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Greetings from Chapel Hill!

UNC’s Department of City and Regional Planning (DCRP) is entering our eighth decade of producing leaders in the planning and development field. Program graduates have led transit systems, built affordable and market-rate housing, and run planning departments across the United States and beyond. The work of faculty, graduates, and current students shapes the communities and regions where we live and is critical to addressing societal challenges including congestion, air pollution, housing affordability, and inequality.

The pandemic has made the need for planners even clearer. COVID has highlighted how inequities in employment, mobility, and housing lead to greater health risk. Carolina Planning faculty are offering their perspectives on what this through a podcast series put together by the Center for Urban and Regional Studies. You can hear Mai Nguyen discuss housing, Bill Lester the service industry, Nichola Lowe manufacturing, Charles Edwards supply chain, Emil Malizia urban centers, Meenu Tewari economic resiliency, and Nikhil Kaza on surveillance methods.

I’m proud of the way our Carolina Planning community has come together during the pandemic. We relied on our strategic values to guide our thinking, policies and actions in responding to COVID and taking action against structural racism.

Our values are: Career-launching teaching and mentorship, Diversity and Inclusion in Planning and High-impact engaged social science. To live those values in the context of the pandemic and to help us make concrete steps to address structural racism in our department and in planning, we will:


Make New East & Carolina Planning a place where all members of our community feel safe.

  • New East is open, but occupancy is reduced, and masks and physical distancing is required.
  • Students and faculty can choose how they want to teach and learn (remote vs. in-person) to best meet learning objectives and personal and family situations. All courses have a remote option available to students.
  • We will no longer require GREs for admission to the MCRP program and will continue to fund students through the Excellence in Diversity Fellowship.
  • We will Develop a Master’s Project fund to support student research that directly engages with issues of equity, diversity, inclusion and anti-racism in planning.

Make our teaching relevant and responsive.

  • Instructors are bringing new technology and structure into all courses to meet the needs of remote learners.
  • To help students select courses that engage with diversity, equity, inclusion and anti-racism in the classroom, instructors have identified relevant content in their courses. We have shared this information with students to inform their course-selection.
  • Faculty are actively conducting research on the impacts of COVID. You can hear about much of this work through the CURS Podcast series.
  • We will continue to use departmental research grants to support faculty research on issues of diversity, equity and inclusion (e.g Andrew Whittemore’s work on racial disparities in zoning and Danielle Spurlock’s ongoing work with the community in Old East Durham)

Be intentional about cultivating relationships and our community.

  • Faculty are available to continue mentoring and advising students on Zoom.
  • Students, faculty and staff will work together in a committee on diversity, inclusion and anti-racism. The committee will make recommendations on actions we can take to begin to address structural inequalities and racism.

We are also practicing adaptive planning. We know our policies and practices are likely to change in small and perhaps large ways as we figure out what’s working and the COVID situation in Chapel Hill becomes clearer.

I hope that you and your family are staying safe as you navigate this time.

Noreen McDonald
Chair, City & Regional Planning