Get to Know: New Dukakis Center Director Theodore Landsmark

Theodore C. Landsmark, a higher education visionary and public policy expert, has assumed the role of director of the Kitty and Michael Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy, a “think and do” tank in the School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs that produces state-of-the-art applied research used to implement effective policies in Greater Boston, the Commonwealth, and the nation.

Distinguished Professor Landsmark officially joined Northeastern April 1, bringing with him an outstanding record as an activist educator focused on urban design and diverse cultures. He is President Emeritus of the Boston Architectural College, where he worked from 1997 to 2014, and he has also served as Vice President for Academic Affairs of the American College of the Building Arts, in Charleston, S.C. He has served as a trustee or board member for several organizations, including the Boston Planning and Development Agency, Design Futures Council, American Architectural Foundation, and the Museum of Fine Arts Boston. Landsmark is past president of the National Architectural Accrediting Board and the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture. He has been named among the Most Respected Design Educators in the United States.

“Dr. Landsmark brings broad and deep knowledge of Boston and New England – its history, culture, and politics – to the Dukakis Center that will contribute to the center’s research and engagement activities. At the same time, his network and reputation extend nationally and globally. All of this provides a strong base on which to further increase the impact of center projects on urban and regional development here in Boston and well beyond, and on which to engage faculty and students from across the college and university in use-inspired research.”

—Matthias Ruth, Professor and Director, School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs

Holding a Ph.D. in American and New England Studies from Boston University and J.D., Masters and B.A. degrees from Yale University, Landsmark has established himself as an innovative leader with a passion for public service. Here, he discusses his plans for the Dukakis Center, his research priorities, and what makes the center exceptional.


Q: What are your plans for the center and what would you like it to look like in five years?

The center has a strong, long-established reputation for convening civic leaders and academics for important public discussions around urban planning and policy implementation. As national and global policies change over the coming five years, the center’s role will evolve both from visionary and pragmatic perspectives – the center will be called upon even more to educate emerging leaders who can see beyond today’s political disruptions, and to implement innovative solutions to the challenges that undermine civil discourse and social justice.

We will be asking how our values intersect with the data-driven solutions we seek to implement. We will ask how we can achieve policy outcomes that reflect what cities and regions can do to serve and integrate diverse populations of immigrants, residents displaced by gentrification, aging and newer technologically-savvy residents, workers, people seeking recreation and repose, veterans and families, as well as the new residents with high financial asset values. We will be looking at developments in waterfront and coastal accessibility and resilience, gentrification, local labor markets, and transportation planning. The center will be a publicly accessible resource for those seeking pragmatic, values-driven solutions to urban issues locally, and globally.


Q: What are your research priorities, and how will you translate the Dukakis Center’s research efforts to the community?

I am experienced with convening diverse thinkers to apply multi-disciplinary approaches to problem solving – designers and lawyers, housing planners and cultural leaders, educators and criminal justice experts, health providers and community activists, sustainability experts and historic preservationists, kids, youth, seniors, disabled persons, and urban planners. We need to address income inequalities, housing displacement, small-scale economic development, community culture and identity, racial, ethnic and gender disparities, effective transportation systems, and new definitions of quality of life. We can ask not only how we make service delivery more efficient, but also what we want our communities to feel like, at all hours of the day and night. That means spending time in various parts of communities, hearing from people who might not ordinarily attend traditional community meetings (like kids and disabled veterans, seniors and members of immigrant groups), and combining technologies and data with direct, qualitative engagement.

Northeastern’s recent conference on urban informatics reinforced how large data analysis can inform solutions that assist individual workers, residents, and families. We will be looking at metrics for assessing the development of critical thinking skills. Our research will continue to be published in ways that enhance scholarship and public discourse. The Dukakis Center will foster cross-sector collaborations within Northeastern; continue to foster connections across civic leaders, scholars, and the public; and develop new ways of engaging with and serving diverse residents and community-based entities.


Q: What makes the Dukakis Center unique?

Experiential learning and a commitment to ethical, progressive public service. Community engagement. Direct links with policy-makers. High levels of technical expertise in policy development. Values that derive from inclusion, and a rootedness in the pragmatic implementation of achievable, outcomes-based urban and regional problem solving. Credibility and fact-based authenticity in the communities we have served. Resources that facilitate innovative collaborations. Great faculty and thinkers who’ve been directly involved in policy making – planners, economists, artists and designers, cultural planners and communicators, security and public safety experts, demographers, health and nutrition practitioners, urban educators, geographers and transportation professionals planning for autonomous and alternative vehicle uses, affordable housing experts. Inquisitive and energetic students who are deeply committed to values-driven public service. A location that enables us to be a nexus of urban planning, cultural engagement (museums, theaters, sports), and economic development opportunities; locations in other cities where comparative analyses can be facilitated; and easy Boston access (Orange and Green Lines, commuter rail, buses, parking). The ambition to be the best at developing the next generation of diverse and inclusive policy makers and practitioners.

Published On: April 6, 2017 |
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