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Task Groups: Universes, Scopes + Narratives

Through Autumn and Winter 2020, eleven Task Groups will be exploring issues central to the College’s operations and identity today and into the future. These Task Groups each framed how they see their topic during a December 11 meeting. See below for each groups narrative description of their work.

Strategic Planning Task Groups

Contact: Kate Simonen (, group lead

Unprecedented environmental, economic and social changes are predicted over the coming decades. These changes can happen by default, disruption or design. We have a unique window of opportunity, now is the time to act decisively in order to ensure that our students, College, University and State are prepared to respond effectively to an uncertain future. The need for urgent action is clear, in order to meet global climate targets we need to reduce emissions globally by 50% in the next ten years[1]. The built environment is responsible for nearly half of these emissions[2] and systemic changes will be required in order for our buildings, construction, cities and landscapes to decarbonize. Simultaneously we need to ensure that the transitions support increased equity and opportunities for all.

We envision the College of Built Environments increasingly recognized as a center of climate action enabling collaborations between the professions, University, industry and the State such that the region becomes a model for how to meet global climate targets while enhancing equity, social and biological diversity and delight. We in the College of Built Environments at the University of Washington have unique capacities and significant ethical responsibility to lead towards a beautiful, equitable and sustainable future. We can inspire and enable creative and bold solutions to complex challenges if we face uncertainty with optimism, resilience, collaboration, and rigor.

In order to do this we propose that the CBE explores the following as part of strategic planning:

  1. Explore development of an interdisciplinary think tank.
  2. University as test bed establishing ambitious decarbonization rates test bed to demonstrate success Setting goals, executing strategies and verifying results so that we mitigate risk, adapt for uncertain future and demonstrate solutions that can scale to our State and beyond.
  3. Offer a wide range of curriculum choices that address climate solutions including both mitigation and adaptation, offer problem and subject centered learning, and provide service opportunities through community based projects, awareness campaigns and research. Service-leaning activities could focus on the University as a test bed, neighboring, national or international communities.
  4. Actively engage in University-, City- and State-level resilience and climate action planning efforts. Start by understanding the College’s role and/or articulating a more active role in the UW Climate Action Plan, in line with strategic planning efforts. Leverage the ongoing development of the UW Sustainability Plan (to be delivered April 2020) as a means of further formalizing the College’s role in climate change-related planning efforts. In the medium term, scale the College’s involvement from the University-level up to City- and State-level resilience and climate action planning.
  5. Communicate in a unified voice toward climate action, (1) by aligning various expertise and interests within CBE regarding climate change, and (2) by creating an aligned value definition of sustainability in built environments. Convergence research is a means for solving vexing research problems that are complex problems focused on societal needs such as climate action to reduce global emissions and address systemic changes necessary to decarbonize. It entails integrating knowledge, methods, and expertise from different disciplines (departments, colleges, universities and industry partners) to form novel frameworks to catalyze discovery and innovation.
  6. Growing Convergence/collaboration research to be multidisciplinary within the CBE and across the UW, as well as other Universities and Industry Partners for the highest collective impact. Important to the success of growing convergence is developing action items and measurement tools.


[1] United Nations Environment Programme (2019). Emissions Gap Report 2019. UNEP, Nairobi.

[2] Global Alliance for Building and Construction (GABC) (2019) Global Status Report

Contact: Rachel Berney ( and Rick Mohler (, group leads

The Curriculum and Pedagogy group is working to define three broad and aspirational goals, including supportive processes in place or needed within the CBE to accomplish what we set out to do. We are focused on Engagement and Leadership, which we see as bookends to the undergrad and grad experience. This means that we are focusing on pre-college-age recruitment as well as bolstering our connections to, use of, and opportunities to serve professionals and their development. We also focus on an Interdisciplinary CBE including building new opportunities and supporting and enhancing current ones. Finally, we are focused on Internal Empowerment, the means by which we support sustainable change in the CBE over time. To date we have identified the following draft goals and strategies.


Strategy 1     Strengthen connections with middle and high school students

  • Increase exposure to potential students of the allied college disciplines
  • Increase opportunities for a diverse undergraduate student population
  • Support teaching opportunities for CBE students

Strategy 2     Attract undergraduate students to CBE coursework starting as freshmen

  • Increase CBE visibility within University
  • Increase enrollment to college undergraduate programs
  • Increase ABB revenue (i.e. Arch 150)

Strategy 3     Leverage the PACs

  • Expose students to other disciplines
  • Leverage potential efficiencies in delivering required coursework
  • Increase engagement between departmental PAC’s

Strategy 4     Develop continuing education short courses that build on CBE strengths

  • To be developed


Strategy 5     Bridge required coursework across College departments

  • Expose students to other disciplines
  • Leverage potential efficiencies in delivering required coursework
  • Consider hiring lecturers at College level so that they could teach in multiple programs 

Strategy 6     Establish an interdisciplinary capstone experience across multiple professional degree programs

  • Expose students to other disciplines
  • Increase interdisciplinary research within College
  • Leverage potential efficiencies in delivering capstone coursework
  • Establish interdisciplinary collaborative thesis projects

Strategy 7     Leverage college-wide strengths as bridges between departments

  • Expose students to other disciplines
  • Increase interdisciplinary research within CBE
  • Develop CBE reputation in technology, craft, history/theory, public-interest design, climate and so forth
  • Maximize role and benefit of Fabrication Lab within CBE
  • Co-locate studios from different disciplines within same space – break-down the spatial divisions
  • Co-ordinate logistics between departments such as the studio selection process
  • Require more coursework outside departments

Strategy 8     Establish/support College-level interdisciplinary design/build studios 

  • Expose students to the applied practices of disciplines across CBE
  • Increase interdisciplinary research/outreach within CBE
  • Enhance CBE reputation in design-build education

Strategy 9     Establish/support minor programs in multiple departments

  • Expose students to other disciplines at the undergraduate level
  • Encourage increased interdisciplinary engagement
  • Allow students from beyond CBE degree programs to engage with CBE coursework, faculty and students

Strategy 10   Establish a College-wide community engagement center

  • Increase collaboration and partnerships between CBE and community groups
  • Engage a practice-based curriculum focused on justice, equity, diversity and inclusion (JEDI)
  • Foster increased interdisciplinary engagement 

Strategy 11   Bolster College PhD Programs

  • Increase viability and standing of Ph.D. programs
  • Support CBE-wide research and scholarship
  • Increase teaching opportunities for PhD candidates for pre-major and professional degree programs
  • Provide support for sponsoring faculty of PhD students and program administration

Strategy 12   Establish a College Post-Doctoral Program

  • Enhance College-wide research and scholarship
  • Advance teaching opportunities for post-PhD education
  • Prepare the next generation of university/college educators
  • Establish an “Emerging Educator in Built Environments” post-doc program


Strategy 13   Acknowledge current role of the CBE Curriculum Committee and recommend changes to their scope and staffing to better serve the goals that come out of the Strategic Planning process

Other comments:

  • Consider relationship between science and design. Science identifies problem while design seeks a solution.  We need to be more proactive in delivering this message.
  • Look at the emerging role of technology within the disciplines in the college. Future of coding, etc.

Contact: Kim Sawada (, group lead

The World Health Organization defines health as “the state of complete mental, physical and social well being.”[1]  This task group acknowledges that a state of ‘complete’ health may not be an imperative but that one can have health issues but still be in a good state of health.   There are many variations on the definition of well-being.  Most definitions include reference to being in a positive condition or state in which a person has good health, psychological and emotional satisfaction, and can thrive. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states, “Well-being is a positive outcome that is meaningful for people and for many sectors of society, because it tells us that people perceive that their lives are going well.”[2]   We define the CBE to be students, staff, faculty, alumni and professional advisory groups, buildings, programs, centers, academic departments and resources.  We are still working on defining “stakeholders” and may include “groups we serve” separately.

Our task group has defined the scope of our work to include first developing an understanding of how health and well-being is currently represented, valued and practiced in our college and respective professions.    This is to include an inventory of health and well-being focused content in coursework we teach, faculty work, research, practices and initiatives.  We will also investigate how health and well-being is represented in the professional standards of our respective industries.  We would also like to work on a process that documents how CBE health and well-being research and initiatives have influenced practitioners and policy-makers.  We will then begin an exploration of opportunities for improvement; growing our impact; greater collaboration with organizations, programs and departments within and external to the CBE; advanced specialization and concentration opportunities for students.

Overlaps/Synergies with other Task Groups:

College culture, vision + values- How is health and well-being represented, valued and practiced in our college?

Student Experience- What are student health and well-being needs and current resources?

Climate Action- Environmental health and sustainability

Social justice + equity- How is health and well-being a social justice and equity issue?

Curriculum + pedagogy- Opportunities for new courses, undergraduate minor and graduate certificate. Share coursework with Global Health and Public Health.

History + Humanities- How does Health + Well-Being relate to History + Humanities? New courses?

General question- Is there a central directory of past and current research by CBE faculty and centers that can be indexed or searched by topic?




Contact: Jennifer Dee ( and Ann Huppert (, group leads

CBE’s degree programs train students in strategic approaches and technical skills that are required by their chosen professions. However, it is their common preparation in the values, stories and experiences of the built environment that allows them to excel as designers, planners, analysts, developers and builders.

Facing an increasingly complex world, we maintain that engagement with history and the humanities in the CBE are essential in preparing students to:

  • develop fluency in qualitative research, including critical evaluation of information sources, and contested/evolving narratives
  • make informed and innovative decisions about human concerns shape the built environment
  • envision and articulate future narratives for just, responsible and resilient communities that improve human experience
  • communicate these values clearly and persuasively to a wide audience.

More broadly, research and teaching in the areas of history and humanities promotes critical thinking about human concerns and values in relation to the built environment and provides a framework for putting them into practice. A critical understanding of the past enables insight into the present and envisioning the future in both academic and public dialogues.

The task group mission is to employ histories, humanities and futures as modes for engaging in critical discourse, practice based in values including those of curiosity, imagination, equity, diversity and inclusion, and communicating effectively.

The scope of Humanities, Histories and Futures is profoundly interdisciplinary and connects the departments and programs of the CBE across all areas of teaching, research and service. Humanities, Histories and Futures provide the platform for integrating the professions and disciplines of the built environments, and for communicating the scholarship, practical knowledge and vision produced in the CBE to the University and broader communities and publics at large.

Contact: Jennifer Davison (, group lead

The task group on Interdisciplinary Research (IDR) will develop strategies to prioritize collaboration and build capacity for the CBE community to collaborate effectively on research within CBE, across the UW campus, and with off-campus partners. We undertake this in recognition of the value of IDR for addressing complex topics and challenges, advancing new knowledge, providing transferrable skills for academic and non-academic career tracks, and engaging the priorities of community partners for greater and more equitable impact.

We adhere to the NSF’s definition of IDR as “a mode of research by teams or individuals, that integrates information, data, techniques, tools, perspectives, concepts, and/or theories from two or more disciplines or bodies of specialized knowledge to advance fundamental understanding or to solve problems whose solutions are beyond the scope of a single discipline or area of research practice.” In addition, we recognize that IDR in CBE includes different methodologies (e.g., action research; historical research), as well as different scales, from an individual employing multiple disciplines in their work, to collaborative research with private-sector, public-sector, and community partners.

Our research approach is grounded in the key constraints of time/capacity, and the broader goal of developing robust processes for continued conversation and alignment that can extend beyond the Task Group’s charge.

To inform goals, strategies and metrics of success, we will ask the following research questions:

  1. What IDR is being done in CBE?
  2. What are drivers and barriers of IDR for CBE (both internal and external forces)?
  3. What are successful models of IDR support that CBE could learn from (at other units, universities and institutions)?

Our approach includes assessing previous inventories, e.g., Marina Alberti’s efforts, Carnegie self-assessment, Urban@UW; internal/external surveys; interviews with key stakeholders inside/outside CBE, including related Task Groups; and assessment of literature and other materials.

Contact: Jeff Hou (, group lead

The scope of the Local/Global task group is to research and develop strategical goals and priorities concerning how CBE is positioned locally and globally. Tentatively, the local is defined as the Pacific Northwest region, and the global refers all that is outside the region. Through the strategic planning exercise, we are interested in understanding how CBE currently interacts with the local and global communities (schools, institutions, governments, civil society groups, social and geographical communities, etc.), how we can leverage our local connections for global engagement, and vice versa, and how we can be better engaged in critical issues facing the region and the world.

In terms of areas of focus, we are interested in exploring ways that CBE can strengthen its partnership with local and global communities through service-learning programs, community-university partnerships, collaboration with industries, and contracted research/service to firms, institutions, governments, civic organizations, etc., as well as other potential initiatives including outreach to local schools to engage youths and under-represented communities in the region. Globally, we are interested in ways to strengthen our engagement through study abroad programs, academic exchange, and research/teaching collaboration, to position ourselves globally in the face of complex challenges beyond regional and national borders. In researching the topics above, we are interested in existing and potential models of funding and operation, as well as questions concerning ethical principles on travel, global educational engagement, and professional practices.

To develop strategic goals and priorities, we would like to first catalog the connections with local and global communities that are already in place to identify areas of strengths, gaps, and potentials. Through the College survey, we would also like to ask the CBE community to prioritize areas of focus and activities and to identify additional, potential areas of local and global engagements.

Contact: Meegan Amen ( and Kimo Griggs (, group leads

The charge of the Place, Space, and Resources Task Group is to understand and assess the current conditions within our college, and to propose potential futures that best support the aspirations of other task groups. We view those conditions through lenses of allocation, maintenance, perception of and actual “ownership”, effectiveness, functionality, utility, appropriateness to current use, and how proposed resources might encourage new activities and behavior.

We hope to explore possible scenarios through:

  • Re-imagining “ownership” to explore ideal conditions and recognize missed opportunities. This should also allow us to identify missed opportunities, underutilization and misallocation.
  • Examining how scheduling works, and might work in the future.
  • Exploring how our PS&R affect the capacity of our programs and The College as a whole.
  • Imagining how our PS&R might promote the values of our College in direct and indirect ways.
  • Identifying how the student experience, research directions and access/equity are visibly represented and supported through our PS&R.
  • Identifying if, and how students, faculty, staff and departments are being held back through the lack, or perceived lack of appropriate PS&R.
  • Identifying how our resources compare to those of other institutions.

We realize that the success of the goals of other Strategic Planning tasks groups are largely dependent on how concerns and ideas around Place, Space and Resources are incorporated into an overall strategic vision and plan. We hope to thoughtfully support the work of other task groups through discussion and supporting data.

Contact: Manish Chalana (, group lead

The Social Justice & Equity Task Group proposes to make equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) central to CBE’s mission in the area of research, teaching and outreach.  This Task Group will begin the process of centering EDI and social justice by engaging the other task groups to ensure that EDI values remain central to the development of CBE’s new strategic plan. Ultimately, our goal with this effort is to identify structural problems and disrupt systemic biases around power and privilege to make CBE truly committed to EDI values and a more welcoming environment to all its members.

In that regard we aim to: (1) define a shared philosophy and values around EDI and social justice while embracing and enhancing a diversity of views and values; (2) to identify a useful theory of change to articulate and pursue; and (3) to understand our best potential for positive impact.

We plan to work with the theory of “positive deviance” (PD; Pascal et al, 2010) whichs seeks to draw innovation and inspiration from looking at issues from diverse perspectives.  The aim of the PD process is to draw out the collective potential of the college to apply it to specific problems requiring intercultural competence, behavior or social change.

We will begin by defining key concepts – equity, diversity, inclusion and social justice, drawing on the ongoing efforts already underway in the College.  However, we intend to push beyond relational  demographics to further our goals around EDI and to achieve meaningful outcomes. We therefore seek to gather data on various ongoing research, teaching and outreach efforts related to EDI as a baseline to then identify specific areas for greater growth and the advancement of new initiatives.

Contact: Nancy Dragun ( and Laura Osburn (, group leads

The College of Built Environments brings together multiple related disciplines that help organize and build healthy communities in light of the innumerable challenges our regions face. As this college continues to evolve to meet the needs of our constituents, the Communications and Storytelling task group will identify gaps in communication to be able to define the needs of CBE community members.  Our group has three goals:

1) Centralize and simplify communication processes and resources for external, faculty/ staff, and alumni audiences

2) Connect faculty, staff, and students to research opportunities, community partners, industry partners to encourage interdisciplinary engagement and promote earned/professional skills

3) Define a strategy for development of compelling CBE stories and definition of our brand for faculty staff, students, and alumni

As much of our scope falls under the umbrella of new and/or existing CBE staff in our task group working in marketing/PR and information and communication technologies, we believe our best strategy will be to support the people who will be generating and implementing solutions as a part of their daily work.

Further, our group recognizes while there is a need for consistent use of the UW brand across all CBE units, additional resources (including professional web design services) are needed.  Time, expertise, and funds will be required to meet the needs of both brand and design in a way that is representative of CBE.

Outside of scope will be developing broader and more creative training and recruitment, due to a lack of sufficient time and resources within our task group. Activities that would fall under regular IT and marketing activities are also out of scope. These activities will not be carried out in the group as some of these already fall under the roles and responsibilities of current and new staff and we wish to avoid redundancy in effort.

Contact: Megan Herzog (, group lead

Our task group exists to enhance students’ holistic educational experience from their first point of contact with CBE, into their role as alumni, across disciplines in the College of Built Environments.

We aim to begin this process by narrowing topics that are important to the student experience, and interfacing with students, staff, faculty, and alumni to receive feedback on those topics. We have narrowed the topics to (1) Recruitment + Retention, (2) Student Health + Well-being, (3) Quality of Curriculum, (4) Connection to Resources + Opportunities, (5) Career Development, (6) College Culture + Identity, and (7) Alumni Relationships.

We plan to interface with our audience in two ways, through online survey responses and an open dialogue in Gould Court. Our online survey will be a part of the larger CBE survey, to be sent out in early January. Questions garnered by the task group, related to the topics include:

(1) Recruitment + Retention: How did you learn about your program? What drew you to your program?

(2) Student Health + Well-being: Do you find it easy to strike a good balance between school, work and other personal responsibilities? What kind of resources could the college offer to improve students’ health and well being?

(3) Quality of Curriculum: Is the quality of the courses you are taking what you expected? Do you have suggestions for improvement of the curriculum? If so, please explain.

(4) Connection to Resources + Opportunities: What is your preferred form of communication on how you would like to receive notices on jobs, scholarships, and upcoming events?

(5) Career Development: What is your level of confidence in finding a job in your chosen field after graduation? What aspects of career development would you like to see offered?

(6) College Culture + Identity: What is the biggest strength of your program? What are the weaknesses you see in the program?

(7) Alumni Relationships: How would you like to stay connected to CBE?

Throughout these interactions, we aim to uphold the CBE Strategic Plan values of transparency, inclusivity, collaboration, and equity.


Contact: Tyler Sprague (, group lead

Big View

The goal of our Task group is to help establish a college-wide platform (common forum) for the discussion and use of technology in teaching, research and community activities.

Our group views technology broadly – as a term encompassing a wide range of means used to meet teaching and research ambitions (both old and new, currently used and prospective) – and sees its value as an essential facilitator of CBE’s pursuit of larger goals.

Given CBE’s place within the University of Washington, supportive professional communities, and the larger Puget Sound region, technology offers a promising path forward to both lift the profile of CBE and substantively address the grand challenges of our time.

Currently, CBE Departments teach technology-centered courses separately, and students are largely expected to manage their own technology needs.  This allows Departments to meet their discipline-specific needs, but often results in overlapping course content and little cross-college understanding.  Our Task group sees interdisciplinarity as a key advantage of CBE, and technology can help enable much more collaborative, ground-breaking work.


– Encourage a critical philosophy/position on technology within CBE that fully acknowledges potential benefits and drawbacks.

-Empower all in CBE to speculate on, learn about and thoughtfully integrate technologies into their teaching and research activities, and promote ubiquitous technology over specialized technology.

-Ensure equity in student access to technology, and a baseline ability to meet the technical requirements of offered courses.

– Prioritize proficiency of technical knowledge over skills, while preparing students to become lasting leaders in their field (do not settle for the state of the art)

– Position the college at the forefront of technology in the AEC industry and on-par with peer institutions by fostering innovative research that is also rooted in the traditions and values of the CBE.