Urban rivers, though central to human life, are often places of conflict and racial inequities caused by uneven power dynamics. Why is this? How are decisions made about urban environments and what are the social and ecological outcomes of these decisions? What is the role of public engagement in environmental planning?
These are just some of the questions explored in the course Urban Rivers: Environmental Policy, Planning and Activism, designed by NW CASC postdoctoral fellow Dr. Mary Ann Rozance and colleagues Dr. Diana Denham, Dr. Melanie Malone and Dr. Erin Goodling. They were recently awarded the national 2020 Curriculum Innovation Award by the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning and the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, which “recognizes undergraduate and graduate courses that prepare future planners to solve economic, social, and environmental challenges.” As PhD students in a National Science Foundation Integrative Research and Education Traineeship, they undertook the preparation, curriculum design and co-facilitation of this interdisciplinary course focused on water sustainability in urban environments.
The Urban Rivers course represents a two-pronged approach to sustainability education: it provides hands-on training in interdisciplinary teaching to graduate students while offering an innovative course to undergraduate students based on best practices in sustainability education. It examines the complex politics of urban river contamination and clean-up through a comparative case study of two rivers with Superfund sites in the Pacific Northwest: the Willamette River’s Portland Harbor and the Lower Duwamish River. Through field trips and other immersive learning experiences, as well as interdisciplinary team teaching, this course allows students to explore ecological issues, environmental history, clean-up planning processes, public participation, community organizing and social justice issues.
As part of this award, the curriculum for this course will be freely available through the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning and Lincoln Institute of Land Policy. Congratulations, Mary Ann, Diana, Melanie and Erin!
About the awardees: Mary Ann Rozance studies climate adaptation planning as a postdoctoral fellow at the Northwest Climate Adaptation Science Center at the University of Washington. Dr. Diana Denham is Adjunct Faculty at Portland State University whose research interests inlcude urban indigenous food systems in Oaxaca, Mexico. Melanie Malone is an assistant professor at the University of Washington whose research interests include soils, contaminants and critical physical geography. Erin Goodling is a National Science Foundation postdoctoral fellow at the University of Oregon, studying homelessness and environmental justice.