Diversity and Inclusion
The Department of Geography and Planning recognizes and honor Indigenous Nations as the traditional stewards of the lands and waters on which we live and work today. The Capital Region of New York State and the University at Albany occupy lands built on the homelands of the Kanien'kehá:ka (Mohawk) of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy as well as the Stockbridge-Munsee Band of the Mohican Nation. We respect the sovereignty of these and all other Indigenous nations surviving today, and we pledge to support the rights of these nations and the interests of Indigenous peoples.
What is Diversity?
Diversity includes, but is not limited to, characteristics of age, race, skin color, sex or gender, gender identity and/or expression, sexual orientation, abilities, geography, nationality, ethnic heritage, language, culture, religion, philosophy or belief system, field of study/work/research, and/or socio-economic status or class.
Why is Diversity and Inclusion important?
The full expression of human diversity is essential for the living out of the fullness of our humanity and maximizing human dignity, where all empowered to bring their full, authentic selves to campus. Increasing diversity helps us keep pace with a changing and increasingly diverse world. We already have a global, multicultural academic institution, and this helps us better serve our students, faculty and staff, our communities, and a society that already reflect every background. It helps us reduce and address historic and current inequity. Conditions of diversity and inclusiveness are essential for overcoming the innate limitations of human cognitive biases and perceptions and help us think better together. The intellectual exchange under diversity expands the creativity, new ideas, innovations and novel insights that foster human adaptive capacity in the face of uncertainties, rapid change and the many complex social-ecological challenges and wicked problems of the 21st century. Simply put, diversity and inclusiveness help us all to survive and thrive together in a changing and challenging world.
Department of Geography and Planning’s Statement on Diversity and Inclusion
Developing a department that reflects diversity and inclusiveness is essential wherever and whenever people are labeled, divided, marginalized, excluded, demeaned and/or exploited. Reflecting earth’s natural system where interdependent biological diversity ensures that every creature has a place and serves a purpose to ensures mutual survival and thriving of the entire web of life, promoting human diversity and inclusion ensures that everyone truly belongs. Developing a diverse and inclusive department requires both explicit articulation of a vision and goals and concrete actions that effectively bring about changes to institutional dynamics and cultural norms that more authentically reflect diversity and inclusion.
The Department of Geography and Planning endeavors through research, instruction, mentoring, community engagement and recruitment of students, faculty and staff to mitigate the past harms of exclusion; create a supportive, nurturing environment that is welcoming and inclusive to people who feel marginalized; and ensure all are treated with respect and dignity and given the support they need to succeed. The Department of Geography and Planning endeavors to ensure that all are welcome and all belong.
Department of Geography and Planning’s Legacy on Diversity and Inclusion
Faculty have incorporated elements of equity, diversity and inclusiveness into courses on environmental justice, sustainability, biodiversity conservation, international migration, affordable quality housing, urban community development, gender and space, and many other courses that have been core to the academic degree programs in geography, globalization studies, biodiversity, conservation and policy, and urban studies and planning for nearly two decades.
Over the past decade the Master of Regional Planning Studio, Urban Community Development, Brownfields Redevelopment, and other course have conducted over two dozen service-learning research projects with partners from marginalized neighborhoods to ameliorate the harm of segregation, environmental racism, and other public and private sectors actions that harm the residents, urban living, and ecosystems. In just the past year, two Geography and Planning faculty were honored for this community engagement success.
In February 2021, the Geography and Planning Student Association (GPSA) hosted the Planning for Racial Justice Conference. In March 2021, faculty collaborated on a conference entitled “The Future of Climate Justice in the Capital Region (of NY).” In April 2021, a new community-engaged research project on Black wellness was initiated in Albany neighborhoods in collaboration with AmeriCorps, Siena College and Albany Law School faculty.
We look forward to building on our successes, overcoming our limitations, and continuously contributing to build a more just sustainable future. Please check back for updates on new projects available on the Promoting Diversity and Inclusion living document page.
Biodiversity and Conservation Policy Program
The Biodiversity, Conservation and Policy Program explores the relationships among humans, the earth and what some have considered “other humans.” Historically and even today, dynamics and relationships of inequity, domination and exploitation and have resulted in the most marginalized people experiencing the most harm from, the least voice in, and disproportionate access to the benefits and services of use of natural resources. Today’s complex biodiversity and natural resources conservation challenges require us to develop a new generation of diverse conservation leaders who will ensure a voice at the table for all environmental stakeholders; ensure equitable access to ecosystem services and sustainable natural resources development; ensure elimination of environmental degradation and pollution that have disproportionate impacts on the health and wellbeing of marginalized people; and ensure analysis is conducted with and input is gathered from a variety of diverse voices, vantage points, and expertise from different cultures, geographies, backgrounds, disciplines, and perspectives.
We acknowledge the deeply Eurocentric and colonial roots of geography as a discipline, as well as its historical ties to intellectual movements that have caused tremendous harm, from environmental determinism and eugenics to Nazi-era theories of geopolitics. The discipline of geography continues to be dominated by white, English-speaking, male scholars from the Global North. Groups such as Black Geographies, AAG Queer and Trans Geographies Specialty Group, Feminist Geographies Specialty Group, and the Diversity and Inclusion Committee of the American Association of Geographers are actively engaging with geography’s exclusionary past, and working towards the construction of a more diverse field of study.
The study of globalization necessitates an understanding of diversity in all its forms, though it does not guarantee an appreciation for inclusion, equity, or justice. It is the job of all those teaching in our Globalization Studies program to nonetheless instill in our students a desire to create a more inclusive, equitable, and just global society. In class that means studying the root causes of inequity and fostering an appreciation for diversity. Outside of the classroom, we are continually building new connections to nearby communities and organizations that share our goal of ending those systemic inequities that plague immigrants, ethnic minorities, and working people throughout the world. For too long globalization has been used to describe the control of the world’s resources by a handful of companies and states. We offer a new vision of a global society that is abundant, free, diverse, and inclusive.
Urban Studies and Planning, including MRP
The first step to assuage the institutional racism embedded in the history of planning is to acknowledge its existence. From the utopian vision for planning in the late 19th and early 20th centuries to the current aspirational goals of the American Institute of Planners Code of Ethics, the goal of equity, inclusion, and environmental sustainable is present. However, the practice of planning has at times been explicitly racist and elitist (redlining and racial zoning are two examples) and at best has resulted in racist outcomes that arise from unintended consequences of poor planning. The American Planning Association, Association of Colligate Schools of Planning and the Planning Accreditation Board (PAB) have recently centered the role of diversity and inclusion in the training and practice of planning. UAlbany’s Bachelorette program in Urban Studies and Planning and the PAB accredited Master’s in Regional Planning Program endeavor to lead on this issue.
Geographic Information Science
Spatial technologies in Geographic Information Science programs supports organization and researchers addressing lasting issues including health, economic, racial, gender, and other social inequalities. Results of spatial technologies can support policy makers to develop more equitable policies and programs. The pandemic since 2020 has further intensified the health disparities among neighborhoods. Locally, researchers and students carry out spatial analyses to understand the spatial and health disparities at the neighborhood level and their associated factors. Furthermore, spatial technologies support local task force by providing geospatial tools and solutions for vaccination site planning to minimize vaccination inequality. In this field itself, it shares similar characteristics as the larger field of geography. It is our goal to attract more students from underrepresented groups such as women, racial minority, LGBTQ+ to enrich the diversity within the field of Geographic Information Science.
New York built a highway on Native Land talks about ongoing conflicts that involve the use of Native American land in the Capital Region. Jon Campbell. MSN. 16 Dec., 2020.
Conference Seeks Racial Justice in Planning Neighborhoods mentions the Department's involvement in an important conference. albany.edu. Feb. 2021.
The Importance of Biodiversity to Human Life stresses the link between biodiversity and human diversity. opentextc.ca.
This listing of courses brings home the fact diversity is already a major Departmental priority.