Urban Seminar Series
Read on for recaps of past urban seminars and click here to view our upcoming events.
Wednesday, October 2, 2019
On Wednesday, October 2nd, the Initiative on Cities welcomed Alan Harding, the Chief Economic Adviser to the Mayor of Metropolitan Manchester, and Midori Morikawa, Director of Business Strategy for the City of Boston, to discuss sustaining economic growth in cities and maintaining momentum while prioritizing inclusivity.
Alan Harding has spent the past three years as Chief Economic Advisor to the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, a relatively new metropolitan authority that has brought together the 10 boroughs that constitute Greater Manchester. Midori Morikawa heads Boston’s Office of Economic Development, a department created by Mayor Marty Walsh after his election in 2014.
Tuesday, September 17, 2019
On Tuesday, September 17th, the Initiative on Cities invited three Massachusetts mayors, Mayor Ruthanne Fuller of Newton, Mayor Donna Holaday of Newburyport, and Mayor Yvonne Spicer of Framingham, to reflect on their experiences on the campaign trail and in public office and discuss the challenges that women face in political leadership. The panel was moderated by Virginia Sapiro, Professor of Political Science and Dean Emerita of Arts & Sciences and was co-sponsored by the Howard Thurman Center, the Political Science Department, Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies Program and BU College Democrats.
Tuesday, September 10, 2019
On Tuesday, September 10th, the Initiative on Cities hosted The Sounds of Boston and Beyond, a seminar that explored the development urban soundscapes and the impact they have on public health and community engagement.
The seminar was led by Erica Walker, Founder of Noise and the City and the Community Noise Lab at Boston University, Daniel Steele, a Visiting Fellow at the IOC and the Program Manager of Sounds in the City, and Edda Bild, a Soundscape Researcher who also comes from Sounds in the City. Prior to the seminar, Steele and Bild led a soundwalk across Boston to explore the various urban soundscapes that exist within the city and discuss the sound and noise implications of city planning.
May 28, 2019
On May 28th, the Initiative on Cities welcomed Lasse Bundgaard, a Visiting Researcher from the Copenhagen Business School and Copenhagen Solutions Lab, to discuss his research on Smart City Solutions and public-private partnerships. He presented the results from his paper with Susana Borras, “Diffusion of Public-Private Innovations: Conditions for Scaling Up Smart City Projects,” which discusses the conditions that affect the scale up of Smart City Solutions resulting from public-private partnerships. Bundgaard is specifically interested in the role the dynamic of the partnership have to play in the success the project will have, both in terms of whether it will be scaled up and, in later research, ensuring the greatest value for citizens and private partners.
Tuesday, April 30, 2019
On Tuesday April 30, Saskia Sassen joined the Initiative of Cities to speak about increased competition for housing, rising rent and how housing is deemed as a commodity for financial firms. Sassen first highlighted the capabilities society has today, “we have capabilities that are rather simple, but how can we make them less destructive?” She provided an example of the Aral Sea in Uzbekistan and how it has dried up over the years. She emphasized how we consist of negative capabilities and we must explore ways to be less destructive and use our intelligence to produce positives.
What Will it Take to End Homelessness in Boston and Beyond? Insights from Policy, Research and Advocacy
Wednesday, April 17, 2019
On Wednesday April 17, Professor Thomas Byrne, Laila Bernstein and Joe Finn joined the Initiative of Cities to speak about how homelessness impacts Boston and other cities throughout the U.S. Each speaker suggested several plans to resolve chronic homelessness through initiatives such as Permanent Supportive Housing and subsidized housing.
Wednesday, March 27, 2019
On Wednesday March 27, Dan O’Brien, Associate Professor of Public Policy, Urban Affairs and Criminology Northeastern University, spoke about the current 311 system in Boston and illustrated data trends that showcased how Bostonians interact with their neighborhoods and local governments. In his new book, The Urban Commons: How Data and Technology Can Rebuild Our Communities, he explored theories of custodianship and territoriality.
March 26, 2019
On Tuesday March 26, panelists discussed how current transportation networks within major cities do not operate efficiently and future technology will serve a key role in incentivizing change and eliminating congestion. The conversation was initially led by Matthew Raifman, Senior Manager at Ford Smart Mobility. Raifman described congestion as an “excess of vehicles on a portion of roadway at a particular time resulting in a reduction below total possible throughput.” Traffic congestion serves as a negative externality for residents by inducing vehicle costs, greenhouse gas emissions, additional travel time and potential health risks.
March 22, 2019
On Friday, March 22, Thomas Ogorzalek, Professor of Political Science at Northwestern University spoke about the divide between urban and rural America and how racial conflict shaped the current political landscape of our country. He illustrated that the divide between these areas have originated in cities themselves in his new book, The Cities on the Hill: How Urban Institutions Transformed National Politics. He focused on how city leaders transformed their political parties and interests on the national level. Current partisan politics in America can be attributed to the 1930s when city leaders became unified in national politics and supportive of civil rights. These changes paved the path for what is known as modern liberalism today. Ogorzalek goes on to explain that during the 20th century, American politics were influenced by race and local institutions served as the main driver of what kept Americans apart.
February 13, 2019
On Wednesday, February 13, Assistant Professors Katherine Einstein, Maxwell Palmer, and Associate Professor David Glick joined the Initiative on Cities and shared key findings from the 2018 Menino Survey of Mayors from interviews of 110 mayors across 37 states. The three highlighted mayoral views on social mobility, living wage ordinances, the sharing economy, immigration and other issues that impact cities daily.
January 25, 2019
Boston University City Planning and Urban Affairs Program, Initiative on Cities, and Sustianability@BU hosted Adriaan Kok, senior project manager and designer for the Dutch company ipv Delft. Kok discussed his projects on improving infrastructures through sustainable and future-proof designs.
October 17, 2018
On Wednesday, October 17th, Dr. Karilyn Crockett joined the Initiative on Cities to discuss her book, People Before Highways: Boston Activists, Urban Planners, and a New Movement for City Making, which was published in early 2018. The book investigates a 1960s grassroots movement in Boston to halt the urban extension of the interstate highway system.
October 10, 2018
On Wednesday, October 10th, the Initiative on Cities and the Boston University Center for Latin American Studies presented a screening of the Brazilian documentary Chega de Fiu Fiu, which translates roughly to Enough With Catcalling. Filmmakers Amanda Kamanchek and Fernanda Frazão use the documentary to explore sexual harassment and catcalling in the streets of Brazil, and the film interweaves the stories of three Brazilian women who share their versions of the female experience.
September 27, 2018
On Thursday, September 27th, the Initiative on Cities and the Boston University Center for Latin American Studies co-sponsored a discussion on the emergence of Latino communities in American cities. The conversation was moderated by BU Assistant Professor Jonathan Calvillo, who teaches Sociology of Religion. The event featured Dr. Llana Barber and Erualdo González, who each spoke of their respective research on the development of Latino communities in Lawrence, Massachusetts, and Santa Ana, California.
May 3, 2018
Boston University Professors Ronwyn Keefe and Ernest Gonzalez came together with James Fuccione of the Massachusetts Healthy Aging Collaborative to discuss how communities can prepare to accommodate the increasing aging demographic.
April 18, 2018
Jennifer Doleac, Assistant Professor of Public Policy and Economics at the Batten School and Director of the Justice Tech Lab at UVA, from visited the Initiative on Cities to lecture on programs and policies to productively incorporate the formerly-incarcerated into their communities.
April 11, 2018
BU School of Public Health Professor Michael Siegel and former Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges visited the Initiative on Cities to discuss firearm violence and community-police relations. Siegel discussed his research on the link between structural racism and fatal police shootings, while Hodges spoke about her work as mayor surrounding policing and community building.
April 4, 2018
Harvard Kennedy School Ph.D. candidate Peter Bucchianeri joined the Initiative on Cities to share research in progress on Conflict and Cleavages Under Democratic One-Party Rule. If two debating sides normally shape how policy is being made, what happens when one of those sides is absent? How does one party rule change how policy is formed?
March 20, 2018
On March 20th, David Lammy, the Labour Member of Parliament for Tottenham in London, England, visited the Initiative on Cities to discuss issues within his constituency, the impact of Brexit, and the goals of the Labour Party.
February 13, 2018
Resilient is a word used in many contexts and with varied meaning. This seminar explored what it means for a neighborhood to be resilient, able to withstand both unexpected shocks and ongoing stresses through social connections, adequate resources and planning, showcasing the work of Cambridge’s Special Committee on Neighborhood-Based Resilience.
December 6, 2017
The Initiative on Cities, BU Department of Art & Architecture, and Center for the Study of Asia co-hosted a lecture by Professor Ian Miller of Harvard University. His presentation led attendees through Japan’s journey to become one of the most “electrified” places on Earth through fossil fuels and the debate of energy as property.
November 27, 2017
The Initiative on Cities and the Institute for Sustainable Energy hosted former Lord Mayor of London, Fiona Woolf, to discuss her efforts on sustainability and innovation within London’s electricity industry.
November 13, 2017
The Initiative on Cities brought together scholars and City of Boston officials to share some of the lesser known aspects and history of our urban home from historical uses of the Boston Common to silica underneath Beacon Hill.
Moderated by Boston University History of Art & Architecture Professor Daniel Bluestone, speakers included: Joe Bagley, City Archaeologist, City of Boston; Robinson “Wally” Fulweiler, Associate Professor, Departments of Biology and Earth & Environment, Boston University; and Ian Stevenson, Ph.D. candidate in American & New England Studies Program, Boston University.
September 27, 2017
What do cities need to be innovative transportation centers? How does equity factor in when transportation networks change?
Moderated by Questrom School of Business Associate Dean Paul Carlile, this seminar featured Lily Song, lecturer at the Harvard Graduate School of Design; and Terry Regan, Program Manager with the US Department of Transportation’s (USDOT) Volpe Center and Adjunct Professor, Boston University City Planning Program.
Immigration, Cities & President Trump
February 28, 2017
Immigration has emerged as arguably the dominant story of 2017. Mayors nationwide have been outspoken in their criticism of the Trump administration’s policies thus far. How are cities in Massachusetts, and around the country, navigating the complex issue of immigration? And what might be at stake for cities moving forward?
Moderated by WBUR reporter Shannon Dooling, this seminar featured Chief Brian Kyes, Chief of Police, City of Chelsea; Karen Pita Loor, Clincal Associate Professor of Law, Boston University School of Law; Sarah Sherman-Stokes, Clinical Instructor, Boston University School of Law; and Councilor Josh Zakim, Boston City Council.
Resurgence of the Latin American City
February 13, 2017
According to UN-Habitat, Latin America is the most urbanized region in the world. Over 75% of its population lived in cities at the turn of the 21st century and that figure is expected to rise to almost 85% by 2030. This seminar explored the past, present and future of innovation in urban Latin America.
Moderated by Taylor Boas, Assistant Professor of Political Science at Boston University, this seminar featured James Kostaras, Senior Research Affiliate at the Institute for International Urban Development and Ana Villarreal, Assistant Professor of Sociology at Boston University.
Faith and the City
December 7, 2016
What is the role of faith in the modern city? How do religious leaders and institutions impact urban residents, especially marginalized populations?
Moderated by Rev. Dr. Robert Hill, Dean of Marsh Chapel at Boston University, this seminar featured Rev. Rainey Dankel, Associate Rector, Trinity Church, Boston; Shaykh Yasir Fahmy, Senior Imam, Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Cent; and Rev. Dr. Theodore Hickman-Maynard, Visiting Assistant Professor of Evangelism and Church Renewal, School of Theology, Boston University.
Urban Earth Science: Understanding the Potential of Growing Field
November 30, 2016
Earth science has been the new trend for cities and city researchers. What is urban earth science and how are researchers and practitioners using their findings to advance science and policy?
Moderated by Dr. Eliza Wallace, GIS Analyst at the Metropolitan Area Planning Council, this panel featured Lucy Hutyra, Professor of Earth & Environment at Boston University; Pamela Templer, Professor of Biology at Boston University; Andrew Trlica, Ph.D. candidate at Boston University’s Department of Earth & Environment; and Stephen Decina, Ph.D. candidate at Boston University’s Department of Biology.
October 25, 2016
Why have some cities experienced an economic development boom, while others have struggled? What can cities do to recover from decades of decline? This panel discussion focused on exploring and understanding the urban development gap, especially as it applies to Gateway and Legacy cities in the U.S.
Moderated by Boston University Professor of Economics and IOC Advisory Board member Robert Margo, the panel featured Anne Gatling Haynes who serves as Director of the Transformative Development Initiative at MassDevelopment and as an Adjunct Professor in the Department of City Planning and Urban Affairs at Boston University; and Lily Song who works as a Senior Research Associate at the Harvard Graduate School of Design and an Adjunct Professor in the Department of City Planning and Urban Affairs at Boston University.
Sharing Visions, Shaping Cities: Imagine Boston 2030
April 4, 2016
The City of Boston recently kicked off Imagine Boston 2030, a community-focused comprehensive planning process that will lay out a vision for the city’s future. What will the plan ultimately look like? Do city plans work? How can we help create a great city for the next generation? Join us for lunch and a conversation with planning experts from BU and beyond.
Moderated by Madhu Dutta-Koehler, Associate Professor of Practice and Program Coordinator for the City Planning and Urban Affairs Program at Boston University School of Law, Sharing Visions, Shaping Cities featured Sara Myerson, Director of Planning at the Boston Redevelopment Authority; Matthew Littell, Principal at Utile; Renee Loth, Editor of ArchitectureBoston; and Rami el Samahy, Adjunct Professor of City Planning and Urban Affairs at Boston University and Principal at over,under.
Cities and the Opioid Crisis
March 1, 2016
Cities throughout the country are faced with a growing opioid epidemic. How are urban leaders addressing this crisis? What can cities do from a policy, public safety, and public health perspective to curb opioid abuse and offer effective recovery services?
Moderated by Jack Beermann, Professor at the Boston University School of Law, Cities and the Opioid Crisis featured David Rosenbloom, Professor of Health Policy and Management at the Boston University School of Public Health; Jen Tracey, Director of the Office of Recovery Services for the City of Boston; Leonard Campanello, Chief of Police for the City of Gloucester, MA; and Colleen LaBelle, Program Director at Boston Medical Center.
February 4, 2016
In 2014, the Boston Public Schools (BPS) switched to a new school assignment plan. Two years in, is the plan working? What does a “fair” school assignment system look like? And is fairness the same for everyone? Do families differ in what they want in a school? How might the Boston Public Schools Choice and Assignment system balance these factors?
Moderated by Hardin Coleman, Dean of the Boston University’s School of Education, this panel featured Kim Rice, Assistant Superintendent of Operations of Boston Public Schools; James Racanelli, Director of Operations Management of Boston Public Schools; Nancy Hill, Professor of Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education; and Kelley Fong, PhD candidate in Sociology & Social Policy at Harvard University.
Urban Energy Systems
December 2, 2015
New electrical utility business models are changing the way energy systems in cities work. What impact are they having on urban residents? How are the utilities collaborating, or not, with city governments? And what does it mean for the future of urban energy systems?
Moderated by Paul Carlile, Senior Associate Dean for Innovation at the Boston University’s Questrom School of Business, Urban Energy Systems featured Peter Fox-Penner, Director of the Institute for Sustainable Energy at Boston University; Robert Kaufmann, Professor of Earth and Environment at Boston University; and Travis Sheehan, Ecodistrict Fellow at the Boston Redevelopment Authority.
November 12, 2015
Food culture is changing how we experience and interact with cities. Is the current interest in food new? How important is food culture to American cities today? How are cities innovating to solve food-related challenges? Does food culture impact all neighborhoods equally? What are the tradeoffs in balancing innovation and regulation? And where does Boston stack up?
Moderated by David Glick, Assistant Professor of Political Science at Boston University, Food Culture, Boston and the Contemporary City featured Jenny Effron, Executive Director of Washington Gateway Main Streets; Howard Leibowitz, Co-Founder of the Boston Food Policy Council and former Executive Director of the Boston Public Market; John Hubbard, Executive Director of the Restaurant Entrepreneurship Institute; and Connor Fitzmaurice, PhD candidate in Sociology at Boston University.
October 21, 2015
The Allston Railyard sits on Boston University’s doorstep, a massive plot of land filled with potential. How can Boston harness this complex redevelopment opportunity to achieve a broad public vision? What are the challenges cities face in undertaking these “megaprojects?”
Moderated by Daniel Bluestone, Director of the BU Preservation Studies Program and Professor of the History of Art and Architecture, The Allston Railyard featured Virginia Greiman, Assistant Professor at the Boston University Metropolitan College and the former Deputy Chief Counsel and Risk Manager for the Big Dig; Jonathan Greeley, Director of Development Review at the Boston Redevelopment Authority; and Alex Krieger, Professor in Practice at the Harvard Graduate School of Design.
October 16, 2015
Physical activity is critical to public health and its dependence on the built environment is clear. But how can scholars and advocates ensure that cities understand this relationship and implement effective policies?
This research spotlight featured the research of Monica Wang, Assistant Professor of Community Health Sciences in the School of Public Health. Moderated by IOC Executive Director Katharine Lusk, a discussion with Anne McHugh, Director of the Chronic Disease Prevention and Control Division at the Boston Public Health Commission, followed Professor Wang’s presentation.
October 15, 2015
This Research on Tap event, in partnership with the Boston University Research Administration, explored faculty research centered on the study of cities from an inter- and multi-disciplinary approach, evaluating complex challenges from the perspective of law, environment, engineering, management, cultural studies, medicine, and public health.
This session, hosted by IOC Director and Executive Director Graham Wilson and Katharine Lusk, featured the research of:
- Megan Sandel, Associate Professor of Pediatrics: Community Heath Worker Home Visits
- Ian Sue Wing, Associate Professor of Earth and Environment: Cities, Traffic and CO2
- Jonathan Levy, Professor of Environmental Health: Public Health, Air Quality, and Residential Insulation
- George T. O’Connor, Professor of Medicine: Effects of Early Life Exposure to Allergens and Bacteria on Recurrent Wheeze and Atopy in Urban Children
- Madeleine Scammell, Assistant Professor of Environmental Health: Chemical, Physical & Social Hazards of Where We Live, Work & Play
- Ann Aschengrau, Professor of Epidemiology: Health Effects of PCE in Drinking Water
- Nathan Phillips, Professor of Earth and Environment: Urban Gas Leaks
- Robinson “Wally” Fulweiler, Associate Professor of Earth and Environment: What Lies Beneath: How the History of Boston Impacts Its Water Quality Today
- Jay Wexler, Professor of Law: Religious Practices that Harm the Environment
- Pamela Templer, Associate Professor of Biology: Atmospheric Nitrogen Deposition in Urban Areas: Implications for Water and Air Quality
- Japonica Brown-Saracino, Associate Professor of Sociology: Urban Heat: Intra- neighborhood Variation in Individual-scale Heat Exposure
- Wendy Heiger-Bernays, Associate Professor of Environmental Health: Growing Food in Urban Soils
- Jillian Goldfarb, Research Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering: Integrated Solutions at the Water-Energy Nexus for Urban Municipal Solid Waste Management
October 1, 2015
The sharing economy has redefined how urban populations access and enjoy their cities, democratizing travel, transportation and commerce. But does the sharing economy benefit all members of the urban community? How can city leaders ensure that services like Zipcar, Airbnb, and Hubway have a positive, inclusive impact?
Moderated by Nathan Phillips, Professor of Earth and Environment at Boston University, The Inclusive Sharing Economy featured Justin Holmes, Director of Corporate Communications and Public Policy at Zipcar; Giorgos Zervas, Assistant Professor at the Boston University Questrom School of Business; and Braden Golub, Founder and CEO of SPOT parking.
April 7, 2015
Cultural images of Boston range from its venerable arts and music institutions to the seamy underworld portrayed in the film The Departed. As in many cities, these polar extremes mask a rich spectrum of urban cultures.
Featuring Rebecca Ostriker, Arts Editor at The Boston Globe, Charles Merzbacher Associate Professor of Film at the BU College of Communication, and Merry White, Professor of Anthropology at the BU College of Arts & Sciences, The Cultural City panel explored the diversity and dynamism of culture in Boston and other cities, from neighborhood cultures to food, theater, film, music, literature, and museums. How can a city’s culture contribute to the place’s character? What role does it play in a city’s evolution? And can a city’s culture be stewarded by public policies?
March 3, 2015
Urban universities experience all of the benefits, and many of the challenges, of cities. It seems clear that teaching about the city is a critical way by which universities can help their students build strong and healthy ties to their home cities and to urban centers more generally. Are universities taking advantage of all the opportunities to teach the city? Are there innovative new approaches for turning the city into a classroom?
Teaching the City offered a panel discussion with a diverse group of experts who teach in and about the city, featuring Daniel Bluestone, Director of Preservation Studies at BU; Dennis Carlberg, Sustainability Director at BU; Jacey Greece, Clinical Assistant Professor of Community Health Sciences at BU; James Pasto, Senior Lecturer in the BU Arts & Sciences Writing Program; and Madhu Dutta-Koehler, Program Coordinator & Adjunct Professor of City Planning & Urban Affairs at the BU Metropolitan College.
February 23, 2015
Effective and fair public safety stands as one of the most crucial responsibilities of city leadership. Unfortunately, tragic incidents across the country have shifted a critical public eye on urban police departments and the communities they serve, giving rise to hot debate in cities across the country. Given the proven effectiveness of community policing, why are some urban police departments moving away from this strategy? What impact does diversity have on urban police departments? How can police, city, and community leaders adapt to improve collaboration and establish peaceful and safe neighborhoods?
Moderated by Boston University Dean of Students Kenneth Elmore, Policing the City featured experts in law enforcement and community issues, including Boston Police Commissioner William Evans, Reverend Jeffrey Brown, and Professor Shea Cronin.
January 27, 2015
In October 2014, the Initiative on Cities released its groundbreaking National Survey of Mayors, a research effort led by IOC Executive Director Katharine Lusk and Boston University Assistant Professors David Glick and Katherine Levine Einstein. Drawing insight from over 70 mayors nationwide, the Survey Report details the challenges, policy priorities, and inspirations for America’s city leaders. On January 27th 2015, Glick presented the highlights of the survey findings and discussed the implications with Eric Shaw, Director of the Office of Planning for the city of Washington, DC, at Boston University’s DC campus.
December 4, 2014
Which population groups are traditionally included – and excluded – under the umbrella of urban inclusivity? What strategies have cities taken, and what steps remain to be taken? What are the greatest contemporary threats to urban heterogeneity and inclusivity?
Moderated by Japonica Brown-Saracino, Associate Professor of Sociology at Boston University, The Inclusive City featured Phillipe Copeland, Clinical Assistant Professor at the Boston University School of Social Work; Robert Margo, Professor of Economics at Boston University; Carmen Torres, Clinical Instructor at the Boston University School of Education; and Katie Swenson, Vice President of National Design Initiative on Enterprise Community Partners.
September 18, 2014
The inaugural IOC Urban Seminar, The Open City, examined a key question facing urban communities: how can cities take the massive influx of raw data, turn it into knowledge, and turn that knowledge into a better city?
Moderated by Nathan Phillips, Assistant Professor of Earth & Environment at Boston University, The Open City featured Sucharita Gopal, Professor of Earth & Environment at Boston University; Nigel Jacob, Co-Founder of the Boston Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics; and Dan O’Brien, Director of Research at the Boston Area Research Initiative and Assistant Professor at Northeastern University.