The Dean's Letter

August 28, 2020

A Fall "Unlike Any Other"

Dear AAP,

Welcome "back." The fact that these words were an unknown when we were last together speaks volumes of the uncertainties we have faced over the last six months — and, of the shared resolve that has made it possible for us to come together again, both in-person and remotely. In determining how AAP might best adapt to our exceptional circumstances, I have had the opportunity to connect with students, faculty, staff, and alumni in ways that I know are truly unique to our moment. Your thoughts and ideas have helped shape a new paradigm that lays the groundwork for a fall unlike any other.  

Over a relatively short period, the pandemic has revealed both precarious interdependencies and pervasive inequities. It has necessitated tremendous sacrifice and resiliency, and stretched us all in different ways and to varying degrees. Nevertheless, our community has constantly reaffirmed the core values that define us as a college, not only in what we say, but in what we do and how we do it. Our responses have been built on mutual aid, critical agency, and radical imagination. We now have new perspectives on both possibilities and responsibilities for our disciplines.

For their tireless and super-human effort, I want to thank the department chairs, directors, faculty, and staff that have been working around the clock for months to adapt, innovate, and prepare for our return. Their commitment to our college, our students, and our unique pedagogical models has prompted a rethinking of what and how we teach, both physically and virtually — they have reimagined physical and virtual classrooms, enhanced modes of instruction in new mediums and formats, expanded curricular and co-curricular offerings, and reimagined how we will come together as one community.

For those returning to Ithaca, you will find that we have expanded and adapted many of our spaces to accommodate and support new ways of teaching, learning, and creating. In order to de-densify per physical distancing guidelines, we will find ourselves in spaces we have not previously had access to. Studios and spaces of instruction, critique, and exhibitions will not only be located in Milstein, Sibley, and Tjaden halls, but in the Mui Ho Fine Arts Library, the Johnson Museum of Art, and the new Welcome Center on Beebe Lake. Please take a moment to visit AAP's COVID-19 Resources and Updates Page to find out more about changes to academic programming and spaces across the college. As we come together, we will have new responsibilities to each other. The pandemic has made it painfully clear that the act of sharing space also requires a shared commitment to care for one another.

At AAP NYC, students will find new opportunities to collaborate across architecture and planning to advance equity and justice. An interdisciplinary studio taught by alumnus Peter Robinson of BLACKSPACE urbanist collective will partner with the My Brother's Keeper Alliance to bring Architecture and CRP students together with high school students from Medgar Evers College Preparatory School in Brooklyn to address racial disparities in housing design and planning.

In collaboration with Cornell Tech, Professor Jenny Sabin will teach a studio/seminar on making across disciplines that explores intersections across public health and architecture in the context of COVID-19 and focuses on innovations in PPE and 3D-printing; real and virtual body architecture; and equity, inclusivity, and social distancing. In Ithaca, alumnus Tom Knipe, former principal planner for Tompkins County, and current director of the Office of Economic Development for the City of Ithaca, will be teaching a course on planning under COVID. His seminar will explore the ways in which planners and communities across the U.S. and the world are responding to challenges presented by the pandemic.

As we return to a new academic year, we understand that many in our community will be facing multiple challenges in our global and local contexts. In a matter of months, so much of what we have to now considered constant has been called into question, putting us in a position to reimagine our world at every scale, and from every angle. It is critical to our collective futures that we meet these challenges with the creativity, criticality, and care that distinguishes our community.

As we continue to see acts of violence and injustice in our cities and communities, at AAP, students, faculty, and staff have been advancing our college's commitment to justice and equity. The AAP Council for Diversity and Inclusion has been progressing our action plan for building an anti-racist community. From the development of a new Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Office / Officer; to working to decolonize and expand our curricula; to addressing recruitment, retention, and redress, the council has set into motion a series of transformative steps to enact change.

Our community of alumni and friends have stepped forward to support AAP's diversity and inclusion efforts with their philanthropy and networks. This summer has seen the formation of a new Diversity and Inclusion Fund, an anonymous gift for student support in honor of George Floyd, new conversations around entrepreneurial funding for students of color, and initial exploration for a significant impact gift to fund a Diversity and Inclusion Office at AAP. The generosity and thoughtfulness of our alumni and friends of the college deepens our commitments and centers our focus. Their continued support for our students' financial aid needs as well as for our diversity and inclusion efforts will help and guide us as we move forward, turning our aspirations into actions.

I continue to be inspired by the drive of our whole community to push past boundaries, to actively rethink existing models and structures in response to today's most critical questions, and to constantly expand our collective thought and imagination. There is still much to do at AAP and beyond, yet I believe we have much to look forward to as we continue to imagine, shape, and build a worthy future under truly exceptional circumstances, amidst what Angela Davis — with her eternal optimism, calls "our extraordinary moment."



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.

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