Meet Dr. Mahbubur Meenar, Assistant Professor of Planning in the Department of Geography, Planning, and Sustainability & the Director of Community Planning and Visualization Lab at Rowan University. Dr. Meenar has a multi-disciplinary background in architecture (B.Arch.), urban planning (MUP), and geography (PhD).
What is your area of expertise?
My academic training comes from multiple disciplines. I studied architecture and practiced for a short period of time before I decided to get a masters degree in urban and regional planning and finally a PhD in geography and urban studies. Currently I am an assistant professor in the Department of Geography, Planning, and Sustainability within the School of Earth and Environment. I teach courses connected to three of our majors: Community and Environmental Planning, GIS, and Geography. If I had to pick a specific area of expertise, it would be environmental planning.
I am interested in the intersection of natural and built environments and how it overlaps with the social environment. My current research projects are focused on brownfield redevelopment, green stormwater infrastructure, civic engagement, geo-spatial technology and visualization, and community food systems. My research lab website offers more information: https://www.planviz.org/
Share with us one aspect of student engagement that you enjoy most, and why?
I try to engage students using various methods suitable for different courses. I incorporate my professional planning experience in my classes as much as possible. The assignments for my “Community Planning and Site Design” course, for example, are based on real world projects—either a small part of a big research project or a replica of a mid-size project. These projects have real life clients (e.g., nonprofit organizations, local municipalities). Students visit project locations (e.g., Glassboro, Camden), meet clients or community partners, and complete site observations. They utilize that experience in class and engage in a design charrette—one of my favorite student engagement activities.
I create a replica of real-world design charrettes in class where students work in groups, with the help of a lot of prompts (e.g., maps, tracing papers, drawing supplies, cutouts of design ideas). Students brainstorm, debate on ideas and visions, and finally develop a design proposal. They present their group proposals in front of the class and students vote for the best proposal. We end the class with a group discussion reflecting on the process and outcomes.
What is one thing you wish people knew about your academic discipline or research focus?
Urban and regional planning professionals need to have intensive education and training specific to the profession, but they cannot and should not create plans on their own. In the real world they need to work together with policy makers, media representatives, and relevant professionals (e.g., architects, engineers, GIS analysts, landscape architects, public health professionals) depending on the type of plan/project. More importantly, planners must work closely with the community organizations, residents, businesses, and other stakeholders living or working in the community. They need to actively and meaningfully engage the stakeholders in the plan development process. It is not the professionals but the locals who have a greater understanding of their community’s strengths and shortcomings. We need to listen to their stories and visions in the beginning stage of any project in order to make a meaningful connection to the whole project.
Do you have a favorite Rowan memory?
It is difficult to pick just one because I have a collection of fond memories in my (almost) three years at Rowan. The success of our students—either in the classroom or in the professional field—define us in many ways. I have sweet memories attached to several class projects and students’ professional achievements.
I try to keep in touch with my students even after their graduation as the GPS department’s small size allows for meaningful connections between our students and staff to take place. In addition, I really enjoyed some field trips and community events that I organized with the help of my students. I am looking forward to make more memories here at Rowan.
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Vanessa Vause, senior public relations and theatre major