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Spring 2021 Newsletter

Created in 1957, the Center for Urban and Regional Studies (CURS) is one of the oldest university-based research centers of its kind. The Center’s mission is to promote and support high-quality basic and applied research on urban, regional and rural planning and policy issues.
Putting Skill to Work: How to Create Good Jobs in Uncertain Times
“The United States has a jobs problem—not enough well-paying jobs to go around and not enough clear pathways leading to them” says CURS Interim Director Nichola Lowe. “Skill development is critical for addressing this employment crisis, but there are many unresolved questions about who has skill, how it is attained, and whose responsibility it is to build skills over time.” In her new book, Lowe tells the stories of pioneering workforce intermediaries—nonprofits, unions, community colleges—that harness this ambiguity around skill to extend economic opportunity to workers at the bottom of the labor market. [story]
The Anthropology of Air Conditioning in the Arab Gulf
“We have come to live a life that is almost exclusively indoors–from air-conditioned houses to air-conditioned cars, offices, malls…” said Marwa Koheji of her native Bahrain. “Indeed, when I learned that more than 60 percent of electricity in the Arab Gulf is consumed by air conditioning, it made me aware not only of our reliance on this machine but also of its energy and environmental cost.” Koheji, a doctoral student in cultural anthropology at UNC-Chapel Hill, was awarded a CURS-supported National Science Foundation dissertation grant to investigate how and why air conditioning has become so popular in Bahrain, what historical, social and material factors contribute to its spread, and to what consequences among different users. [story]
Viewpoints on Resilient and Equitable Responses to the Pandemic
In April 2020, CURS launched Viewpoints, a podcast featuring experts at UNC-Chapel Hill discussing effective and equitable responses to the pandemic. Twenty-one episodes address a wide range of subjects: from small businesses, public transportation and housing to manufacturing, food supply and the economic future for Black people, communities and businesses. The two most recent episodes feature Danielle Purifoy and Donald Planey.
Danielle Purifoy on Freedom is a Place
As a geographer and environmental justice scholar, Purifoy's research interrogates the racial politics of place development, particularly for Black communities seeking safety, refuge and autonomy from anti-Black violence of all forms. [podcast]
Donald Planey on the Carolina Tracker
Planey discusses the Carolina Tracker, a web tool meant to make important, day-by-day and month-by-month COVID-19-related socio-economic data available to North Carolina’s policymakers, researchers and communities.  [podcast]
STRIDE Funds Master’s Capstone Projects at UNC-Chapel Hill
Six students from UNC-Chapel Hill were awarded Southeastern Transportation Research, Innovation, Development and Education Center funding for their city and regional planning capstone projects. Capstone projects are required of students in the UNC master’s program. “Students at UNC bring it all together by working on a master’s capstone project during their final year of the program,” said Noreen McDonald, professor and chair of the UNC Department of City and Regional Planning. “The project lets them go deep on what really interests them.” Students worked with faculty and external clients to develop and execute project ideas. [story]
Nguyen to Lead Design Lab at UC San Diego
On March 24, 2021, UNC Center for Community Capital (CCC) Director Mai Thi Nguyen became faculty director of the Design Lab at the University of California, San Diego. As an associate professor in the department of city and regional planning at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, she directed the CCC, a non-partisan, multi-disciplinary research center housed within UNC-Chapel Hill, that is a leading center for research and policy analysis on the power of financial capital to transform households and communities in the United States. [story]
Rohe Recognized by Urban Affairs Association
Former CURS Director William Rohe has been selected by the Urban Affairs Association to receive the 2021 Contribution to the Field of Urban Affairs Award, which is given to individuals whose body of work has contributed to defining the field. The award committee said, “For 25 years, he directed the Center for Urban and Regional Studies, bringing it to prominence as a leading center for urban research. The interdisciplinary work of the Center makes academic research accessible to practitioners and policymakers, focused on improving communities.” [story]
Spring 2021 CURS Speaker Events
The spring, the UNC Center for Urban and Regional Studies hosted two talks on Zoom. The first event featured Fayola Jacobs of the University of Minnesota and was sponsored by the Carolina Climate Equity Commons. The second event was a book talk by Susan Burch of Middlebury College that was co-sponsored by the UNC Community Histories Workshop, UNC Press and the American Indian and Indigenous Studies Program. 
Black Feminisms and Black Geographies – The Possibilities for Disaster and Climate Change Research with Fayola Jacobs
On April 21, 2021, Fayola Jacobs discussed Black geographies and Black feminisms as potentially useful lenses for urban planning research on disasters and climate change. [story]
Committed – Remembering Native Kinship In and Beyond Institutions
On April 27, 2021, Susan Burch, director of the American Studies Program at Middlebury College, gave a talk about her new book about Canton Asylum, a federal psychiatric institution created specifically to contain American Indians. [story]
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Banner image by Anna Hamilton. Lower image by Andy Berner.

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