How the pandemic has made SPDC stronger

SPDC Director Ming-Han Li shares in his annual school update message, "This has been a year that no one could have anticipated or prepared for! The world has been facing unprecedented, tumultuous challenges from the novel coronavirus pandemic since March."

Screen capture of zoom meeting attendees.
SPDC faculty and staff gathered virtually for the annual School Retreat in August 2020.

This has been a year that no one could have anticipated or prepared for! The world has been facing unprecedented, tumultuous challenges from the novel coronavirus pandemic since March.

Amidst fighting the virus, our nation was shocked and upset by the murder of George Floyd, and further stirred up by the political turmoil during and after the presidential election. Frequent negative news continues to elevate the level of anxiety in our society and this trend seems non-stop.

Despite all these uncertainties, the School of Planning, Design and Construction (SPDC), although not isolated from the above-mentioned chaos, has been doing remarkably well fulfilling its mission: Advancing the knowledge, preparing innovative leaders, and supporting the practice of planning, design, and construction.

I am extremely grateful for our faculty and staff who adapted to the change to conduct everything virtually in no time, and helped each other and our students as best as they could. As the director, I could not ask for a better team full of caring colleagues that makes my job both easier and more rewarding. 

I am very proud that our School recently passed the motion to establish a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) standing committee, which will develop our strategic plan for DEI and other important tasks.

Again, we have been busy searching for new faculty members this year. We were fortunate to fill two positions with top quality candidates: Bob Aydukovic (construction management) and Hannah Brodhead (advising) joined our team in August 2020. This was quite a feat, especially considering that all interviews were conducted virtually.

In addition, I expect to conclude both landscape architecture (LA) and urban & regional planning faculty searches soon, and hope to recruit top candidates to the School to address our priorities in 2021.

We continued to have a strong grant year and received new and ongoing grants from multiple agencies, including the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy, the Michigan Department of Health & Human Services, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, the Michigan Department of Transportation, the Michigan Fitness Foundation, the National Housing Endowment, NASA, NSF, USDA, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Architecture and Urban Research Institute, Korea, etc.

Professor Sinem Mollaoglu’s $1.4M NSF grant focusing on interdisciplinary interactions in project teams was noteworthy.

The 4+1 Undergraduate and Graduate Urban & Regional Planning Linked (dual degree) program was approved and launched. This program is very attractive for students entering the program and will save them one year for earning two degrees.

Two exciting graduate certificate programs – Real Estate Development and Construction, and Urban Resilient Redevelopment – are about to become official. Both programs will be 100% delivered online and attractive to mid-career professionals. We expect to launch both programs in Fall 2021.

We were happy to celebrate Sinem Mollaoglu, Ph.D., being successfully promoted to full professor.

Professor Eric Strauss, Ph.D., who has taught urban and regional planning courses at MSU for 20 years, will retire in December. He said that he looks forward to spending more time with family and traveling. Professor Strauss will be missed by many.

I am proud of our students who have been decisive and persevered during these challenging times. Particularly members of the Student Advisory Council, namely the presidents of our student organizations, tirelessly participated in monthly meetings to provide feedback and suggestions.

I continue to stay engaged with our alumni so that they are closely informed of SPDC’s news and activities. Their generosity and commitment to supporting SPDC is wholeheartedly appreciated.

Two alumni stories published this year, about Al Scott (CM alum) and Bob Chipman (LA alum), are particularly inspiring.

In addition, the Interior Design Advisory Board and Urban & Regional Planning Advisory Board were formed with bylaws adopted.

Our School vision of creating sustainable and healthy built, natural and virtual environments will continue to guide us to address societal needs. During the interim, as the pandemic continues to affect the university, we have adjusted to focus on four priorities: Enrollment, research productivity, revenue generation and school climate.

This enewsletter only captures a glimpse of the many accomplishments of the School in 2019. Our social media (Facebook, InstagramLinkedInTwitter, YouTube) provides frequent updates. Please visit us online to read more stories.

I wish you a wonderful holiday season and look forward to the year of 2020. Thank you!

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