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Reflections on IV World Planning Schools Congress in Rio, 2016

Posted By Administration, Friday, February 10, 2017

The reflections below are offered by students who received support from travel to the 2016 World Planning Schools Congress for the Global Planning Education Association Network.


Jennifer A. Williams, Ph.D., MPP
University of Michigan

I had the wonderful opportunity to attend the IV World Planning Schools Congress, “Global Crisis, Planning Challenges to Spatial Justice in the North and in the South,” held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil from July 3-8, 2016.

During the Congress, I presented a paper entitled: "The breakdown of community: An examination of the social effects of low-income housing developments in Johannesburg and Cape Town." My paper points to an erosion of elements of social trust among residents in government subsidized housing. It is part of my dissertation research on low-income residents' sense of community in South Africa.

Throughout the Congress, I enjoyed networking with other students and faculty and gathering their feedback on my work. The mobile tour to the Vila Autódromo community was one highlight of the Congress for me. There, we learned about how the favela was struggling to maintain its presence amidst the impending Olympic Village construction in the weeks leading up to the Olympics. Hearing residents' experiences and challenges shed light on the influence that mega sport events have on both a city's economic development and residents' survival and community existence. During my field work in South Africa, I listened to similar narratives of residents displaced due to the World Cup.

I wish to thank ACSP as well as The University of Michigan's Rackham Graduate School and the African Studies Center for conference funding that allowed me to travel and attend the World Planning Schools Congress. The experience in Rio enriched my studies and prepared me for what would be a successful final defense of my dissertation at University of Michigan.

1. View of construction of temporary housing in Vila Autódromo.

2. Temporary housing in Vila Autódromo amidst the rubble of the vibrant community.

3. Rio's city center and Sugarloaf Mountain in the distance from atop Corcovado Mountain.


Germano Johannson, MPL, MSCE
University of Southern California

After two years in my Master’s program at the University of Southern California, I returned to Brazil. During my time at USC, I received financial support from the Brazilian Ministry of Education. At the time, I pursued two degrees: Master of Planning with a Certificate in Public Policy, and Master of Transportation Engineering. As a Civil Engineer, it was a great opportunity for me to leave the binary problem solving formulas and explore the possibilities of policy-making and planning.

When preparing to return back to Brazil, Professor Tridib Banerjee encouraged me to submit to the Rio conference, a project that I completed for his Comparative of International Planning class. My submission was about the Tri-Border Area in South America, where the Iguazu River meets the giant Parana River in Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina. At the time, I had founded the Institute for Collaborative Urbanism (COURB with five other Brazilian planners. We also submitted a paper about a project that COURB finished a few months earlier. Both papers were accepted for the conference.

Professor Eric Heikkila encouraged me to apply for a Grant offered by GPEAN for the conference. I was awarded the grant, and it helped me to present for the first time at an International Conference in my home country. This was also the first time that a COURB project was presented at a conference.
WPSC was a large conference full of professionals from all over the world. Both presentations were a success! We met people who would later become actively involved in COURB, and now have become Directors and Coordinators at the Institute. These connections thus helped strengthen COURB.
I am extremely grateful for the opportunity supported by the Brazilian Ministry of Education, GPEAN, ACSP and USC. WPSC was an important milestone in my professional development. If you are interested in COURB, send me an email and I would love to chat. Our international organization is expanding and already has professionals in Latin America, Europe and in North America.

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