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College of Environment and Design

Sonia Hirt



Phone: (706) 542-8113
Street address: 115 Jackson Street Building
Sonia Hirt


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Ph.D., University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, College of Architecture and Urban Planning, Urban and Regional Planning, 2003

M.A., University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, College of Architecture and Urban and Regional Planning, Master of Urban and Regional Planning, 1995

B.A., University of Architecture and Civil Engineering, Sofia, Bulgaria, Faculty of Architecture, Diploma in Architecture (Arch. Dipl.), 1991



Sonia’s research focuses on the interactions between social and cultural values and the urban built environment. Through her scholarship and teaching, she aims to advance understanding of the relationships between social processes, cultural values, and urban forms, and to create opportunities to make cities more equitable, prosperous, and sustainable. Her research has both a theoretical and an applied perspective. She strives to enhance the quality of urban environments by developing a richer theoretical understanding of the social processes and cultural values that influence their evolution. She also strives to provoke critical debates within the urban design and planning professions and thus contribute to innovation in practice.



- 2016 -
The Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning (ACSP) awarded the annual John Friedmann Book Award to Dr. Sonia Hirt for her book Zoned in the USA: The Origins and Implications of American Land-Use Regulation



Landscapes of Postmodernity: Changes in the Built Fabric of Central-East European Cities Since the End of Socialism

Revisiting Jane Jacobs Sixty Years Later...

Getting Serious About Housing Supply: Addressing Restrictive Zoning and Land-Use Policies

Hello from the CED!

Spring 2020 Commencement Message



Neil Irwin and Emily Badger. "Trump Says the U.S. is  'Full.' Much of the Nation has the Opposite Problem." The New York Times, April 9, 2019

Joe Pinsker. "Why Are American Homes So Big?" The Atlantic, September 12, 2019

Danny Westneat. "Seattle Shrinking? Maybe a Good Thing." The Seattle Times, April 2, 2022

Sarah Wesseler. "State, Local Governments Increasingly Turn to Zoning Reforms." Yale Climate Connections, November 29, 2022

Devon Jackson. "Space Odysseys." Santa Fe New Mexican, February 5, 2023


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Dean Sonia Hirt wins a Guggenheim Fellowship!

Considered one of the most prestigious awards for academics, the Guggenheim attracts 2500-3000 applications per year for about 170 awards (or 5-6% success rate). According to UGA records, only twelve UGA faculty in the history of the university and the history of the fellowship, have received this honor. This year, UGA has two winners: Hirt and Professor Andrew Herod from Geography. Sonia will use the fellowship tenure to continue working on her sixth book, tentatively entitled “America’s Hurry: Making Sense of Time and Space in My Adopted Country.” The book is under contract with MIT Press. 

Learn more about the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation


Sonia Hirt on LinkedIn    |   Messages from the Dean



Initially trained as an architect in her hometown of Sofia (the capital of Bulgaria), Sonia Hirt holds a master's and a doctoral degree in urban and environmental planning from the University of Michigan. Prior to joining the University of Georgia, she served as Dean of the School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation at the University of Maryland in College Park; Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at the College of Architecture and Urban Studies, Virginia Tech; and Visiting Associate Professor at Harvard's Graduate School of Design.

Books written or edited by Sonia Hirt

Sonia is the author/co-author/editor of 90 scholarly and professional publications with more than 3,000 citations. Her recent articles focus on: shrinking cities, co-authored with Professor Robert Beauregard of Columbia University and published in International Planning Studies (2021); and on planning, markets, and pluralism, co-authored with Professor Alexander Slaev and published in Planning Theory & Practice (2022). Her newest article, co-authored with Professor Scott Campbell from the University of Michigan, has been published in the Journal of Planning Education and Research. The article reconsiders the basic tenets of planning for sustainable development in the 21st century, proposing a new concept for planning called the "Planner's Pentangle."

Sonia Hirt receives the John Friedmann Best Book Award from ACSP (2016)

Sonia’s book "Iron Curtains: Gates, Suburbs and Privatization of Space," published by Wiley-Blackwell, received the Honorable Mention for the Book Prize in Political and Social Studies sponsored by the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies at Harvard University (learn more). This award is given to an outstanding monograph in anthropology, political science, sociology, or geography. Her book "Zoned in the USA: The Origins and Implications of American Land Use Regulation," published by Cornell University Press, received several academic honors (learn more). These include the Honorable Mention for the 2015 Best Book Award of the Urban Affairs Association; shortlist for the Best Book Award of the International Planning History Society; one of the Ten Best Books in Urban Planning, Design and Development of 2015 by Planetizen; list of Outstanding Academic Titles by Choice Magazine; and the biennial John Friedmann Best Book Award by the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning. In 2019, Planetizen named the book one of fourteen Top Urban Planning Books of the Decade (2010-2020). In 2020, Book Authority ranked it in the Top Forty Land Use Law Books of All Time.

Sonia is also the editor of "The Urban Wisdom of Jane Jacobs" (with Diane Zahm), published by Routledge (learn more), and the author of “Twenty Years of Transition: The Evolution of Urban Planning in Eastern Europe and the Former Soviet Union, 1989-2009” (UN HABITAT; with Kiril Stanilov). She is an elected Fellow of the American Institute of Certified Planners and an elected co-chair of the Executive Committee of the Alliance for Advancement of the Arts in Research Universities (a2ru).

For 8 years, she served as the editor-in-chief and co-editor-in-chief of the Journal of Planning History (JOPH) (the journal moved to MIT on January 1, 2023). This journal is the official peer-reviewed journal of the Society for American City and Regional Planning History. Through her career, she is or has been a member of the editorial boards of ten scholarly journals, including Planning Perspectives, Planning Research and Practice, and Urban Design International.

Covers of Books Written or Edited by Sonia Hirt

Sonia’s research has been sponsored by some of the most competitive and prestigious scholarly organizations such as the American Council of Learned Societies, the American Councils for International Education, the American Association of University Women, the Graham Foundation, the Fulbright Program, the Lincoln Institute for Land Policy, the National Council for Eurasian and East European Research, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, and the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars. Sonia has delivered invited presentations at some of the world’s top universities such as the Bauhaus, Brown, Columbia, Cornell, Emory, ETH Zurich, Harvard, MIT, Tongji, University College London, University of Cambridge, University of Florida, University of Michigan, University of Pennsylvania, University of Virginia, Vanderbilt, and the Yale Law School.

Sonia is under contract with Routledge for her fifth book. In collaboration with Professor Emeritus John Levy, Virginia Tech, and Professor Casey Dawkins, University of Maryland, she is working on to the 12th edition of Contemporary Urban Planning—one of the most successful textbooks in the urban planning discipline. The text covers the history and theory of urban design and planning, contemporary practices at different scales, and the major professional subfields. The previous editions of this book, authored solely by Professor John Levy, has been widely used in classrooms in the USA and abroad, through translations in Korean, Mandarin, and Russian. The manuscript will be delivered on September 1, 2023 and publication is expected in the summer of 2024.




Sarah Beeson

Sarah Zibanejadrad Beeson

MS in of Environmental Management, University of Maryland, University Commons, Adelphi, Maryland

MBA, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia

BA - Journalism, Georgia State University, Atlanta, Georgia

Research Interests: Land use, Low-income Communities, Zoning, Infrastructure

Starting year: Fall 2021



Michael GawrysMichael Gawrys

BBA Bachelor of Business Administration, St. Bonaventure University, St. Bonaventure, New York

MBA Master of Business Administration, University at Buffalo, Buffalo, New York

Research Interests: Housing Management and Policy, Residential Mortgage and Consumer Lending, Consumer Economics

Starting year: Fall 2021



Yulia Shaffer

Yulia Shaffer (Fadina)

M.S. in Sustainability Science, Lenoir-Rhyne Center for Graduate Studies, Asheville, North Carolina, USA;

B.A. in Biology, University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, Arkansas, USA; B. Arch., Azerbaijan State Art Academy, Baku, Azerbaijan

Research Interests: Urban Ecosystems, Regenerative Design, Socio-ecological Systems, Environmental Planning

Starting year: Fall 2021



Shweta VardiaShweta Vardia

MS in Structural Analysis of Historic Constructions Czech Technical University, Prague, Czech Republic and University of Minho, Guimaraes, Portugal under Erasmus Mundus Program

BArch, School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi, India

Research Interests: Historic Preservation, World Heritage Sites, Conservation

Starting year: Spring 2021




Žaklina GrgićŽaklina Grgić

MSc in Geography - Spatial Planning and Regional Development, University of Zagreb, Croatia

BSc in Geography, University of Zagreb, Croatia

Research Interests: Urban Geography, Post-socialist cities, Housing, Gentrification

Starting year: Fall 2022

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