Small Cities illustration

Illustration: Maurizio Masi

College of Arts and Sciences Initiative Aims to Help Small Cities

The college launches the Small Cities Lab to provide an interdisciplinary research approach to finding solutions to the problems facing small cities.

Lehigh’s College of Arts and Sciences has launched the Small Cities Lab, offering an interdisciplinary, place-based research and participatory design approach to tackling issues that small cities face—affordable housing, food insecurity, community health and the like.

Wes Hiatt, an architect and assistant professor in the department of art, architecture and design, and Karen Beck Pooley, professor of practice in the political science department and director of the graduate program in environmental policy, are the lab’s faculty co-directors. The two proposed the project with support from Nicholas Sawicki, chair of the department of art, architecture and design, where the lab resides.

The lab is thought to be the first of its kind at a U.S. university that focuses exclusively on cities with less than 250,000 people. The initiative is initially funded by Robert Flowers, the Herbert J. and Ann L. Siegel Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.

“Part of our goal is to treat urban areas and urban issues, not as a monolith, but rather as having hyperlocal solutions to challenges that might be present everywhere but have different characteristics in all of these different kinds of cities,” Hiatt says.

The lab will connect the expertise of faculty in multiple disciplines to address community challenges, through both fundamental and applied research. Faculty affiliated with the lab come from several academic departments in the College of Arts and Sciences, as well as from the College of Health, College of Business and the P.C. Rossin College of Engineering and Applied Science. Lehigh students will get hands-on experience implementing lab projects.

The lab supports two key initiatives outlined in Lehigh’s Strategic Plan. The first calls for a focus on developing nationally distinctive interdisciplinary research and academic inquiry. The second prioritizes enhancing the shared Bethlehem experience by fostering connections among Lehigh, the City of Bethlehem, the Lehigh Valley and similar communities across the country.

Read the full story here.

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