CED's Response to the Coronavirus
CED students, alumni, faculty, and staff know what it means to be Prepared to Shape Our World. Here, you can read about people connected with CED who are doing incredible work in a variety of fields. Below are their stories.
For information on updates and resources, visit https://ced.uga.edu/coronavirus/
ESRI EXECUTIVE SUPPORTING GLOBAL TRACKING TOOL FOR COVID-19
Lawrie Jordan, graduate of CED's Class of 1973, is currently a senior executive at Esri, a high-tech company headquartered in Redlands, California whose technology has been instrumental in creating GIS tools to track the global spread of the novel coronavirus. These tools take the form of dynamically-updated dashboards containing valuable information detailing locations of confirmed active cases, deaths, recoveries, and more. Data come from the WHO and Johns Hopkins University. According to Jordan, the site leverages the power of geographic science and location analytics, and currently gets over one billion hits per day.
After graduating from UGA with a BA in Landscape Architecture in 1973, Jordan received his master’s in Landscape Architecture from the Harvard University Graduate School of Design, along with fellow UGA graduate Bruce Rado. A few short years later, Jordan and Rado founded the software company ERDAS, which became an industry leader in processing satellite imagery to show global changes in the environment.
It was at the Harvard GSD that the two met Esri founder and fellow Landscape Architect Jack Dangermond, and ERDAS and Esri became key strategic business partners for more than 20 years until Jordan and Rado sold their company and retired in 2001. Jordan came out of retirement in 2008 to become Esri’s Corporate Director of Imagery and Remote Sensing and Special Assistant to Jack Dangermond.
Both UGA and Harvard have played key roles in the evolution of Landscape Architecture education over the last 100 years. When Frederick Law Olmsted founded the first school of Landscape Architecture in the U.S. at Harvard in 1901, he challenged students to be “Stewards of the Environment”. UGA adopted Olmsted’s resilient vision in their Landscape Architecture program from its early beginning in 1929 in Athens, and that vision is flourishing today across multiple programs at CED.
Similarly, Esri has adopted this role of stewardship under founder/Landscape Architect Dangermond since its beginning in 1969. A disaster response team has been in operation at Esri for over 25 years, aiding first responders and other emergency personnel with wildfires, floods, and disease (such as the 2014 Ebola crisis).
In response to the coronavirus pandemic, Esri transitioned all their employees to remote work and greatly expanded their disaster response team, providing constant updates, predictive analytics, and more to those who need it most. Today, Esri is active in and supports more than 150 countries, and its software is used in over 7,000 schools and universities.
Esri's logo, from esri.com
Jordan also understands that part of the responsibility as a “steward of the environment” is giving back. This philosophy can be seen in the scholarships he and Rado set up for UGA and Harvard students, as well as Esri’s generous provision of tools such as theCOVID-19 Dashboard.
CED is proud to have alumni like Jordan and Rado working to, as Jordan puts it, “evolve the profession” of Landscape Architecture with a new view and a new vision towards a “central nervous system for the planet”. By harnessing the constant stream of data for a worthwhile purpose helping others, Landscape Architects are not just stewards of the environment, but stewards of the globe.
Park Planner and Team Create COVID Hub for ACC
Those familiar with Athens Clarke County (ACC) government may recognize the name Daniel Sizemore, a CED alum currently working in park planning for the city. In his regular day to day, he plans innovative greenspaces and multiuse trails that address the specific needs and wants of the nearby residents. Since the coronavirus pandemic, however, his day to day has changed significantly.
Just three days after transitioning to remote work pursuant to ACC’s shelter in place guidelines, Sizemore and others were assigned to ACC’s COVID Data Response Team. The ultimate goal of the team is to collect data, then present that data in the form of maps and web apps to the public and city managers. Sizemore and his team began working on what he calls “the hub,” which functions as ACC’s one-stop-shop to detail the city’s response to the pandemic and provide resources for the community. Sizemore created the hub and organized the content generated by the entire team.
Notable features of the hub include the open/closed status of Athens’ various parks and greenspaces, the locations of pharmacies, health providers, food assistance, and more. The hub also contains various reports detailing various demographic and institutional information such as average age, number of at-risk Athenians, testing sites at the state level, and typical hospital bed counts.
Sizemore graduated from CED with a master’s in Landscape Architecture in 2016, though his work for ACC started much earlier than that. While working on his thesis, Sizemore began working in ACCGov’s Leisure Services Department. According to him, the most valuable things he learned while at CED were the breadth of GIS capabilities, collaboration among various groups related to park planning (such as construction crews, landscapers, the resident population, and city officials), attention to detail, and data analysis and visualization.
Key among these lessons was the importance of making data easily digestible and relevant. In order to make sense of the data generated, Sizemore uses his skills to create clear, concise graphics and text that communicate the most valuable information to those who need it. Especially in times of crisis, sharing accurate information becomes even more of a priority. Sizemore recognizes this need, and works diligently to make life easier for Athens residents.
Dudley Park, from ACCGov.com
Sizemore is also working to make an impact on the built environment of Athens. Through a partnership between ACCGov’s Sustainability Office and the Park Planning Office, he and his team were instrumental in securing a $550,000 grant for ACC’s “Restore our River” project, which was started in 2019 as an effort to restore approximately 1 mile of a highly urbanized river corridor into a species-rich, ecologically diverse habitat. The funds will go toward Dudley Park, which covers 32-acres east of downtown Athens.
Sizemore is a sterling example of the kind of practical application of an education in Landscape Architecture. CED is proud not only of Sizemore and the work he does, but of his commitment to improving our local environment.
An Artistic Take On Coronavirus
Amitabh Verma, associate professor at the College of Environment and Design, has been promoting drawing and sketching as tools for management of stress and anxiety, and has taught several workshops at UGA and elsewhere. Now he’s using those skills in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
To “keep [himself] focused and creatively engaged in the present situation,” Verma has translated the virus into a classical interpretation of struggle. The series of images, which can be seen on his Instagram, aims to “reinterpret how medieval artists represented the victory of good over evil, which could be a dragon, the devil, an enemy or even disease.”
View the series by visiting Verma’s Instagram,@red.corvus. The series began on April 1 and at the time of writing consists of seven images.
The images show St. George in a variety of styles and locations slaying the dragon currently tormenting our world. To liken the threat to others found in classical art, one cheeky caption reads, “St. George slaying the COVIDragon.”
While the art in this series is a far cry from most of what you’ll see at the College of Environment and Design, Verma is nonetheless using his artistry to shape the world around him and promote a refreshing sense of levity to our current situation.
LETTUS Students Create Virtual Crit Lab
Students from LETTUS, a student collective established through the College of Environment and Design, have created a virtual crit lab allowing them to gather feedback on a variety of projects despite university-wide online instruction. Anyone can view the projects, but only students are able to provide feedback.Visit the crit lab by clicking here.
LETTUS, like CED itself, is composed of a variety of disciplines including landscape architecture, historic preservation, and urban planning. The virtual crit lab is divided into four “chambers:” Design Crit (focusing on studio and graphics), GIS and Mapping (geographic information systems), Research, and Everything Else (activities not necessarily related to schoolwork, such as baking, gaming, cats, or anything else).
An example of design work posted soliciting feedback
Since so much of CED student work takes place in hands-on classrooms, a crit lab such as this is hugely helpful. Tangible artifacts like models and maps are best interacted with in person, and the crit lab allows for users to get a semblance of interactivity via open discussion and honest feedback. Additionally, the creation of an online community made exclusively of CED students promotes a sense of community despite exclusively online instruction.
Students provide feedback
Elsewhere online, students have been defending their theses and practicums. Over the past few weeks, over twenty students successfully defended their master’s theses and practicums on a variety of topics, ranging from history of early-20th-century planned communities to the complex role of public libraries in today’s society. Four more are planned for May.
CED is proud of the work that students, faculty, staff, and alumni have put into making this challenging time decidedly less so, and is encouraged by the designers who continue to shape their world for the better.
Historic Preservationists Hold Virtual Interviews
First-year graduate Historic Preservation students are researching the history of Whitehall Mill and Mill Village located in southern Clarke County, Georgia as part of their required coursework this semester. As one of the first mills built in Georgia and Athens, many historic resources still exist to tell its story, including the 1890s mill buildings, the 1830s mill race, and phases of mill village housing developments in the 1830s and 1880s.
Two sites, the mill complex and the mill owner’s home (Whitehall), were listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2002 and 1980 respectively, yet the mill village has not yet been designated. Students in the Introduction to Cultural Resources Assessment course are pulling together contextual research to assist in crafting a National Register Nomination that to combine all pieces of Whitehall’s story together: the mill, the mill village and the owner’s home. As a part of that research, four residents, aged 70 to 92, agreed to do oral history interviews with the students just as the COVID-19 pandemic was beginning to hit the US.
To understand the essence of Whitehall as a community, gathering firsthand knowledge of how the mills ran, the nature of mill work, an daily happenings in the mill village was critical. However, social distancing required students to determine how best to go about interviewing the residents.
Luckily, some of the interviewees were quite computer savvy and agreed to do interviews using Zoom video conferencing. Some residents showed the students historic photographs and newspaper articles found as a part of the residents’ own research on Whitehall. For those interviewees who did not have or feel comfortable with computers, students conducted group telephone interviews.
As a result of student efforts and cooperation by residents, little-known insights about life in Whitehall Mill Village can now be added to the contextual research for the proposed Whitehall Mill Village draft National Register nomination.
Promoting Sustainability in Food Supply
Melissa Tufts, of the Owens Library and director of CED's Circle Gallery, shares her thoughts on sustainability, Athens’ food system, and what she’s doing in response.
"This pandemic shines a bright light on the inequities in our food system and the vulnerable nature of a 'just in time' mentality for food and essential supplies. Cities, obviously, are highly dependent on agriculture, and all this got me thinking once again about how we feed ourselves here in America. Setting aside the vagaries of industrial agriculture for a moment, I turned to our own farm and how we produce food. I can’t fix the whole system, but I can try to make a difference at this moment, in my community. This effort actually goes back over 100 years in the early decades of the Progressive Era, when horticulturalists and landscape gardeners, the predecessors to landscape architecture in America, addressed the need for people to have access to nature and to be self-reliant by including orchards and kitchen gardens into their homesteads. What to do at this moment in time with the resources we have?
"We are doubling the size of our vegetable garden here at our farm (we are an organic farm, established in 1996) in Madison County, out near the Broad River, to be able to supply our county's Food Bank. The garden and fruit orchard is about 1/4 of an acre. We start most everything from seed and use organic methods with no off-farm inputs. My husband Michael and I were among the first of the market gardeners in Athens, selling on the streets downtown across from City Hall. Over the years, I cut back on our production simply because I needed a stable income and wanted to concentrate on my work at UGA. In the past we sold to a few Athens restaurants, had a CSA, and donated to the Food Bank when we could. We’ve had several CED students work out here as interns.
"Because my work at CED now takes up too much of my time and energy to do a bona fide market garden, I was slowly reducing the amount of production... until COVID-19 hit. Now we are re-energized big-time. Being engaged in my community and studying rural issues over the years, I am also struck by how hard it is for people to get good food without getting into a car. There are still plenty of rural residents who have wonderful gardens and an incredible amount of know-how, but there are also lots of people who haven't the resources or guidance. Gone are most of the small crossroads stores where one could set out on foot, a bike, a horse, or a tractor to purchase a gallon of milk and some flour, along with crickets for fishing. Now, rural areas depend on Dollar Generals, situated in areas not friendly to pedestrians.
"Our nation's food system is vulnerable in many ways. In addition to the just-in-time model, we are heavily dependent on migrant workers, who have not been welcome by everyone and are under appreciated. So, in a way, my rededication to our market garden is a local response to a national problem.
"Of course, the confidence and delight that comes from digging in the dirt, watching seedlings break ground, and begging our dogs not to dig up the turnips is a huge benefit in these stressful times. I think back on my grandparents here in Georgia who survived the devastation of the Civil War, the two World Wars, the Great Depression, and the 1918 flu epidemic (which took my grandfather's life but thankfully spared my grandmother and their three children). I am inspired--I wouldn’t be here if they hadn’t persisted, so I, too, will persist for my family and my community.
"The soil is approaching 70 degrees, and moisture content is good. The three horses have been generous in their manure donation, as have the goats and chickens. The sun is out. The winter cover crop is ready to be tilled under. Raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries are blooming and there are thousands of tiny fuzzy peaches on the peach trees. The apple blossoms are floating on the wind. Today I am motivated by that great essayist Montaigne and turn my full attention to 'planting cabbages.' In the garden there is always good work to do and hope to be unearthed."
MUPD Alum Assists National Guard in Albany
A graduate of CED’s Master of Environmental Planning and Design (MUPD) program has answered the call of duty by serving in the Georgia State Defense Force alongside the National Guard in Albany, Georgia. First Lieutenant Christopher Sirmans, who is now a dean at Gwinnett Tech, and his unit are assisting another unit with decontamination operations at several elderly primary care facilities in the south Georgia city.
The Georgia State Defense Force, "an auxiliary unit of the Georgia Department of Defense,” is a “rapid response volunteer force to assist state and local government agencies and civil relief organizations in impending or actual emergencies to assure the welfare and safety of the citizens of Georgia.” At times, the Georgia State Defense Force serves alongside the National Guard to assist during emergencies.
Sirmans believes his education in Planning and Design has helped in his career in academia, as well as the armed forces. “I can say that my master’s in planning [and design] has definitely helped in my military career as well. Environmental and critical needs assessments are being done on a daily basis. Logistics and infrastructure delivery systems are being assessed as well.” An education in environmentally-conscious planning can help tremendously when assessing the needs of a particular population and landscape.
Georgia State Defense Force training, credit PAONews
Sirmans entered the MUPD program when it was still in its infancy. The program, according to its founder and former dean Jack Crowley, was to teach planning and design for practical implementation. The MUPD, then, was attractive to students like Sirmans and James Bradley, who were professionally involved elsewhere before deciding to further their education via the MUPD program.
After graduating, Chris became Dean of Construction Management at Gwinnett Tech. His current title is Dean of Engineering, Construction, Manufacturing, and Design.
Sirmans is in the midst of working toward his PhD. Though our current situation and other factors have put that on hold for now, CED would like to express its pride and admiration for having such an example of what our graduates are capable of.
Headshot photo credit Gwinnett Tech
MHP Coordinator Participates in Wuhan Forum
Emerging from more than two months in strict quarantine, cultural heritage colleagues in Wuhan, China organized a virtual conference, Shared Future, Shared Heritage on April 18 to celebrate the International Day for Monuments and Sites. The holiday is also known as World Heritage Day.
James Reap, CED Historic Preservation Coordinator, was among the heritage conservation scholars and practitioners invited to participate in a dialogue to explore the idea of sharing—and its counterpoints, contestation and resistance—in relation to cultures, heritage and responsibility. The organizers from the Wuhan Research Society for Shared Built Heritage and the World Heritage Institute of Training and Research-Asia and Pacific/Shanghai (WHITRAP) felt that the theme of sharing was a timely focus, and an expression of global unity amidst the current world health crisis. The forum included participants from China, the United States, and Europe.
Reap documents the James Jackson Memorial Gymnasium, an example of "shared built heritage" containing Western and Chinese elements, which was restored by the Wuhan Research Society.
CED has collaborated with colleagues in Wuhan for several years. Professor Reap has attended three “Crossover Forum” conferences on shared built heritage in Wuhan. Additionally, Erika Shroeder (MLA + HP Certificate) worked in documenting an historic district during an internship there in the summer of 2019.
Almost unknown in contemporary America until the COVID-19 crisis, Wuhan has a long history as an industrial city and crossroads of cultures. The city on the Yangtse River has a current population of 11 million and was christened the “Chicago of China” in 1900 by Colliers Magazine for its factories, trading firms, international companies and consulates. The convergence of cultures is still evident today in architecture and city planning of its historic districts.
Remotely Archiving the Pandemic
Scott Nesbit and his students are working hard to archive the current pandemic despite restrictions on travel and mass gatherings. Historic preservation often necessitates site visits, hands-on work, and travel. Because of complications surrounding the coronavirus pandemic and various shelter in place guidelines, doing traditional preservation work is simply not possible.
In response, Nesbit, his students, and UGA library staff are exploring innovative ways to document this point in history. By accessing online records, photos, current online discourse, and other resources, Nesbit’s students are hoping to build a complete picture of our current moment. Students will select a community, research that community’s response to the 1918 Spanish Flu, then compare that response to that of our current moment.
This archival project was not planned. Amidst the relatively rapid implementation of shelter in place guidelines and UGA’s transition to online instruction, Nesbit considered ours to be a moment of critical importance. There is hardly an aspect of our politics, economy, recreation, study, and professional work that has not been touched by the coronavirus. Archival work prevents precious details from being lost, therefore creating a more complete picture of our current situation.
Fox 5 Interviews Nesbit and UGA Library staff on their preservation work. Air date 5/13/20.
Nesbit has one stand-out consideration: documenting history now is actually more difficult than it was in the past. Due to the myriad sources made available to us via the Internet, archiving is just as much about what materials to keep as well as to discard. Additionally, copyright and trademark restrictions may prevent inclusion of certain resources. By Nesbit’s students will have to pick and choose which news articles, soundbites, photos, and statistics to include… and which to reject. By doing so, individual student projects have the potential to present radically differing perspectives on our current moment.
Even so, Nesbit’s students are working alongside the UGA Libraries to compile as many archival materials as possible. According to a story posted to UGAToday, “The collection will act as a time capsule accessible to researchers, educators and students at UGA and around the world. The materials will provide context and personal stories of the positive and negative impact felt during this period […].” Nesbit’s students will collect material until May 5, the end of the spring semester.
When asked about the importance of historic preservation and why it is key to document the COVID-19 pandemic specifically, one of Nesbit’s students, Keeli Windham, stressed that historic preservation allows us to preserve our culture—and specifically our various responses to the pandemic—for the benefit of future generations:
“Historic preservation is incredibly valuable because the practice seeks to preserve, conserve, and protect not only notable buildings but landscapes, objects, and most importantly culture. This profession seeks to convey invaluable insight of our past and present for generations in the future. That is why documenting the response to the current COVID-19 pandemic is so important. It will allow for future communities to be able to look back and understand the full picture of what was happening during this uncertain time, perhaps to learn from it or possibly to study the situation to avoid similar events. Documenting the collective response and numerous viewpoints from this pandemic will further contribute to that knowledge base.”
Windham's work from home station while remotely archiving the pandemic
Windham, who working toward her Master’s in Landscape Architecture and a certificate in Historic Preservation, has chosen to focus her study on the communities that built Victory Gardens in 1918 and those that are building them in 2020. In both crises, the populace are fighting back in a “war” that had overtaken public consciousness—World War One and Spanish Flu, and the coronavirus. By accessing the National Archives, UGA’s Biodiversity Heritage Library, UGA’s online library, the Library of Congress, and sites like Newspapers.com, Windham hopes to compare the two time periods and draw conclusions about the power of a Victory Garden to encourage and heal a community.
Nesbit reiterates the need for documentation. Documenting “encourages us to slow down and think of the future.” There is no doubt our current situation has left us all with time to reflect. Now, because of Nesbit, his students, UGA librarians, and other archivists, we can rest assured that our current moment will not be forgotten. Should future generations have to deal with a similar crisis, the archivists’ work ought to provide some much needed perspective and may avoid situations like ours altogether.
Digital Gallery Showcases Student Work
While students, faculty and staff are no longer meeting on campus due to UGA’s online instruction and shelter in place guidelines, Dr. Jessica Fernandez and her students have found a way to showcase their hard work online. Students have created beautiful works of art that are currently being exhibited in an intuitive online gallery available for perusal to anyone interested. Visit the gallery by clicking this link.
Exploring Place: An Exhibit of Student Works was created to close out the semester for the CED's Advanced Graphics class. It is available until July 6th. Typically, student work is displayed in the Jackson Street Building. This online gallery will not only provide a space to showcase student work, but will potentially make possible an expended reach not afforded when the work is physically exhibited on campus.
The gallery lives on the website Kuntsmatrix and allows artists to exhibit their work in sleek, ultramodern 3D art galleries. The digital space created for Fernandez’s students is flooded with simulated sunlight, tall windows, and a calming interior design all backed by a calming soundtrack. Each element serves to put student work front and center. Clear and easy to use tools make browsing a breeze. When a user selects a work, options to read more about the piece become visible, giving viewers detailed information on the creator and purpose of the work.
The gallery’s introductory panel outlines the main goals of the gallery:
The essence of a place is difficult to capture in digital graphic form. However, this unseen element is key to the specialness of the places landscape architects create. In the following graphic series fourteen undergraduate landscape architecture students express both the physical and metaphysical components of site through graphic exploration.
The gallery consists of five series: Essence of Place, Exploring Place, Layering with Streetscape, Render Montage, and An Animated Investigation.
Forty-one works in various media range from detailed planning of public spaces like boulevards and mountain cabins, to more impressionistic visualizations exploring what exactly the “essence” of a place can be. In each, artistry and analysis combine to visualize spaces promoting sustainability, resiliency, public health, and practicality.
The exhibition is yet another example of the intuitive problem-solving that has arisen as a result of UGA’s online learning implemented this spring. We’re proud of Fernandez’s students for closing out this semester strong and refusing to allow their excellent work be kept out of the public eye.
Below are just a sample of some of the amazing student works available for viewing on the virtual gallery.
COVID-19, PUBLIC HEALTH, AND CITY PLANNING
Associate Professor Stephen Ramos has published an editorial for the planning history journal, Planning Perspectives, which centers on the connection between public health and city planning. The article, “COVID-19 and Planning History: A Space Oddity,” educates readers on the importance of thoughtful, intuitive city planning that allows residents to lead full lives while mitigating public health concerns.
“The nexus between planning, landscape architecture, and public health date back to the origin of the professions,” Ramos writes. The article explores the history of city planning and the trends that have ebbed and flowed until we got to where we are today. Ramos notes also that the start of UGA’s university-wide online instruction began just as his Planning History course was arrive at the dawn of modernity in the Eighteenth Century.
By the article’s end, Ramos has drawn strong connections between the intertwined realms of politics, public health, and city planning, and asserts that our collective action must be organized, expressed, and projected in a way to create real change on a large scale.
Statue of Hygeia, Greek goddess of health and namesake of ‘Hygeia: The City of Health,' a prototype city proposed by city planner Benjamin Ward Richardson to mitigate public health concerns. Credit.
A hand-drawn aerial panorama of early NYC. The city's cramped residential areas prompted many city planners to re-evaluate how their designs mitigated or magnified public health issues. Credit.
Posters Promote Pandemic Preparedness
You’ve not seen shelter-in-place posters like these before.
Amitabh Verma, associate professor at the CED, has long advocated for the power of art and design to combat stress and anxiety. During the recent pandemic, Verma has turned his talents to a new kind of art: posters to promote shelter-in-place guidelines, mask wearing, and other safe practices.
There is no shortage of public awareness campaigns from businesses, local governments, and health care agencies like the WHO and CDC. Each campaign usually promotes the same kinds of practices, but are not as efficient nor compelling as they could be since they rely heavily on text instead of images.
Verma is seeking to change that. By injecting humor and relying on graphics rather than text (for the most part), Verma’s recent gallery of posters encourages healthy living while breaking tradition from other campaigns whose graphic design can become stale.
The posters modify well-known imagery like Rosie the Riveter, da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man, and Egyptian hieroglyphs to communicate a modern message with a classic flavor. In a way, Verma has assembled an Avengers-like cohort of public figures and aimed them all toward a message of healthy living.
Each poster provokes a different reaction based on its cultural context. Rosie the Riveter has always been a symbol for empowerment and dedication to national prosperity. Vitruvian Man has long evoked medical advancement and the pursuit of knowledge. The posture of figures in Egyptian hieroglyphs is strong, deliberate, and dignified… even while wearing PPE.
Additionally, the great diversity in style and graphics enhance the series’ ability to speak to several distinct demographics. The posters don’t look the same because we don’t look the same. The end result is a humorous series of images that communicate a critical message in a new, fresh way to a wide range of people.
CED Staff: prepping for Fall Amidst COVID-19
As the University of Georgia plans for the Fall alongside its sister USG institutions, UGA’s programs and departments have been given agency to determine what is best for their spaces. The CED staff have been hard at work with the UGA leadership in preparing CED facilities for a start of the fall semester.
Lee Cornell, IT director of the CED, has been at the helm of the College’s preparations for Fall 2020, rearranging studios, classrooms, computer labs, and common areas. The CED is fortunate to have large studio spaces which allow for relatively uncomplicated social distancing compared with other spaces on campus.
While social distancing mandates have reduced most room capacities by nearly 60% of their typical occupancy, “for the most part all [the CED’s] classes will be what we want them to be,” said Cornell.
Lee and other CED staff have transported, rearranged, and offloaded more than 690 chairs and stools, 410 drafting and non-drafting tables, four sofas, two futons, and a recliner in order to maximize available instructional space in the Jackson Street Building, Tanner Building, Denmark Hall, and the Founders House. Rules set forth by the Provost’s Office ensure that all instructional venues allow for proper social distancing.
Once reconfigured, classrooms will undergo a verification process with the Provost's Office in order to finalize desk counts for each studio and seats for each lecture space.
The CED’s Undergraduate and Graduate Advisors, Martha DeHart and Donna Gabriel, have been rethinking how best to meet with students in the upcoming semester. They are arranging their offices to allow for social distancing and plan to leverage phone and Zoom calls where possible in order to continue to provide guidance while ensuring students’ health and safety.
Owens Library and Circle Gallery
Melissa Tufts, director of the Circle Gallery and the Owens Library, has been rethinking these spaces which are so key to the CED experience. The number of patrons in the library will be limited, but services such as book checkout, research help, computer access, and print and copy will remain available. Scanning services will be increased as needed, while physical reserves will be scaled back somewhat. As always, patrons may return books and other materials (even those that are to be returned to the Main and Science Libraries) at the book drop located near the ADA ramp at the JSB's front entrance.
While no material may be checked out at this time, students, faculty, and staff are encouraged to contact Tufts with questions or online assistance. Students, faculty, and staff will continue to have access to millions of resources online via the UGA Libraries website.
The Circle Gallery will have a series of exhibits to inspire, educate, and encourage visitors, but without the traditional reception openings and gallery lectures. Lectures and portions of exhibits will be available online, so stay tuned.
Development and Alumni Relations
Jennifer Messer, Director of Development and Alumni Relations for the CED, continues to connect with CED alumni donors despite moving virtually all communication online. While the situation has prevented Messer from meeting people in person as in previous years, “our donors are incredibly generous and continue to support the CED,” Messer said. CED alumni continue to be there for students through the UGA Mentor Program and by writing letters to incoming students.
Messer remains optimistic. “Throughout this crisis, I have been able to continue connecting with so many who love our College and want to help it grow and thrive. The pandemic has not changed how people feel about UGA or the CED. It has only managed to make us stronger,” she said.
IT Staff are reconfiguring and refitting the Technology Helpdesk to limit face-to-face interaction without affecting the availability of support. Preparations, helmed by Cornell and Tom Jones, are to ensure social distancing while maintaining availability of technical support with the hardware and software that are so key to design work.
The CED’s administrative staff are preparing for a range of eventualities through careful budgeting and event coordination, activities which are seldom seen in the public eye.
Vickie Poole, the CED’s Administrative Financial Director, has developed no fewer than 15 unique budget scenarios. The uncertainty in the upcoming academic year necessitates a budget that can easily pivot in response to shifting circumstances. To that end, Poole has considered a range of possibilities that could impact the College’s financial status. Poole’s work seeks to protect the CED from financial hardship despite uncertainty.
The Lecture Committee, which organizes, publicizes, and facilitates the CED’s annual lecture series, is moving all lectures to an online format. Every year, the CED lecture series features a wide range of lectures from experts from within and without the CED focusing on global issues within environment, design, planning and historic preservation. Though the venue is different this year, lectures will be as informative and impactful as ever. As an added bonus, this year’s audience has the potential to be much larger since the free lectures will be available online.
Public Service and Outreach
The Center for Community Design and Preservation has modified its Findit program to bring its critical functions—including recruitment—online. The Findit program documents historic structures across the state through extensive field work, architectural identification, mapping, and data analysis. In response to the pandemic, student surveyors Anders Yount, Darcie Scales and Elyse Hoganson, CCDP Director Jennifer Lewis, and Professor Cari Goetcheus have been training four new student surveyors via Zoom for the past month.
“The team has become quite close during these screen-to-screen sessions, using Slack on the side to get feedback on building identification as they work from home. They are looking forward to working together in person when research can resume,” Lewis said. Field research in various Athens neighborhoods will resume in the coming days.
This fall, the CCDP’s nine staff and students will implement staggered shifts in order to socially distance within the office. Lewis is exploring virtual alternatives for CCDP’s signature community engagement work, i.e. design charrettes and service-learning studios, based on national models of success. According to Lewis, “We are looking forward to helping CED navigate new ways of partnering with Georgia communities even if we can’t travel. Our beloved orange midcentury chairs are still available for conversations about engagement, and we look forward to collaborating either in person or virtually.”
University-wide preparations include providing cloth masks for all on campus, posting signage to encourage social distancing, training supervisors, installing sanitization stations, and enhancing cleaning throughout campus. UGA’s Coronavirus Information and Resources page is constantly updated with information regarding the upcoming return to campus.
Updates to Follow
The CED is still making final decisions, so keep up with the CED website, emails, and social media for updates. Each and everyone one of us has a critical role to play to promote health and safety across campus. We at the CED would like to recognize our staff and show our appreciation for their dedication to the safety of our CED community and extra efforts toward the success of our College.
From UGA News
Professor Brad Davis Leads Virtual Plant Walks
In the wake of UGA’s online instruction, Brad Davis, Associate Professor at the CED and MLA coordinator, came up with a clever workaround for his elective class, Plants for Temperate Landscapes, which is open to undergraduate and graduate students. During a typical semester, the course involves a number of walking tours in and around Athens and instructs students to identify unique trees, shrubs, grasses, vines, and perennials, including native and introduced vegetation.
UGA’s mandatory online instruction forced Davis to think outside the box about how to provide his students with a similar experience despite not being able to lead in-person walkalongs. In the end, Davis chose to lead live video plant walks, giving his students an approximation of a typical walk and highlighting notable plants along the way. Through this series of videos, narrated and shot by Davis himself, Davis takes specific walks both on and off campus, turning his camera on plant specimens and dropping tidbits of knowledge while conversing with his students.
Notable locations for the walks include UGA’s North Campus and the Founders Garden as well as locations outside of campus such as Athens’ Five Points neighborhood and the Georgia Botanical Gardens. Dr. Michael Dirr, a titanic figure in the land arts, fortunately lives in Athens and regularly makes his own garden available for student walkthroughs. Though he retired in 2003, the former horticulture professor and Director of the UGA Botanical Garden remains active in research and new plant development.
This elective course is not required for any major program, and students are “keenly interested” in the material. The goal of the course is to expose students to between 200 and 250 species not covered in the official CED curricula.
Professor Davis turns the camera on himself
In the videos, Davis travels along the walk exactly has he normally would. He identifies plants and notes specific characteristics to train students to identify plants independently. This semester, the response to the course has been as positive as ever. Students appreciate the time and effort put into Davis’ videos.
Of course, modifying the course so drastically was not without its drawbacks. The largest negative consequence of the new online plant walks is the “separation of the lens.” While it is possible for video to give viewers a detailed look at plants and animals—programs like Planet Earth are proof of that—amateur videography shared over a live-streamed video conferencing platform is an unideal way to introduce viewers to new species. Even if Davis was able to capture and present professional-quality video, studying plants through a screen is a poor substitute to seeing them in person.
Davis states that “even during a typical semester on campus, students often make the mistake of studying for field identification exams by simply perusing Google images. Searching online can be very misleading even if the images are correct, as there is often some level of genetic and morphological variation within even one species, in addition to differences in appearance caused by other factor such as age, light exposure, and health.”
Davis had to change not only the methods of instruction, but also methods of testing. The question of how to administer exams has plagued educators since online instruction began, but Davis devised a testing strategy which seems to have solved many potential issues and opened the door wider to lifelong learning.
For final grades, Davis charged his students with creating their own plant database, not unlike the database maintained by the Missouri Botanical Garden. Davis told his students to discover new plants on their own and conduct their own research. They would then take what they learned to compile a compendium of newly discovered local plant life.
As a result, students ventured into their own spaces and made their own observations based on the groundwork laid by Davis in his walkalong videos. In a way, this project mitigates the issue of students relying on presentations and online material to learn about diverse plant life. Davis stresses the necessity of surrounding oneself with living, three-dimensional plants in order to solidify plant knowledge and gain an understanding of the way plants change over time. By making students create their own database, Davis hopes that students become self-led lifelong learners with the ability to add new plants to memory.
The Clematis is just one of the plants that Davis examines during the plant walks
The ability to become familiar with local plant life is important for landscape architecture students as they graduate and take jobs in new regions with a completely different climates and plant palettes. Davis shares from his own professional practice experience working in a variety of climates such as tropical south Florida and the mountains of Tennessee and North Carolina. “The second plant palette can be learned much faster than the first – you learn what patterns to look for and many times the plant family or genus is the same, with new species occurring in the new region.”
Davis is just one of many faculty who have adjusted their typical teaching methods in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. For more stories on faculty, staff, students, and alumni who have responded to the coronavirus in unique ways, visit the CED’s Our Response to the Coronavirus page.