JoAnn Carmin
Associate Professor of Environmental Policy and Planning
Department of Urban Studies and Planning
Massachusetts Institute of Technology



2012-2013 Academic Year

11.233, Research Methods for Policy Analysis and Planning (Fall): This course develops skills in research design for policy analysis and planning. An emphasis is placed on the logic of the research process and its constituent elements. Topics covered include: philosophy of science, question formulation, theory construction, hypothesis generation, ethical issues in research, data collection techniques, and research proposal preparation. This course is required for (and enrollment is limited to) first year DUSP PhD students.

Thesis Prep - EPP and HCED (Fall): Students enrolled in this class will review the thesis process, from proposal writing through to submission, study research design principles, and examine data collection methods related to their thesis research. The class meets weekly and requires the submission of regular written assignments. While the course is structured to support the completion of the thesis proposal, students are expected to work directly with their advisors throughout the semester. The course is designed for students in the Environmental Policy and Planning and Housing and Community Economic Development groups.

11.951, Urban Climate Adaptation Planning (Spring): This course examines the anticipated impacts that cities in developed and developing countries will experience as a result of climate change and the planning strategies they can use to prepare. Particular attention is given to planning in resource constrained cities, the needs of vulnerable populations, intergovernmental coordination, and the ways in which national, municipal, and community-based activities contribute to urban climate-readiness. The course addresses topics and examines cases from across planning specializations.

Courses - Previously Taught at MIT

11.363, Civil Society and the Environment: This graduate seminar examines the roles that civil society actors play in local, national, transnational, and global environmental policy and planning processes. Throughout the semester, we examine theories of civil society, social movement mobilization, and public participation, with particular attention to the actions, legitimacy, and accountability of environmental movements and movement organizations. To illustrate these concepts, the course draws on case studies of NGO targeting of corporations, civil society response to facility sitings, extractive practices, and toxic releases, community innovation and monitoring of corporate environmental practices, and public participation initiatives. 11.363 Open Courseware website.

11.368, Environmental Justice- Domestic, International, and Global Perspectives (Spring): This year, the environmental justice class will examine classic and emerging issues in environmental justice from developed and developing country perspectives. This seminar course is anchored in a review of theoretical frameworks that have been advanced to explain and analyze sources of inequity. Case studies will be used to examine issues such as the siting of manufacturing facilities, e-waste, and climate change affect human and ecosystem health. Attention is given to local, national, and international strategies that have been advanced for addressing claims of injustice and how planners can assess and address inequities in the course of their work.

11.368, Environmental Justice - Race, Class, and the Environment: This course focuses on the equity implications of environmental degradation and regulation. After exploring the historical foundations of the environmental justice movement and the frameworks that have been advanced to explain and analyze sources of inequity, we critically analyze the strategies and policies that have been advanced for addressing claims of injustice. Case studies will examine the siting of locally unwanted land uses, public health issues, and inequities arising from international trade and development. 11.368 Open Courseware website.

Courses - Previously Taught at MIT

Disaster Vulnerability and Resilience: The distribution of risk has created conditions for natural and technological disasters to become more widespread, more difficult to manage, and more discriminatory in their effects. Policy and planning decision-makers frequently focus on the impact that human settlement patterns, land use decisions, and risky technologies can have on vulnerable populations. However, to ensure safety and promote equity, they also must be familiar with the social and political dynamics that are present at each stage of the disaster management cycle. This course, which was designed for students interested in disasters from a research or policy perspective as well as those who might be charged with responsibility for on-the scene intervention, emphasizes: 1) the breadth of factors that give rise to disaster vulnerability; and 2) means for assessing and managing the social and political processes associated with disaster policy and planning. Throughout the semester, particular attention is paid to how disaster management efforts can increase the vulnerability of some populations or can promote widespread resilience. 11-941 Open Courseware website.

11.368, Environmental Justice and Participatory Governance in Developing Countries: This workshop class focused on identifying and assessing techniques for achieving equitable outcomes in environmental policy and planning. Students read background materials and case studies while preparing a report for the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR). The report is designed to aid UNITAR in its efforts at strengthening the capacities of public officials to effectively engage stakeholders in environmental decision-making. Diverse national contexts were considered, but an emphasis was placed on developing countries. View a copy of the final report.

11.368, Environmental Justice - Resources, Rights, and Globalization: This special section of the environmental justice course focuses on issues of equity in the context of natural resources and natural resource extraction from a global perspective. The seminar will examine theoretical issues in light of cases that focus on gold, silver, and uranium mining, oil and gas extraction, and forest and water resources. Issues related to corporate social responsibility and the development of planning tools that can be used to address community concerns will be examined. Practitioners, scholars, and industry representatives will attend sessions to discuss their perspectives on these issues.

Katrina Practicum: In the wake of Katrina the entire gulf coast is embroiled in a struggle over what constitutes "appropriate" rebuilding and redevelopment efforts. This practicum will engage students in a set of work groups designed to assist local community based institutions and people in shaping the policy and practices that will guide the redevelopment and rebuilding efforts in the city of New Orleans. 11-945 Open Courseware website.

Thesis Prep - International Development: Students enrolled in this version of thesis prep focus on research design principles and data collection methods related to fieldwork in developing countries. The class meets weekly and has regular written assigments. Students are expected to work directly with their advisors in developing their thesis proposals.

Urban Climate Adaptation in South Africa (Practicum): A key challenge facing local governments around the world is the ability to integrate complex climate change issues and the related international, regional and local level data sets into local planning processes. Despite the importance of ensuring the integration of climate change considerations into planning processes, few tools and guides have been made available to guide this process. This project is the first step toward developing integrative tools for city and environmental planners. Students will scope the project by selecting particular sectors of interest (e.g., water, health, housing, infrastructure, vulnerable populations, etc.), talking with public officials, NGOs and other stakeholders to learn what they  know about climate change, what preparations they have made to date, and what information they need to put in place to ensure an appropriate planning response. Students will then develop a preliminary integrative framework/tool that planners and other city officials can use to inform their work and set their climate adaptation priorities

Courses - Previously Taught at Virginia Tech

Community Involvement: Broadly stated, democratic societies promise their citizens equity, accountability, and responsiveness. To help fulfill these promises, planners and policymakers must not only be able to understand citizen concerns, but create forums that help identify issues and foster opportunities for stakeholder involvement so that differing points of view receive recognition and representation. This course examined participation in public decision-making from the perspectives of planning, policy, and community organizing. Each semester the course was organized around a series of group projects. The weekly sessions explored theoretical ideas and techniques that were then applied directly to the group project.

Environmental Planning and Policy Seminar: This version of the seminar focused current and emerging issues in environmental policy and planning. The topics varied each week and, frequently relying on the specialized expertise of guest speakers, examined issues such as innovations in technology for environmental analysis, sustainable design, voluntary environmental initiatives, environmental leadership in developing countries, non-timber forest products, biosecurity and the environment, and GMOs. To stimulate independent thought and discussion, topics were studied from different, and at times conflicting, perspectives.

Environmental Problem-Solving Studio: In this undergraduate studio, students developed a handbook for use by the Take Charge groups in Carroll County. Over the course of the semester, students made a site visit, interviewed representatives, and tracked activities in the county. The final product, entitled, The Carroll County Indicators Handbook, provides a menu of traditional and sustainable community indicators that Carroll County can use to assess its overall health and development and to measure its progress over time. The indicators are organized into three broad categories related to social, economic, and environmental conditions. Each category is further broken down into individual indicators, which are “benchmarked” with current data and compared to other counties as well as the State of Virginia. While not extensive enough to cover all of the analytical needs of Carroll County decision makers, The Carroll County Indicators Handbook was designed to be a planning tool to complement more traditional planning techniques such as comprehensive planning, capital improvement planning, and public participation processes.

Environmental Policy and Planning Seminar/Public and Urban Affairs Seminar: This seminar examined the concepts of sustainable development and healthy communities and their implications for professional practice. We examined these concepts theoretically, looking at their similarities and differences as well as how they relate to social, political, spatial, and economic aspect of community life. To gain practical experience, most of the work during the seminar revolved around a project requiring that students learn about and measure an aspect of Blacksburg's community health. The students produced a report entitled, Community Indicators Study for a Sustainable Blacksburg that contained data for eleven aspects and 85 indicators of health and sustainability in Blacksburg. Students presented their results to local officials and faculty. The report was appended to the Blacksburg Comprehensive Plan.

Graduate Environmental Studio: Second year graduate students worked in collaboration with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to develop a manual and an accompanying website for community based environmental groups to use to monitor and assess the outcomes of their projects. Students became familiar with current and previous community based environmental projects by reading scholarly and professional articles and reviewing existing manuals. In addition, each student made at least one visit to a program to interview officials and organizational representatives learn about project administration, methods that groups used to measure outcomes, problems with outcome measures that groups encountered, and ideas and recommendations that groups had for monitoring and evaluation. Based on what they learned, the students designed and created a user-friendly manual entitled, Check Your Success. The students also made a formal presentation at U.S. EPA Headquarters in Washington, DC. Visit the Check Your Success website.

Seminar on Social Movements: Planners and policy-makers encounter social movements and movement organizations in numerous situations and contexts. Sometimes movement members are just one of the many participants present at public hearings, roundtables, and advisory panels. At other times they are confrontational adversaries, pushing an agenda or publicizing an issue. No matter what role these individuals, ad hoc groups, and organizations play, they have the potential to impact the planning and policy processes as well as final decisions and implementation. The literature addressing social movements and community action was examined during semester. However, since most is not specific to planning or policy, many of the seminar discussions focused on applying these ideas, concepts, and cases to practice. To balance theory and practice, students completed a semester-long project based on their investigations of a local social movement organization.


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