions as expressed in a rainbow palette. The colors can make anything look exciting and visionary – for better or worse. I enjoy teaching students how to use GIS and scenario planning tools, but I also want them to think critically about mapped representations to understand their power and their limitations.