Karen Christensen earned her Masters of City Planning and Ph. D. at the Department of City and Regional Planning, (DCRP) UC Berkeley. As a student there she began teaching as a Teaching Assistant, (now titled Graduate Student Instructor) in Professors Rittle and Webber’s planning theory course. After graduation and a Post-Doc and teaching at Stanford, Christensen returned to DCRP where she served as a Visiting Lecturer and subsequently, (due to CED Dean Roger Montgomery) as Lecturer with Security of Employment. Later Carol Christ (yes, the Chancellor, then a Campus administrator) urged the Department to “make an honest woman of her”, that is give her a faculty position appropriate to her teaching and research record, and accordingly Christensen became an assistant professor and in due course was awarded tenure.
She regularly taught the undergraduate introduction to city and regional planning, and graduate level courses in institutions, housing and planning theory.
Her research stemmed from her pre-graduate school work at the US Department of Housing and Urban Development with substantial involvement with inter-agency and intergovernmental innovations (including serving on an Office of Management and Budget task force studying planning in the US). Her book, Cities and Complexity: Making Intergovernmental Decisions, built on that work and graduate studies at Berkeley and Stanford on organizations, planning and public policy. Her article “Coping with Uncertainty in Planning” is her most frequently cited publication. Another article, “Teaching Savvy” was awarded the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning award for the best article of the year in the Journal of Planning Education and Research.
Christensen served as the first woman Chair of the Department of City and Regional Planning (2008 – 2011). Previously (2006 - 2008) she had served as Editor and then Co-Editor with Karen Chapple of the Journal of Planning Education and Research. In addition Christensen was the Carmel P. Friesen Chair in Urban Studies 2006 – 2008. She developed the Minor in City and Regional Planning and later helped to develop the undergraduate major in Urban Studies.
Christensen, Karen. S. 1985. “Coping with Uncertainty in Planning” Journal of the American Planning Association 51: 63-73.
Christensen, Karen S. 1993. “Teaching Savvy” Journal of Planning Education and Research, 12: 202 – 212.
Christensen, Karen S. 1999. Cities and Complexity: Making Intergovernmental Decisions Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.