EDRA Turns 50. Where Do We Go Next?
Tuesday, August 28, 2018
A statement from Board Chair Deni Ruggeri
Dear members and friends of EDRA,
I hope this message finds you all well. As I begin my tenure as Chair of the Board of EDRA, I would like to take a moment to reach out and share some thoughts regarding my vision for the future of EDRA. First, let me say how humbled I am to have been selected by the EDRA board to represent our community. So many amazing EDRAites have served in this position in the past and these are massive shoes to fill, and I am thankful to Jeremy Wells and Lynne Manzo, who have preceded me in this position. As new Chair, I can count on a very motivated Board of Directors, with some of the best people in the fields of environmental design. Jeremy Wells will serve as Past Chair, in charge of governance. Linda Nubani is Chair-Elect, and she will help this year as co-Chair of the Program Committee for the 2019 EDRA conference in Brooklyn, NY. Together with Rich Wener, Ruth Rae and Jessica Morris, EDRA50 Conference co-chairs, Linda is working hard to make EDRA50 a transformative event in the life of our community, and a moment of celebration of its half a century-long history. Elizabeth Hewitt has just started her tenure as Treasurer. She will be working with the rest of the board to improve on the financial sustainability of EDRA so we can last another 50 years and beyond. Chingwen Cheng, our Secretary, is warming up to organize our EDRA51 conference in Arizona next year. Sharmin Kader will be Chair of the Recognitions Cluster, charged with the organizing of the EDRA Great Places, Career and Service Awards, as well as the CORE certificate of excellence in Environmental Design research. Karen Kim, a former student board representative, will continue to lead the Communications committee. If you have yet to do so, please visit our Facebook and LinkedIn pages to stay involved and be in the know of all that is happening at EDRA. Finally, I would like to welcome Sheila Gobes-Ryan, chair of the Members and Partners committee, and Robert Nichols, and Jinoh Park, the newest members of the board. We are also lucky to have Greg Barker as an emeritus board member. After working hard for the past year to make EDRA49 a success, David Boeck is leaving the board to focus on personal and professional life. He is off to Africa for his sabbatical, and I know he will be a great ambassador for the organization while he is there. That is a geographical area with a high potential for growth in our membership. David will help recruit new members and conference attendees while he is there.
As EDRA enters its maturity at age 50, we continue to sense the excitement to be a part of such a fantastic community of scholars and agents of democratic, socially responsible change. My participation in EDRA49 in Oklahoma City has renewed this excitement and reminded us that in the Smart Cities of the 21st centuries, inequities continue to exist and that environmental designers must continue to build new bonds of trust with the communities they serve. Like many of you who attended, I left EDRA49 humbled, energized and motivated to work hard, excel, be critical, and make an impact in the world. While the mission and values that EDRA is founded on are very much alive, EDRA faces unique challenges that mine our ability to continue to create environments that are supportive of human life and that sustain themselves in a mutually respectful and beneficial balance with the natural environment. We need to recalibrate our work to make it more poignant and impactful on some of the global challenges our society faces--from the rise of nationalism to the loss of social capital, and from global warming and climate uncertainty to environmental justice and public health for all segments of our population, especially the underserved and unheard. Addressing these critical challenges will require reaching beyond the traditional environmental design fields to collaborate and partner with other disciplines and professional areas. The need for greater transdisciplinarity and consilience will challenge us to adopt new theories, methods, and approaches and to strengthen further and amplify our impact and ability to be transformative.
50 years ago, Henry Sanoff and his team set us on a clear path against racial discrimination, design standardization, and a purely functional approach to the making of our cities and neighborhoods. They proposed a person-centered, compassionate approach to design and advocated for our responsibility as design researchers and practitioners to serve all of society, particularly those who have no voice, and to do that with creativity and delight. Half a century is a long time for an idea to live through. For the EDRA story to continue to evolve and adapt to the changing landscape of our communities, we must challenge ourselves to act and continually renew our commitment to creating places that are democratically shaped, designed to be accessible, and capable of affording healthy relationships between people and the landscape, and between each other. The strength of our responses to the societal challenges the world is facing requires new partnerships and collaborations between experts and citizen scientists, students and professors, designers and contractors, community groups and corporate clients.
Just as it is in research and practice, participation and partnership are essential tools for achieving greater resilience and sustainability. This leads me to my final plea for you to become involved. EDRA needs you now more than ever. Please renew your membership, or consider signing up for one of our Wayfinder, Placemaker, or Institutional memberships. You will join a group of motivated individuals guided by a mission “to provide a collaborative, multidisciplinary community to connect theory, research, teaching, and practice to recognize, create and advocate for environments that are responsive to diverse human needs,” while “advancing research, teaching, and practices that improve our understanding of the relationships among people, the built environment, and natural ecosystems.”
If you are financially unable to contribute more, please consider giving us your time and energy through volunteering for one of the many committees and programs we sponsor. In return for your time, you will experience the joy and fulfillment of working with talented, motivated peers who share your values and concerns for the future of our planet. Anything you can provide will make a difference. Please do not hesitate to reach out to me, or any of our board members. We are here because of you, and welcome your involvement.
Chair of the EDRA Board of Directors
Associate Professor of Landscape Architecture
Norwegian University of Life Sciences