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Course Information

Instructor Info:Myrna Breitbart
Office Extension x5457
Term: 2014S
Meeting Info: Tuesday Thursday
02:00 PM - 03:20 PM Franklin Patterson Hall (FPH) 108
02:00 PM - 03:20 PM Franklin Patterson Hall (FPH) 108

"Wicked Problems" are complex, ever changing, and resistant to simple solutions; they require transformative and purposeful innovation. In urban studies, the challenges posed by economic and social inequality, the need to plan for multiple publics, and the distancing of residents from public space and access to planning processes, suggest a number of questions: What do we need to understand about the people who seek to participate in, and are impacted by, spatial (and social) planning as we try to foster more equitable and sustainable living and working environments? How do we design methods for understanding the experience of multiple publics in places that are undergoing constant change and need to respond to a diverse constituency? Where are the spaces in which to experiment with improvisational and flexible forms of intervention that might open up new economic and social opportunities? These and other questions will be explored in this course through case studies of urban intervention methodologies and practices. Mid semester we will pair with a sister course in social entrepreneurship to both combine our collective learning and work collaboratively on a shared project. This project(s0) will bring students together to share, re-purpose and utilize the various approaches they have learned about social enterprise development and urban planning/design to creatively address an identified need on campus.

Course Objectives:
  • Understand and describe the concept of a “wicked problem”, and analyze real-world examples
  • Gain literacy and critical perspective on issues confronted in urban planning through independent and collaborative group work, class discussion and activities, and assignments
  • Become familiar with methodologies leveraged by planners and community groups to gain perspective on wicked problems and attempt to address them
  • Critically consider wicked problems and apply methods of analysis in the context of the Hampshire College community
  • Collaboratively identify, investigate, pilot, and propose potential strategies or action plans to address wicked problems at Hampshire
Evaluation Criteria:

The following is required to receive an evaluation or grade in this class:


The following is required to receive an evaluation or grade in this class:

  • Regular attendance and arrival on time. Attendance is required, both for your benefit and that of the classroom community. Please inform me if you will not be there before class. More than two unexcused absences may prevent you from receiving a course evaluation. If you do miss a class, please submit any assignments before class and consult a classmate to find out what you missed.
  • This is a seminar so it is expected that you will come to class having completed the assigned readings and participate actively in discussion.
  • Regularly review the Moodle website to access the readings and note any changes in reading or other assignments and due dates.
  • Prepare for and carry out all individual, group and in-class assignments.
  • Complete and submit all written work by the assigned due dates.
  • Submit a portfolio with all of your written work with the comments that I or fellow students have made at the end of the semester.
  • Submit a self-evaluation.

Student evaluations (or grades) will be based on:

  • Regular and active class participation, both in and out class
  • Timely completion of assignments
  • Ability to engage critically with the course material
  • Ability to make clear and well-supported arguments in writing
  • Ability to make connections to your own experiences and other work
    • Progress over the semester