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Letter from the Chair


Planners have a unique and critical role to play in confronting the issues that have surfaced


Lisa Servon was previously Professor of Management and Urban Policy at The New School, where she also served as Dean at the Milano School of International Affairs, Management, and Urban Policy. She conducts research in the areas of urban poverty, community development, economic development, and issues of gender and race. Specific areas of expertise include economic insecurity, consumer financial services, and financial justice. Servon holds a BA in Political Science from Bryn Mawr College, an MA in History of Art from the University of Pennsylvania, and a PhD in Urban Planning from UC Berkeley. 

This year marks my fourth as the chair of the Weitzman School of Design Department of City and Regional Planning, and what a year it has been.  Many of us have experienced personally the challenges the world and our nation are struggling through at this time.  Our families and friends have fallen ill with COVID-19.  Some have died, and we have had to balance isolation, grieving, and pushing ahead with our work. The police murder of Walter Wallace, Jr. in the Philadelphia neighborhood that lies just west of our university brought the national conversation about policing in Black communities to our doorstep. 

Our students are grappling with all of this, sometimes in the midst of their own trauma, and I could not be more proud of the work they are doing. Planners have a unique and critical role to play in confronting the issues that have surfaced in this unique political moment, and our students are diving right in. 

In this year’s issue of Panorama, you’ll see articles from students across Penn’s Weitzman School of Design that illustrates the reach, range, and interdisciplinarity of the field of planning.  From the visionary to the practical, our students are imagining a myriad of ways to make the world a better place. The articles included here highlight the ways our students have taken the skills and perspectives they’ve developed here at Penn and applied them to the most pressing problems of our time, both domestically and internationally. 

From the streets of Cartagena to water systems of Palestine; the affordability of housing to data-driven cities, if planning is involved, so are our students. The 2021 edition of Panorama is packed full of examples of the work Penn students take on every day.  

I hope you’ll enjoy this issue of Panorama as much as I have. It’s my honor to work with so many talented students, and this journal is proof positive that good work will move the needle in the direction of positive change.  


Lisa Servon

Professor and Department Chair

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