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New Urban Researchers Network Created With Global Cities Initiative

November 5, 2018 – The Georgetown Global Cities Initiative (GCI), a network of university faculty and students who share ideas and research on global urbanization, explores what the United Nations describes as “one of the most important global trends in the 21st Century.”

The percentage of people living in urban areas is expected to increase worldwide from 55 percent today to 68 percent by 2050, an increase of 2 billion additional urban dwellers.

Uwe Brandes, the initiative’s founding faculty director, recalled coming to Georgetown five years ago and discovering that many faculty across the university were engaged in important urban research but didn’t have a network to benefit from one another’s insights.

In some cases, he says, individual faculty were working on research in the same city but from the vantage point of different disciplines.

Greater Awareness

“There is growing awareness that there is rigorous research at the university which is inextricably tied to cities and urbanization,” notes Brandes, founding faculty director of the Master’s in Urban & Regional Planning program in the School of Continuing Studies. “Considering our position in Washington, D.C., and the global networks we’re a part of, I believe it's our responsibility to step up and critically engage in this dialogue.”

The GCI network includes about 70 Georgetown faculty from disparate disciplines who work on the relationship between cities and climate change; governance and diplomacy; history and the humanities; health; sociology; digitization; infrastructure and numerous other issues.

Enriching Research

Sheila Foster, a McCourt School of Public Policy and Georgetown Law professor, and another member of the network, works with the Global Parliament of Mayors on several research questions, including how cities can best advance their interests across borders and engage in multilateral problem-solving.

"My involvement in the Global Cities Initiative is enriching and deepening my research on urban governance and diplomacy by offering me the opportunity to collaborate with other faculty who bring different disciplinary perspectives to bear on the questions I am asking in my work," Foster explains.

Interdisciplinary Faculty

History professor Jordan Sand is researching the oral histories of marginal and informal settlements in very large East Asian megacities. He teaches modern Japanese history and other topics in East Asian history, as well as urban history and the world history of food.

The interdisciplinary project includes Rebecca Katz, co-director of the university’s Center for Global Health Science and Security, who explores the role of cities in responding to global pandemics.

The GCI network also includes Vicki Arroyo, executive director of the Georgetown Climate Center and Professor of Practice at Georgetown Law. Arroyo, along with law professor Peter Byrne, faculty director for the Georgetown Environmental Law and Policy Program. 

Jessica Grannis (L’13), the center’s adaptation program director, has worked with GCI on a special project exploring adaptation to climate change in Washington, D.C., neighborhoods east of the Anacostia River.

Student Perspectives

“I think the GCI is a great idea,” explains Cristina Calderón Restrepo (G’19), who researches mobility solutions in Bogotá, Colombia. “In a world where nation states' power is declining, and where some cities have more GDP than entire nations, it is important to have a network that encourages cities' economic and knowledge exchange.”

Kyra Kocis (SFS’20) a Science, Technology and International Affairs major, spent two-and-a-half months this past summer conducting a research project on the implications of policies guiding Mumbai’s Slum Rehabilitation Authority (SRA), which seeks to incentivize private developers to redevelop slum lands.

“As globalization and urbanization continue to bring geographically distant cities closer than ever before, the challenges such as affordable housing, land rights and equitable growth will be present in all major cities around the world,” Kocis notes. “Studying the innovative approaches, unintended consequences and processes of how such policies are implemented offers lessons that are applicable to all major urban areas.”