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College of Environment and Design

MEPD Ideas of Community Class Visits Georgia Sites in Study of Planning and Immigration

Students at Refuge Coffee
Students and Professor Ramos with Mayor Ted at Refuge Coffee

The MEPD Ideas of Community course, taught by Associate Professor Stephen Ramos, is focusing this semester on planning and immigration in Georgia. On Friday, February 23rd, students traveled to Clarkston, GA in DeKalb County in metropolitan Atlanta to meet with Mayor Ted Terry. Founded as a railroad town in the 1830s, Clarkston is now a designated asylum for refuge seekers, earning it the title of “the most diverse square mile in America.” Over 60 languages are spoken within the 1.1 square miles of the city limits! Students discussed Clarkston’s 2040 Comprehensive Plan with “Mayor Ted”, and how planning mechanisms can strengthen the city’s diversity and policy of acceptance. The meeting took place at the fabulous Refuge Coffee Co. in downtown Clarkston (

Students with Mayor Ted
Mayor Ted speaks with the class

On the following Friday, March 2nd, the class traveled four hours to the south of the state, to Lumpkin, GA to visit the El Refugio Hospitality Center. Coordinator Marie Marquardt received the class and gave an overview of immigrant detention in the U.S. The center provides housing, meals, and services for families visiting detainees—immigrants and asylum seekers—at the Stewart Detention Center. Stewart Detention Center houses approximately 1,700 immigrant detainees, one of the largest in the county, and has the highest deportation rate of any detention center. Students visited the center to have conversations with detainees and bear witness to their conditions. If you would like to learn more about El Refugio you can visit them here

Students at El Refugio
Students at El Refugio Hospitality Center with coordinator Marie Marquardt 


The Master of Environmental Planning & Design is a professional graduate program with an emphasis on a studio-based integrative planning process grounded in environmental and ecological principles. The purpose is to improve life and ecosystem health in regions and urban centers, incorporating cultural, historic and design elements, while engaging community process to identify and plan for long range city and regional goals. For more information:

Master of Environmental Planning & Design