Featured Faculty: Shannon Van Zandt
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"Get to Know the GoBo"

Special Planner Profile Series

Shannon Van Zandt, Ph.D., AICP, is professor and head of the Department of Landscape Architecture & Urban Planning at Texas A&M University. She holds a Ph.D. in City & Regional Planning from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is a fellow of the College of Architecture’s Hazard Reduction & Recovery Center, and is former director of the College’s Center for Housing & Urban Development. She has held professorships in residential housing development and in homelessness. Prior to becoming department head, Dr. Van Zandt directed the professional program in urban planning.

Dr. Van Zandt’s expertise lies in the interaction of affordable housing and social vulnerability to disasters. She examines the ways in which housing quality, location, and upkeep contribute to the exposure of vulnerable households to both impacts and consequences from natural disasters. She has published more than 50 articles and book chapters, and is co-author of the 2014 book, Planning for Community Resilience: A Guidebook for Reducing Vulnerability to Natural Disasters.

As an urban planner, Dr. Van Zandt is an engaged researcher, targeting her research toward informing policy and practice related to affordable housing, low-income homeownership, disaster recovery, and land use planning. She is actively engaged in advocacy efforts in these areas, serving as a board member for the Texas Low-Income Housing Information Service and Texas Sea Grant. She has testified four times since 2014 to Texas state legislators on the importance of pre-disaster recovery planning, based on her work in the Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas on a rapid rehousing demonstration program for low-income home owners. In addition to her work with ACSP, she is actively engaged with the American Planning Association’s Hazard Mitigation and Disaster Recovery Planning Division, the National Low-Income Housing Coalition, and the National Institutes for Standards and Technology Center of Excellence for Community Resilience Planning.

Here’s more from our recent Q&A with Dr. Van Zandt…

Q: How many years have you been a member of ACSP?
A: 20

Q: Are you involved on the ACSP Board or an ACSP Committee?
A: I am the Central Region Representative.

Q: What's your favorite project you’ve worked on?
A: My current favorite is the rapid rehousing after disaster project (RAPIDO) that I've been involved with for the past four years. I've been working with partners--a community development corporation, a non-profit architecture firm, and a housing advocacy non-profit--to develop an alternative way to do post-disaster housing that minimizes or eliminates the need for temporary housing (mobile homes or hotel vouchers). We did a pilot project in the Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas, and have been working to expand the project, particularly after last year's Hurricane Harvey.

Q: What future goals do you have in your field?
A: I want to bring the planning profession fully into the disaster recovery world. I would like to see disaster planning fully integrated into comprehensive planning that involves the full community and helps to increase resilience and overcome inequities in the built environment.

Q: How has planning school changed your daily habits?
A: Planning school is my daily habit, and has been for 23 years!

Q: What did you want to be when you were growing up?
A: When I was very young, I wanted to be a tree. Later, I decided on being a professor, but it wasn't until grad school that I knew what my field would be.

Q: How many different cities have you lived in and which was your favorite?
A: I've lived in San Antonio, TX; Austin, TX; Houston, TX; College Station/Bryan, TX; Fredericksburg, VA, and Raleigh/Durham, NC. I love living in College Station, but I might like to return to San Antonio or Raleigh/Durham one day.

Q: If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?
A: Oh goodness. I have not traveled extensively, and so there are many places I'd like to visit. I would really like to visit the Netherlands, and I'd like to visit southeast Asia.

Q: What is the title of the last book you read? What did you learn from it?
A: I just ordered a book called The Ostrich Paradox by Howard Kunreuther about bias in our perceptions of disasters that I am really looking forward to reading.

Q: What’s your favorite color and how would you creatively incorporate it into a planning project?
A: My favorite color has long been green, which is super easy to incorporate into any planning project!

Read more from the ACSP Planner Profile series on our website.

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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;
  • strengthen the role of planning education in colleges and universities through publications, conferences, and community engagement;
  • extend planning beyond the classroom into the world of practice.

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