As a scholar, I seek to bridge fundamental tensions in my discipline between theory and practice, academic knowledge production and professional action. I teach in the community where I live. I invite residents and students to engage in serious discussion about the problems facing our community. I conduct research through my work starting up a local land bank. I use my position as the director of the graduate program to organize student research around issues of housing insecurity, eviction, and tenant advocacy. I do this work with a specific goal: To understand what it means to be a professional planner and an urban resident in a shrinking mid-western city and how to work towards a more just future for my city and places like it. I seek to achieve this goal by translating my research, teaching and service into new ideas, institutions and laws address public problems.
I maintain two research and publishing areas. First, since joining Ball State, through engaged teaching, research and service, I have identified and pursued another area of specialization, the governance of abandoned property through land banking. “The Political Economy of Abandoned Property: Structure and agency in land banking practice in Muncie, Indiana” describes the establishment of a state-wide working group to study and propose legislative solutions to the issue of property abandonment in Indiana. Land Banking Regulation as Rhetorical Infrastructure” (2021) draws on my experience starting a quasi-governmental agency, The Muncie Land Bank . The chapter stakes out a unique argument about the relationship between the discursive work of planners and regulations. Working with a group of international scholars the chapter is part of a larger project re-imagining planning regulation in a transnational context. This chapter follows up on “Land Bank Formation,” (2020) a contribution to an edited volume focused on resilience. In an upcoming article “Planning in the Face of Paucity” targeted for the Journal of Planning Education and Research, I argue that professional planning in shrinking cities faces a paradox, as population and tax revenue declines, public problems increase. Efforts at ‘rightsizing’ cities need to address the issue of declining public capacity.
The second substantive research areais urban planning history and theory. “The Rule of Choice: Frames and Overflows in the History of New York City Roadway Planning,” (2021) in the Journal of Planning Education and Research. This article explains how theories about planning become frameworks for planning action, and how those frameworks change over time. Crucially, the article shows how technology mediates the perspective of planners and urban residents, which is also a theme of four other publications, “Data, Democracy and School Accountability” (2017b), “Making Market Rationality” (2017a), and “Translation” (2015). This set of publication draws in theory from the field of science and technology studies in order to re-interrogate urban governance. Finally, in a collaborative effort, I edited and wrote the introduction for an issue of Urban Geography, focused on markets as tools for achieving planning goals. An upcoming article, targeted for the journal Planning Theory, makes more explicit the utility of science and technology studies to planning by putting the concept of translation in conversation with communicative action theory.
In addition to academic journal articles and book chapters, I have undertaken three
First, through a series of urban classes focusing on property abandonement, I helped to establish the Muncie Land Bank and created a start up acquisition plan for the organization.
Second, in the Avondale Neighborhood of Muncie through a 2018 course, Participatory Action Research” (2018) and was the product of an immersive learning class. With lead staff at the Muncie Habitat for Humanity, students and commmunity participants, we created an evaluation of local community development efforts.
Third, working with a broader group of community partners through a graduate level qualitative methods course, I created “Renters’ Book” (2019). In this class, I recruited local experts, including rental property owners, low-income housing service providers, and housing insecure residents to attend class and work with students to understand and ameliorate rental housing problems in Muncie. Community partners, students and I created the ‘Renters’ Book’ to be a user friendly resource for tenants and landlords, providing information on topics from repairs to late rent payment, form letters for effective communication, and a list of public and private service providers to contact in the event of problems. PathStone Corporation hired a student from class to refine the Renters’ Book. The non-profit housing provider has hosted the report on their homepage from the summer of 2019 to present and it has been downloaded over 200 times. PathStone Corp. awarded me the 2021 Community Partner of the Year, in recognition of these successes.