The Dean's Letter

August 22, 2022

Fields of Possibility

Dear AAP community — 

Welcome, and, welcome back to all students, faculty, and staff. We have many things to look forward to and advance together this fall. Or, as prolific writer and profoundly impactful educator bell hooks reminds us, an open field of possibilities to pursue: 

The classroom, with all its limitations, remains a location of possibility. In that field of possibility we have the opportunity to labor for freedom, to demand of ourselves and our comrades an openness of mind that allows us to face reality even as we collectively imagine ways to move beyond boundaries, to transgress. This is education as the practice of freedom.  

As we begin a new academic year, this passage from hooks' Teaching to Transgress, written nearly 30 years ago, reminds us that the classroom remains not only fertile ground but critical terrain as we imagine new futures. hooks' words resonate to this day, inspiring us to move beyond boundaries to where acts of creativity, criticality, and imagination — perhaps forms of transgression in and of themselves — create possibility.

At AAP, pedagogy is a liberatory practice. In our spaces for teaching and learning, we both create possibilities and share a collective responsibility for the future. Here, we are constant in our collective mission to challenge assumptions, raise questions, further informed discourse, and produce actionable knowledge that engages the world and all of its urgent challenges both within and beyond our classrooms, studios, and labs. We continue to build community around these commitments and values. 

This fall, we are excited to welcome eight new faculty members following the conclusion of our social impact and CIVIC searches, and two inaugural Strauch fellows to AAP. For information about them and their work, please see our college announcement. We are also thrilled about our recently expanded college leadership team with Associate Professor of Art Jen de los Reyes joining as our Associate Dean for Diversity and Equity; Professor Neema Kudva as Senior Associate Dean for Academic Affairs; and Associate Professor Suzanne Charles as Acting Chair of AAP's newest shared department, the joint Paul Rubacha Department of Real Estate with the SC Johnson College of Business. 

Across our departments, we have a slate of classes and studios that draw exciting parallels with our priorities and make connections with communities well beyond our walls. The fall 2022 Mellon Collaborative Studies Design Justice Workshop will be based in and around the city of Detroit and cotaught by Assistant Professor of Architecture Suzanne Lettieri and Professor of Comparative Literature Karen Pinkus. Mitch Glass in CRP and Landscape Architecture will teach a cross-disciplinary course on systematic and historic disinvestment in marginalized urban neighborhoods. Supported by the Mui Ho Center for Cities at AAP as part of the initiative on Inclusive Urban Development with the Sweetwater Foundation, this course brings students from architecture, art, planning, and allied disciplines together for an immersive learning session around models for ground-up neighborhood development on Chicago's South Side. We also look forward to the first Art Department Jubilee, an experimental series of workshops planned by art students and faculty where for two consecutive days, all art classes will be open to all art students so they can attend any class they wish, expand their creative practices, and connect with different faculty and classmates. 

The Gensler Family AAP NYC Center welcomes a projected 75 students this fall, the largest number in the history of the program. To accommodate this large cohort, AAP NYC will have studios and classrooms across two locations — 26 Broadway and the Tata Innovation Center on the Cornell Tech campus. The AAP-Cornell Tech pilot around design and technology continues this fall for the fourth year. Architecture Associate Professor Jenny Sabin will be coteaching the interdisciplinary, hybrid studio and seminar alongside other classes, including Product Studio and Coding for Design which extend the reach of the ongoing Design Tech pilot program. In Rome, our faculty will share perspectives and lines of inquiry that offer architecture and art students unique opportunities to deepen their critical engagement with the city. Architecture Professor Andrea Simitch will teach INTERVENTIONS, a seminar that foregrounds the role of context in architecture, and Art Professor Michael Ashkin will teach a new course in advanced photography around subjective, perceptual, structural, and historical conditions — all at work in urban and photographic spaces. These are but a few of the many exciting things going on across the college this fall. For a more complete view, please see the college's fall 2022 highlights article

Back in Ithaca, please mark your calendars for September 27 and 28, when the Cornell Mui Ho Center for Cities will host the Critical Conversations for Urban Transformation launch symposium. I would like to thank Professor Victoria Beard, the center's inaugural director, for bringing thought leaders from around the world together with AAP faculty to share knowledge, research, perspectives, and approaches to tackling the most urgent challenges facing cities today. Please visit the symposium event page for more information about guest speakers and the extensive program including keynote panels and speakers, Pecha Kucha presentations, exhibits, planning sessions, and participatory roundtable discussions with architects, planners, artists, civic leaders, and urban change agents. 

Over the past several years, we have learned, and continue to be reminded that no one discipline can address the complex challenges of our time. This reality has already driven change within and beyond our college, inspiring sustainable collective action and shifting paradigms as we start a new academic year that is about bringing people together and drawing connections between and across disciplines and campuses in the spirit of collaboration, mutual responsibility — and as hooks says with fierce and optimistic humanity — sheer possibility. 



J. Meejin Yoon
Gale and Ira Drukier Dean of Architecture, Art, and Planning


Contact Office of the Dean

129 Sibley Dome
Phone: (607) 255-9110
Monday–Friday, 8 a.m.–4:30 p.m.

Previous Letters from the Dean

"Knowledge at its best"

January 22, 2024

Sharing Gratitude

December 14, 2023

Hope for the Possible

August 21, 2023
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