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The Innovative Cities Lecture Series

Beyond the Planning Charette: Equity Driven Stakeholder Engagement for Socially Just and Sustainable Community Outcomes presentation by Professor Kirk Harris and Adjunct Professor Chelsea Wait

Lecture Summary

Too often community participation is treated as satisfying a legal requirement in the planning process. Even well-intentioned planners can miss segments of the community that experience barriers to participation. Harris and Wait’s presentation and discussion will stress the importance of building a foundation for engagement that acknowledges systemic inequality and honors existing community resiliency. This presentation will explore equity-based planning practices and strategies emerging from actual planning efforts.


Kirk E. Harris is a faculty member in the Department of Urban Planning, in the School of Architecture and Urban Planning. Dr. Harris’ academic interests are focused on racial and economic equity and the historical, systemic, and policy-based practices that undermine racial and economic justice in African American and low-income communities of color. As an urban planning practitioner Dr. Harris’ practice is guided by efforts to advance social justice and equity. Dr. Harris has served on the National American Planning Association’s (APA) Social Justice Taskforce and served as the initial spokesperson for APA’s launch of its national campaign that seeks to encourage planners to embrace social justice in the execution of their planning practices (the initial campaign video in which Dr. Harris is featured is at: Dr. Harris teaches, engages in practice and/or writes about issues that involve racial and economic equity, the pedagogy of social and economic justice, constitutional issues in planning law, mediation and negotiation in planning practice, urban planning theory and practice, and democratic and inclusive community engagement.

Chelsea Wait is a PhD candidate in Architecture at the School of Architecture and Urban Planning (SARUP), University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM). With an interdisciplinary background, Chelsea has focused on community collaboration, storytelling, public history, local architecture history, and integrates her public art practice. Chelsea’s dissertation looks at how people practice care as it relates to the built environment and urban landscape. She looks at community archives and traditional archives in order to thoroughly understand how we, as humans, construct a shared existence in the physical world imbued with our cultural values. This paints a more detailed look at who building ‘users’ are, and a long-term perspective on the relationship between users and the buildings and places they inhabit. Her research focuses on Sherman Park, Milwaukee, the site of intersecting poverty, racism, incarceration, and dispossession, and finds that focusing on acts of care as a means to strengthen vulnerable community networks. She has led workshops on sensory ethnography, home and belonging, and racialization of the landscape. She has received a 2014 UWM Teaching Award as well as the 2014 Leenhouts Memorial Scholarship. She was a 2018 Ambassador from UWM for the Vernacular Architecture Forum. She has presented her work at conferences of the Society of Architectural Historians, American Folklore Society, Imagining America, the Vernacular Architecture Forum, the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning (UWM), and the Landscape, Space, and Place Conference at Indiana University.

AICP-CM credits will be awarded.

Questions, comments?

All lectures are free and open to planners, students, staff, faculty, and friends of the University. Please contact Jennifer Tasse , Department of Urban Planning Project Assistant at