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Hot Topics Conversations: Winter 2021


This academic year, the College of Built Environments will host a series of “hot topic” conversations for faculty, staff and students to discuss some of the language and ideas central to our college work and the forthcoming strategic plan.

What is a “Hot Topic”?

Various topics were identified during the strategic planning process as ones where meaningful differences and productive conflict arose. This manifested in conflicting ideas of the meaning of the word, the impact of the topic on the college, or the value of the concept to the work of individuals, department or college. 

What is the list of topics/words?

  • Profit
  • Craft
  • Design
  • Professionalism
  • Equity, Diversity & Inclusion
  • Justice
  • Climate Activism

Why are we having these Hot Topic conversations?

Practice! As a college, our EDI (equity, diversity and inclusion) goals include more deeply understanding differences within our college, including differences in how we approach our work, how we describe our values, and what meaning we assign to these topics. Identifying and broaching these differences can lead to conflict. Working through these conflicts leads to more skill in appreciating differences and greater opportunity to let those differences contribute to innovation (see purple axis in diagram above).

What we are NOT doing 

We are not seeking consensus or looking for an acceptable euphemism that might mean different things to different people. We may end up agreeing to disagree, but along the way we will gain important insight to the points of view of others in our college (see red “x”s in diagram above).

Winter 2021

Tuesdays 5–6pm 

  • Equity, Diversity & Inclusion (January 19)
  • Justice (February 2)
  • Climate Activism (February 16)

Week 3 – Tuesday, 1/19, 5-6pm

The CBE strategic planning process has made clear that our community seeks to increase equity through our work in the built environment. At the same time, the college can and should embody those same equitable and inclusive principles in how we operate and the culture we create. We know CBE racial demographics are not currently meeting our goals to reflect the state or country, yet focusing solely on diversity may not be the answer. What practices do we value that are consistent with our EDI values? Are there any that are not? Does belonging mean different things to different people?

Facilitators: Adela Mu (Master of Urban Planning student) + Claudia Vergara (Associate Director of Advancement, CBE)

As you think about this conversation, here are a few links to get you started.

  • Equity: Strive for fairness of results/outcomes rather than equal access to opportunity.
  • Diversity: Vibrant and healthy community involves recognizing and supporting differences.
  • Inclusion: Create an environment where everyone can participate and everyone belongs.

Thank you to the UDP Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Committee for the above definitions. Also check out the College’s recently updated EDI website.

Week 5 – Tuesday, 2/2, 5-6pm

What do we mean by just/justice? Can built environments promote and/or embody justice? What does the “right to the city” mean? The topic of reparations is controversial, should CBE take a stand? What are frameworks for better understanding different points of view on this controversy?

Facilitators: Rachel Berney (Associate Professor, Urban Design + Planning) + Sara Cubillos (Seattle Public Utilities)

Week 7 – Tuesday, 2/16, 5-6pm

We have heard different perceptions in CBE about the phrases “climate action” and “climate solutions.” What do we know about the similarities or differences in these ideas? Is there an approach that will make CBE’s work more effective? Should CBE take an advocacy role on climate issues and if so how should it balance this position with its relationship to built environment industries?

Facilitators: Anthony Hickling (Managing Director, Carbon Leadership Forum) + Gundula Proksch (Associate Professor, Architecture)