Daniel Hess takes helm as chair of UB’s urban and regional planning program

Dan Hess stands in an urban environment with wall covered in posters

Daniel B. Hess, professor of urban planning, joined the faculty in 2002. He is a former associate chair of the department and a 1997 graduate of its MUP program. Photo by Timo Ilves

Published January 5, 2018

Daniel B. Hess, professor of urban planning who studies the socio-economic dynamics of housing, transportation and land use, has been appointed chair of the Department of Urban and Regional Planning at UB, effective January 1, 2018.

Hess succeeds Professor Ernest Sternberg, a nearly 30-year member of the faculty who has served the department in this role for the past six years.

A member of the faculty since 2002 and former associate chair of the department, Hess begins his tenure as chair just as he concludes a two-year research fellowship in Estonia at the University of Tartu.

The transition takes place amidst a period of tremendous growth for the program fueled by its city-as-laboratory engagement with Buffalo, and new transdisciplinary research initiatives that address challenges as diverse as climate change and social justice and engage disciplines including architecture, public health, law and engineering.

Since 2012, the department has launched a doctorate in urban planning, a combined Master of Urban Planning/Master of Public Health degree, and graduate offerings in historic preservation. In 2015, led by the efforts of Sternberg, the school established what is now SUNY’s only master of real estate development, with a curriculum that combines urban planning, architecture, economic development, finance and law. 

Hess says he hopes to build on this trajectory toward an elevated national profile. “I am honored to assume this important leadership role and to advance our important educational and research missions. Our key aims—to improve urban planning practice, to enhance city functions and urban life, and to ensure fundamental fairness and equity for all—address critical challenges facing our communities.”

Adds Dean Robert G. Shibley: “Dan’s international research networks and deep connections to practice will reinforce our award-winning studio curriculum and nationally-ranked research enterprise. I am inspired as well by Dan’s plans for strengthening our undergraduate environmental design program.”

The recipient of UB’s Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching, Hess has taught core courses in the environmental design bachelor’s program, directed award-winning studios in the Master of Urban Planning program, and led eight study abroad courses in England, Estonia, Latvia and Russia.

His research on housing and transportation spans urban planning history, post-socialist urban space, land use planning, and disaster preparedness and response planning for extreme events. His most recent research in Estonia through the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Research Fellowship took Hess across the Baltic States to explore the Soviet-era housing complexes that still dominate the urban landscapes of Eastern Europe. While there, he served as director of the Center for Migration and Urban Studies at the University of Tartu.

Hess says research – and student engagement in research – is central to the program’s success. “Research is paramount to what we do in the department. We cannot excel in our research endeavors without the involvement of students.”

In addition to its studio-based curriculum and intensive community engagement, the program is distinguished by its research enterprise. The department’s faculty consistently rank at the top of urban planning programs in the Association of American Universities for research funding and publications. The program receives national and international funding for its research on food systems planning and public health, extreme weather and cities, planning for distressed urban neighborhoods, and urban policy for transitioning cities.

A former Fulbright Scholar, Hess has also been recognized as a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellow and an Eisenhower Fellow with the U.S. Department of Transportation. Hess has authored more than 50 scholarly articles in peer-reviewed journals and 10 book chapters. He is co-editor of the forthcoming Housing Estates in Europe: Poverty, Ethnic Segregation, and Policy Challenges (Springer Publishing International) and will assume the role of co-editor of Town Planning Review, one of the oldest scholarly journals in urban planning.

Hess is a 1997 graduate of UB’s Master of Urban Planning program. He earned his PhD in urban planning from the University of California, Los Angeles, and holds a bachelor’s degree in civil and environmental engineering from Clarkson University.

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