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I am a broadly trained human geographer with research and teaching interests in regional development and planning. My graduate training centered on cultural and historical geography and regional planning with a research focus on regional economic development. My research has focused on regional planning and development with emphasis on economically disadvantaged rural areas. These are places faced with lagging incomes and chronic poverty that result from structural weaknesses. I have merged macro-scale economic development and regional planning theories to examine spatial expressions of uneven economic development created by industrial cycles and resultant economic restructuring. Appalachia has provided a regional focus for much of this research. The region’s economy developed on heavy manufacturing and resource-based industries, both of which were sensitive to industrial and technologic changes within the larger national economy. Furthermore, the region’s natural resources, within a classic export base model, made substantial contributions to national industrial patterns. Changes in economic and product cycles concentrated regional unemployment, out-migration, and poverty to make Appalachia the prototype for American regional planning commissions. The Appalachian Regional Commission remains as the nation’s oldest continuously operating regional commission. My research on the ARC planning strategies and outcomes has employed a mix of methods comprising analyses of census data, ARC documents, fieldwork, and interviews to conduct spatial analysis of the region’s development at regional, sub-regional, and community scales. That published research reached a broad scholarly audience and contributed to our understanding of and regional planning practices that address a geographically complex region. Of equal importance, I have used that research to inform my teaching of our program’s Regional Planning course.
More locally, my research interests explore our understanding of regional development processes in the Charlotte metropolitan region. Those research questions focus on the impacts of regional economic restructuring, population growth and resultant land use patterns within municipalities on the region’s rural-urban fringe. I have developed that focus for a course to be offered in our Geography and Urban-Regional Analysis Ph.D. Program. Similar teaching interests frequently have involved field-based projects in my undergraduate and Master’s classes in Urban Planning Methods and Small Town Planning. Most recently, with Jerry Ingalls, I have researched the reuse of textile mills, abandoned in the wake of global and regional economic restructuring. The places those old mills find in a new economy bridge senses of heritage and place between past and present economic landscapes. Our current research employs field work, investigation of historic maps, interviews, and a content analysis of over 60 newspaper articles to detail contrasting reuse initiatives and potentials that exist among urban and small town development markets. Regionally, these differences symbolize place–specific capacities to absorb structural changes inherent in global to local economic shifts.
I also devote considerable time to less formal research that is necessary to the delivery of my introductory Global Connections: Geography course that I teach in the University’s General Education curriculum. Data, conceptual examples, and topics must be updated every semester for this course. Because it carries an awareness of the complexities of global issues to so many students, the course may be the most important one I teach. Accordingly, I have offered introductory general education classes in all but three semesters over the span of my teaching career.