Susan Christopherson (Photo by Robert Barker/Cornell University)

This is a Community Announcement from the Christopherson Center Advisory Board. It was not written by The Ithaca Voice. To submit Community Announcements, send them to Matt Butler at mbutler@ithacavoice.com.

This month marks Susan Christopherson’s 75th birthday. Many Ithacans may have known Susan — as the first woman to chair Cornell University’s Department of City and Regional Planning, as an internationally renowned geographer whose work around the globe informed her research in New York State, as a friend and mentor to countless colleagues and students who were inspired by her intellect and influenced by her scholarship. 

A year ago, a group of her colleagues and former students launched the Susan Christopherson Center for Community Planning to honor Susan and to continue her commitment to regional economic development, public engagement and the well-being of communities. With an office in downtown Ithaca at the Tompkins Center for History and Culture, the Christopherson Center works across New York State to support communities and organizations in their efforts to create a more equitable, climate-resilient built environment.

To achieve healthier communities, it is imperative that we reconsider how we treat our buildings, roads, bridges and other infrastructure — the built environment is one of the largest emitters of greenhouse gases, responsible for 40 percent of CO2 emissions. The Christopherson Center focuses on addressing unmet needs in rethinking how we design, build, use and reuse our building and infrastructure resources. 

The Christopherson Center is a proud founding partner of CR0WD (Circularity, Reuse, Zero Waste Development), which advocates for a more sustainable built environment that includes deconstruction and reuse of building materials rather than business-as-usual demolition and creation of landfill waste. (Construction and demolition debris is the single largest waste stream in the US, nearly twice the amount of everyday garbage.) CR0WD works with local governments and organizations to encourage policy development and take action to create a circular construction economy that will result in environmental, economic and cultural benefits on local, state and national levels. 

Many building-related policies and practices that have been in place for generations negatively impact communities of color, Indigenous communities and vulnerable populations. The Christopherson Center works with community organizations, municipalities and city planners, preservationists and architects to develop tools and programs to help these professionals better address the historic inequities that have arisen and to embed diversity, inclusion and social justice in their work.   

We believe one of the ways to enhance capacity in the face of a changing climate is to establish meaningful, long-lasting networks among local municipalities. In late 2022, the Christopherson Center will launch a regional multi-year program to support community efforts to achieve a climate-resilient built environment through in-person workshops, multi-partner collaborations, technical assistance and other actions. 

We don’t do this work alone. Just as Susan valued the many students who collaborated on her research projects, the Christopherson Center has welcomed student interns who contribute enormously to our success. They are dedicated, engaged and it is always a pleasure to work with and learn from them. We think Susan would be pleased that the Christopherson Center is helping prepare another generation of students to make positive change in their communities. 

This month, as we celebrate Susan and her 75th birthday, we remember her contributions locally, nationally and globally.  As we work to carry on Susan’s legacy, we welcome your support of our campaign to raise funds to expand our student intern program. You can learn more about that and the Christopherson Center’s work at www.christophersoncenter.org

With thanks,

Gretchen Worth, project director, and the Christopherson Center advisory board (Jeffrey Chusid, George Frantz, Derek Crossman, Rod Howe, Tom Knipe)