UNM approves graduate level concentration in indigenous planning

June 1, 2016 - Carolyn Gonzales

UNM approves graduate level concentration in indigenous planning

School of Architecture & Planning’s graduate planning program fills a need The University of New Mexico School of Architecture & Planning recently received approval for a master’s in community and regional planning with a concentration in indigenous planning, announced Dr. Ted Jojola, director, Indigenous Design + Planning Institute (iD+Pi).

Jojola said, “This concentration allows us to grow the master’s in community and regional planning and address a growing demand to provide assistance to native communities…….”

Geraldine Forbes Isais, dean, UNM School of Architecture & Planning, said that iD+Pi is a part of the entire school – the school that deals with the built environment. “We needed an academic concentration with coursework in all three disciplines. It started with community and regional planning faculty and will expand,” she said.

 “Creating this concentration contributes to the overall strength and appeal of the master’s in community and regional planning (MCRP). Students asked for this concentration and faculty support is there within MCRP and other campus departments,” Jojola said. In addition to Jojola, faculty member Dr. Laura Harjo also specializes in indigenous planning.

“We are also hiring another tenure-track faculty in Latin American development and indigeneity,” Jojola added.

MCRP has strong representation of indigenous students and others interested in indigenous planning. “Through iD+Pi, we coordinate projects and create networks with tribal communities and professional organizations throughout the University, across the state, nationally and internationally,” Jojola said.

Michaela Shirley, professional intern in iD+Pi, said, “This graduate concentration in indigenous planning represents a desire to embrace indigenous worldviews and ways as a distinct and legitimate field within planning.”

Students in the program complete a 48-hour, two year program As a requirement, they have to choose a concentration including community development, natural resources and environmental planning, physical planning and design, or Indigenous planning. “There is flexibility in that students can take up to 12 credit hours at the graduate level in other UNM programs,” Jojola said.

Courses aligned with the new concentration include Indigenous planning, Pueblo design and planning, Indigenous space, place and mapping, Navajo design and planning and contemporary Indigenous architecture, among others.

“The challenge for indigenous communities is how to bring indigenous architecture and planning into a contemporary dialog. It is a similar challenge for disciplines that look at the built environment in those settings,” Forbes Isais said.

“It can be difficult for cultures that are steeped in tradition to have a discussion to bring important manifestations and belief systems into a 21st century context. Not everyone wants to or can transcend time. But within the academy, the students can experiment in ways that can lead to new conditions and answers. If the academy doesn’t take on those questions, then we’re neither validating nor refuting the possibilities that exist in contemporary architecture and planning,” Forbes Isais said.

She added that the university experience allows one to have a place to think about complicated issues. “It’s not just OK, but encouraged and supported,” she said. The experience allows students to come to grips with who they are and who they are not. “And we respect one another for the differences,” Forbes Isais said.