Featured Faculty: Lucie Laurian
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Lucie Laurian is a Professor in the School of Urban and Regional Planning at the University of Iowa. After completing her Masters degrees in Urban Sociology and Demography in Paris, France, she moved to the United States. and received her Ph.D. in Planning at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She joined the faculty at the University of Arizona, before settling in Iowa City in 2004.

Her interests lay at the intersection of environmental management, equity and democracy in urban planning. She researches environmental justice in the U.S. and in France. In the U.S. context, she studied how communities respond to, and shape, toxic site cleanup processes – by means of direct public participation and through Community Advisory Boards. She produced the first French Environmental Justice study, showing that a variety of polluting sites are located in disproportionately immigrant communities. This field of research has since developed in France, and she regularly contributes to this scholarship. Second, she focuses on the implementation of sustainability plans and strategies at the local government level. Her research on this area has focused on the US and New Zealand. In the early 1990s, New Zealand adopted and devolved a national mandate to implement sustainability at the regional and local levels. Lucie was part of a team that analyzed the quality, implementation and outcomes of these first-generation sustainability plans. More recently, she received NSF funding to research the institutional dynamics that support and hinder sustainability implementation in the US and New Zealand. This work analyzed the relative, direct and indirect impacts of public pressure, economic constraints, institutional culture and institutional structure on implementation. It highlighted, for instance, the major impacts of political commitment to sustainability (or lack thereof) on implementation. Finally, she also studies local democratic processes, including the Athenian democratic model, public participation mechanisms and their impacts on planning decisions, planners’ public participation priorities and practices, the meaning and role of trust in planning, the ethics of the “planning for active living” agenda, and the role of “immovable” resistance (v. negotiated agreements) in planning.

Her current interests include the meaning of time for planning, or, the importance of sense-of-time and dwelling-in-time for human wellbeing and the social construction of planning timeframes and time imaginaries. She is also interested in (long-term, time-conscious) urban forestry practices, urban greening and the adoption of not only sustainable, but also ecologically regenerative, urban practices.
Lucie teaches courses that include Research Methods, Environmental management, Healthy cities and Urban design. She is very actively engaged in her students’ professional development by advising their capstone projects. She remains active in her community, as a Commissioner on the Iowa City Parks and Recreations Commission, as a member of the Johnson County Comprehensive Plan committee, and as an advisor to the Sustainable Iowa Land Trust.

Lucie has been a member of ACSP for more than a decade and occasionally mentors ACSP junior faculty, as well as contributes to FWIG and GPEIG activities when needed. She currently chairs the Gill-Chin Lim Award committee for best dissertation on international planning and was recently elected to the ACSP board where she will begin serving this October. “I am looking forward to serving as a regional representative to ACSP,” shared Lucie. “It is an honor and I’m delighted to take on this position.”

Lucie is known for her commitment (and advice) to setting aside time to explore urban spaces, to constantly regenerate intellectual curiosity, and to focus on projects that grab the imagination.

Q: What's your favorite project you’ve worked on?
A: An NSF-funded grant on the Institutional factors that support/hinder the implementation of sustainability initiatives at the local government level (with a US-New Zealand comparison). Also showing that environmental injustice is not only a US-specific issue, same trends in France.

Q: What future goals do you have in your field?
A: Continue to work on best ways to remove barriers to advancing sustainability in cities and towns. This seems increasingly important with every year that passes.

Q: How has planning school changed your daily habits?
A: I learned that I work best when I feel moved to do it. So, I learned to channel what I learn (through reading, listening, observing, following the news and teaching) into energy that moves me to work, research, write and become engage in local issues.

Q: What did you want to be when you were growing up?
A: First an astronaut, then a sociologist, then an urban sociologist-environmentalist. Planning allowed me to do that!

Q: How many different cities have you lived in and which was your favorite?
A: Paris, NYC, Chapel Hill, NC, Tucson, AZ, Iowa City, IA, Hamilton New Zealand, Amsterdam, Venice. My favorites are car-free Venice, Tucson for the Sonoran desert, Iowa City for the 2 minute commute and 4 distinct seasons, NYC for its energy, Amsterdam for the bike culture and the architecture, Paris because it's home. Really, I love most cities once I get to know them!

Q: If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?
A: Two mountain ranges: the Andes because i've never been there, and the Pyrenees because they feel just right, on the Spanish-French border, warm, welcoming and wild. And, Mexico City, because it has such an exciting art scene.

Q: What is the title of the last book you read? What did you learn from it?
A: I recently finished The Comfort of Things by Daniel Miller. It's an ethnographic book about our relationship to the objects around us. Teaches us to look around more carefully and consider our choices with more self-awareness. I'm now wrapped in Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children, which teaches me a lot about story telling, non-western writing styles, and of course the India-Pakistan partition.

Q: What’s your favorite color and how would you creatively incorporate it into a planning project?
A: I like all colors except for taupe. I hear it goes with everything and helps with resale value, but the ubiquitous placeless taupe-colored suburb has become a symbol of all land-consumptive, impersonal and destructive American sprawl. Short of that, i love all colors. Reds and oranges, turquoises and purples, greens and yellows. In planning projects... i encourage students to create vibrant catching exciting designs and infographics. We've had some successes already, with funded new bike lanes, parks and playgrounds.

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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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