New associate dean shares ideas on engagement, sustainability

CarissaCTS Scholar Carissa Slotterback has been appointed associate dean of the Humphrey School of Public Affairs effective June 12. She succeeds Laura Bloomberg, who held the associate dean position for four years and transitioned to the role of dean last month.

Slotterback, an associate professor, has been a member of the Humphrey School faculty for 13 years and previously served as director of research engagement in the Office of the Vice President for Research. Her academic work focuses on stakeholder involvement and decision making related to environmental, land-use, and transportation planning. She shares thoughts about engagement and sustainability below.

What drives your interest in public engagement?

I have been so inspired to see a growing emphasis on public engagement in transportation decision making. MnDOT, the Metropolitan Council, and Hennepin County are among a range of organizations taking innovative approaches to promoting engagement in transportation planning and project decision making.

Public engagement is essential to ensure that we are understanding and integrating the public interest when we make decisions about transportation. Transportation exists in communities, and it is created for and experienced by people. Meaningfully engaging the insights of these people and their knowledge about community context is essential in ensuring that transportation decisions serve our current and future populations.

Meaningful public engagement also means targeting and creatively engaging those who are marginalized and underrepresented in the typical participation processes that have been used for many years. Using approaches that meet people where they are, building partnerships with organizations serving underrepresented communities, and continuing to diversify the transportation, planning, and policy workforce are essential to continued progress.

What are the benefits of bringing planning and policy experts together with other disciplines involved in transportation research? 

As we increasingly understand that technical solutions are only part of what is needed to address the biggest issues facing our society, there is growing recognition of the significance of planning and policy expertise. This expertise helps us understand how people think about issues, how they make decisions, and the role of institutions. Planning and policy disciplines also offer key analytical expertise that helps us to understand the systemic and interconnected nature of the issues that we deal with, along with key insights on process that can help us think through the range of relevant stakeholders and the most productive ways to engage them.

In transportation specifically, I have seen really productive collaborations among experts across planning, policy, engineering, design, and other disciplines that have allowed us to better understand not only the nature of transportation challenges, but also the actions that might be taken to address them.

How do you envision transportation becoming more sustainable while meeting mobility needs?

The essential interaction between transportation and land use helps us to understand more deeply the ways that transportation shapes things like economic development, housing prices, health, accessibility, safety, and environmental impacts. For me, sustainability provides a framework for thinking about the means to get to an outcome, rather than an outcome itself. Thinking about sustainability today increasingly asks us to think about long-term impacts such as climate change—as well as the human impacts such as job access and active transportation—along with critical questions about the equity impacts of our transportation investments and the ways we engage underrepresented voices in transportation decision making.

Posted in Planning, Sustainability

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