“Planning is fundamentally thinking about the future. That's what makes us different. I want my students to enter the workforce with a lot more confidence and savvy around emerging technologies.” --Todd BenDor
Todd BenDor is an Associate Professor of City & Regional Planning at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he directs the Ph.D. program and teaches courses in watershed planning, impact assessment, and system dynamics modeling. His research studies the intersection of urban and regional growth and efforts to mitigate impacts to sensitive ecosystems. Over the last 10 years, his work has focused on the social, economic, and ecological consequences of ecosystem service markets and ecological restoration regulations. Recently, he has examined the economic impacts of ecological restoration, the relationships between landowner infrastructure investments and saltwater intrusion vulnerability in Eastern North Carolina, and the effects of infrastructure subsidy losses on rates
of urban development on coastal barriers.
Dr. BenDor received a Bachelor of Science from the Worcester Polytechnic Institute, a Master of Science from Washington State University, and a Ph.D. from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Q: How long have you been a member of ACSP?
A: 16 years (as both a student at a member school and currently as faculty).
Q: Have you won any awards?
A: When I was a student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, I won the Dana Meadows Award (2005) for best student work presented at the International System Dynamics Society Conference, and our department's Outstanding Dissertation Award when I graduated (2007). As a faculty member, I was a GlaxoSmithKline Faculty Fellow at NC State University's Institute for Emerging Issues (2009), the Lone Mountain Fellow at the Property & Environment Research Center (2010), and the Frederick J. Clarke Scholar at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Institute of Water Resources (2012). I also won the Outstanding Summer Course Award for a methods course I taught at Huazhong Agricultural University in Wuhan, China, during the summer of 2014.
Q: What's your favorite project you’ve worked on?
A: I think my favorite projects are those where I get to work with my favorite colleagues, both in my department and around the world. Our recent work on estimating the size of the ecological restoration industry (the companies that restore environmentally damaged areas) was really rewarding. Before our eyes, it has already started to shift the conversations around requirements for restoration during urban development. Instead of being dominated purely by unfounded accusations that these requirements "kill jobs," we now see more honest discussions over how ecological restoration can create rural/suburban jobs and ensure much better environmental and economic outcomes from development.
Q: What future goals do you have in your field?
A: Planning is fundamentally thinking about the future. That's what makes us different. I want my students to enter the workforce with a lot more confidence and savvy around emerging technologies. I want my field, environmental planning, to have much higher goals in terms of being able to collect environmental data and ultimately improve environmental outcomes. The early 1970s was almost a half century ago. We need to stop comparing current policy, technology, and investments to that period; and, instead look towards the future to create a new state of the art.
Q: How has planning school changed your daily habits?
A: I like to think that I take much more of a systems approach to understanding problems and the world, generally, than I did before. For example, I'm much more sensitive about what I eat, which has huge implications for land use and climate change. I learned a lot about what I can recycle and what should be thrown away. Overall, I am also a lot more conscious of the infrastructure around me and how I help to maintain it.
Q: What did you want to be when you were growing up?
A: Professional baseball player (pitcher) and/or astronomer (I liked staying up late).
Q: How many different cities have you lived in and which was your favorite?
A: I would estimate I've lived in nine different cities for a minimum of a month at one time. My favorite is definitely London; there are only a few places on earth where you can be surrounded by that much culture, and that many things to do, and still have such a high quality of life.
Q: If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?
A: It's a toss-up between taking a submarine to the Challenger Deep in the Marianas Trench (the deepest place in the world's oceans) or scuba diving in the Red Sea off the coast of Egypt. Hey, you didn't say it had be on land!
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