2023-2024 Honors Schedule

April 10, 2024
Weyerhaeuser Boardroom

9:40 am – 10:15 am
Presenter: Jane Slentz-Kelser
Community Conservation in Madagascar: Working Towards More Effective and Just Forest Management
The management of natural resources in developing countries is of utmost importance as both high levels of biodiversity and local livelihoods often hang in the balance. The debate in conservation spheres often centers on ‘fortress’ versus ‘community-based’ conservation approaches, one emphasizing nature preservation and the other emphasizing the needs and empowerment of local communities in resource management. This study evaluates the management approach of a rainforest in northeast Madagascar, asking: how effectively does the COMATSA Sud protected area management system both preserve critical forest cover and provide for the local community? This study takes a mixed-methods approach, using interviews and focus groups with local residents in the study area combined with a Random Forest remote sensing analysis of Planet imagery to classify the landscape and analyze forest cover. Results suggest that the system is not successful in supporting community livelihoods or preserving forest cover due to a misalignment between the theoretical management model and the reality on the ground. Furthermore, the management system lacks economic benefits to the local community, but the forest serves as an important safety net when economic difficulty arises. Results also show, however, that the community is open to a more comprehensive management scheme conditional on the incorporation of complementary livelihood support into the system. These results suggest ways forward for community-based conservation, emphasizing the importance of reforming older institutions to align with modern landscapes and local communities’ needs.  [Poster]

10:25 am – 11:00 am
Presenter: Corgan Archuleta
Designed for Life: Unearthing Just and Sustainable Urban Design through the Daylighting of Phalen Creek
Although urban planning is increasingly addressing climate change and social equity, urban design has yet to fully realize its potential in creating more liberatory cities. While recent urban design theorists recognize the social possibilities of infrastructure, notions of what is social remain limited. If cities are to implement climate justice plans that move toward just and sustainable futures, our built form must embody and promote ways of being that generate restorative relationships with more-than-human worlds.

This thesis conceptualizes an expanded role of urban design as an intervention for reimagining built environments and their ability to enable relationships of respect and reciprocity with beyond-human life. Pointing to current limitations in urban design, I illuminate the just and sustainable possibilities found in-between ecology based sustainable design and socially-oriented design. To highlight such possibilities, this paper analyzes past and present efforts to daylight Phalen Creek in Saint Paul, Minnesota. Phalen Creek was a natural waterway buried in a pipe during early 20th century urbanization. Though removed from landscape, Phalen Creek’s environmental and cultural roles have become the impetus for daylighting the creek which will resurface and reconstruct part of the waterway. Phalen Creek’s environmental, Indigenous, and Immigrant histories make it an instructive case study expanding the liberatory possibilities of daylighting and urban design. Combining Julian Agyeman’s Just Sustainabilities with Infrastructural theory, Indigenous knowledge, and Environmental Justice principles, this paper frames daylighting as a means to realize and expand Just Sustainabilities and as a starting point in designing cities for all life forces.  [Poster]

11:05 am – 11:40 am
Presenter: Joe Harrington
Cross-Boundary and Regional Governance in Asia: A Case Study of Taipei’s Rapid Transit System
After decades of rapid urbanization, many cities in Asia today have a metropolitan area that extends beyond one administrative entity. Such urbanization pattern drives the need for cross-boundary and regional governance, especially in infrastructure and public service provisions. This paper aims to understand cross-boundary and regional governance in the Asian context. Specifically, this paper investigates the Taipei Metropolitan Region’s governance of the Circular Line MRT, a transit expansion project aimed at connecting new developing areas outside the existing urban core and promoting mobility transition to public transportation. Using semi-structured interviews, policy analysis, and online surveys, this paper explores the changing governing process of the Circular Line MRT in the planning, implementation, and operation phases. This paper argues that the Circular Line MRT project is a modernization effort under the developmental state legacy to improve Taipei’s urban status amid the fierce urban competition among major cities in Asia. Taipei city and nearby cities have also utilized this Circular Line MRT project to (re) territorialize the metropolitan area and to leverage their governance autonomy in various urban issues and resource allocation, which significantly shapes residents’ mobility and accessibility. While the majority of scholarship on cross-boundary and regional governance still focused on urban experiences in the global North and West, this paper provides valuable insights into the complexity of cross-boundary and regional governance in the global South and East. [Poster]

11:45 am – 12:25 pm
Presenter: Cecelia Kaufmann
Title: Towards Accessible Futures: Re-imagining Space and Inclusion in Higher Education
Since the passage of the Americans with Disabilities (ADA) in 1990, an increased number of people with disabilities have gained access to higher education, yet their experiences may be different than those of their able-bodied peers. Using Jay Dolmage’s critique of ableism in academic settings, this research focuses on the lived experiences of people with disabilities, examining how the infrastructure of higher education creates inequalities for people with disabilities. This research utilizes a case study of a private college in Saint Paul, Minnesota, and draws on interviews with both individual and institutional stakeholders to expose and offer guidance to correct the broader social and physical exclusions created by higher education for people with disabilities. Conversely, lived experiences can prompt the institution into considering processes of institutional accessibility and inclusion for people with disabilities on campus. 

The findings of this research are multifaceted. Firstly, the interviews shed light on the other unseen challenges faced by students, staff, and faculty within the disability community in higher education, exposing the systemic issues that hinder full participation in higher education. Secondly, this research contributes to the critique of ableism in academia, expanding on a systemic understanding of ableism in higher education. These results serve as a catalyst to reimagine the accessible futures at higher education institutions for members of the disability community.  [Poster]