The College of Environmental Design announces the retirement of Jennifer Wolch, former William W. Wurster Dean and Professor of City and Regional Planning.
Wolch served as the college’s ninth dean from 2009 to 2019 and was the first woman to hold the position. Wolch joined CED after serving as a member of the University of Southern California faculty in the School of Urban & Regional Planning and the Department of Geography. While there, she founded USC’s Center for Sustainable Cities, chaired the Department of Geography, and served as Dean of Graduate Programs in USC’s College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.
In her tenure as CED Dean, Wolch worked with college departments to recruit 20 outstanding and diverse tenure-track faculty to Berkeley, as well as bringing distinguished practitioners to the college to teach. She also led the establishment of an array of new academic programs. These include CED’s undergraduate major in Sustainable Environmental Design, and two new master’s programs - the Master in Real Estate Development and Design, and the Master of Design (in collaboration with the College of Engineering). In addition, she was instrumental in launching certificate programs in Geographic Information Science & Technology, Urban Humanities (with the Division of Arts & Humanities), and Design Innovation (with the College of Engineering, Haas School of Business, and Division of Arts & Humanities). She also launched a suite of successful non-degree programs, including executive education offerings and summer career discovery programs for post-baccalaureate, undergraduate, and high school students.
“The commitment, tenacity, and drive of Jennifer Wolch continues to enable our success at CED both academically and fiscally. During her tenure as our Dean, CED hired some of the most outstanding new architecture, planning, and landscape faculty in the world, created new academic programs that help to sustain us, and maintained our top academic rankings. As a scholar, administrator, and colleague, we will all miss Jen’s wisdom and dedication to CED, and we wish her every success in her future endeavors,” said current Dean Vishaan Chakrabarti.
During her tenure as Dean, Wolch navigated campus financial, administrative, and leadership challenges with innovative solutions, guided by a long-term strategic plan. Alongside CED’s capable staff and faculty, she reorganized, expanded, and reimagined undergraduate student services to better serve students; created a new unit to support technology, fabrication, and building infrastructure services; oversaw development of a new website along with a host of communications platforms to more closely connect students, faculty, staff and alumni; and initiated a robust alumni engagement program that included an annual gathering bringing CED’s multigenerational community together with faculty and students, regional alumni events within California, across the US, and internationally.
“Jennifer is the reason I reconnected with CED. She brought a proactive approach to alumni engagement and created multiple opportunities for alums like me to understand how CED was approaching the opportunities and challenges it faced. More importantly, we became better connected to the students, their diverse stories, varied interests and amazing work. I am profoundly grateful for Jenn’s leadership during her time at CED.,” said Lydia Tan (B.Arch ‘83), Principal, Tan Consulting.
Wolch also worked closely with CED’s donors, paving the way for endowed chairs and professorships of practice, student scholarships and fellowships, and academic program support and enrichment. She was keenly interested in improving Bauer Wurster Hall’s environments for teaching, learning and community social life. With donor as well as campus support, she led efforts to redesign, renovate, and build a wide range of facilities, including many of Bauer Wurster Hall’s classrooms and studios, the Digital Fabrication Lab, Bauer Wurster Gallery, the Materials Store, 2nd Floor Student Hub, Bill’s Beach, Rice & Bones Café, and Ong & Ong Plaza.
“Dean Wolch was not only a tenacious and creative leader of the college, she was also a renowned scholar and a dedicated teacher,” said Dan Chatman, co-chair of the Department of City and Regional Planning, which was also Professor Wolch’s home department. “Her research on urban homelessness, urban green space, and human-animal relationships in cities spanned several decades and was highly innovative and influential.”
As a faculty member, Wolch led a graduate seminar, Multispecies Cities, taught the undergraduate Leadership in Sustainable Environmental Design seminar with alumni Jennifer Devlin, and co-taught the undergraduate courses Design & Activism and Future Ecologies. Her advocacy, professional practice and widely-cited research, published in six books and 145 academic articles/book chapters, focuses on urban homelessness; welfare state-voluntary sector relations; city green space, public health and environmental justice; sustainable urbanism; and human-animal coexistence in the face of rapid urbanization, deep social inequalities, biodiversity loss, and climate change.
Reflecting on Wolch as a teacher, Sarah Atkinson, Master of City Planning 22’, said that “in her novel course, Multispecies Cities, Professor Wolch helped me interrogate my human-oriented perspective on planning for human well-being through green space access. Her creative course assignments reinvigorated my admiration for the non-human world, allowing me to think about how a deeper appreciation and understanding of the interdependence of all species can help us in mending both our relationship with the natural world and one another. Outside of class, Wolch has become a valued mentor to me. She will be missed!”
Please help CED congratulate Jennifer Wolch on her much deserved retirement and honor her for her dedicated service to CED and UC Berkeley.