Stephen Ramos and his students in the College of Environment and Design put their skills into practice across Georgia and around the world.
Where did you earn degrees and what are your current responsibilities at UGA?
I earned my doctor of design from Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design, master’s degrees in community and regional planning and Latin American studies from the University of Texas at Austin and bachelor’s degrees in English and Spanish from Gettysburg College. I am an assistant professor in the College of Environment and Design.
When did you come to UGA and what brought you here?
We moved here in the summer of 2011. I began my position and my wife started a Ph.D. program in the College of Education. I was drawn by the opportunity of helping to develop a studio-based planning program.
What are your favorite courses and why?
I’m enjoying the urban planning history course. Professor Mark Reinberger kindly passed it on to me when I arrived. Planning and design have complex relationships with time, and in the course we are essentially looking backward at people looking forward. History tends to misbehave. It won’t sit quietly. It’s an exciting time right now for the field of urban history.
What interests you about your field?
Design agency. Emergence. Uncertainty. Traditionally, relationships were considered and projected toward stability. Contemporary practice now accepts—and even embraces—instability as an essential constant. Interestingly, as a result, the fields seem to now be moving out of crisis with a confidence of direction.
What are some highlights of your career at UGA?
I enjoyed traveling with students to the UGA Costa Rica campus in Monteverde. I am fascinated with the Georgia coast.
How does your research or scholarship inspire your teaching, and vice versa?
Jarmusch calls it Joe Strummer’s Law: “No Input, No Output.” My research explores issues of technological deployment in the constitution of territory. It’s the ordering objective that I mentioned above, and it feeds quite naturally into a broad range of teaching. Teaching, at its best, is discursive, and unexpected issues can arise from creative association or sheer misunderstanding. It’s important to be open to these because they can be generative. Teaching helps to organize and distill ideas, and this too is helpful for research.
What do you hope students gain from their classroom experience with you?
Reverence and irreverence. I hope that they learn to think critically about the subject material, and that they then take responsibility for that knowledge as participating members.
Describe your ideal student.
My job is to calibrate course objectives so that they are achievable—through some struggle and discomfort. It’s hard to precisely describe the ideal student, because the impacts are not immediate. My hope is that students finish the course feeling that it was worth their effort.
Favorite place to be/thing to do on campus is…
Professor Dorinda G. Dallmeyer, director of our college’s Environmental Ethics Certificate Program, gives a wonderful campus tour that she narrates as though she were speaking with Aldo Leopold. By citing passages from his “A Sand County Almanac,” she takes the tour through the campus’s environmental history by visiting locations and explaining their significance. I’ve taken the tour four times, and each time I learn something new. I also enjoy the Georgia Museum of Art.
Beyond the UGA campus, I like to…
Be with family and friends. Play music. Travel.
Community/civic involvement includes…
Our college is very active with UGA Public Service and Outreach through our Center for Community Design and Preservation, and I teach a course called “Ideas of Community” where the students become involved with community initiatives through the center.
Favorite book/movie (and why)?
When we were living in Spain, a friend lent me a book of Eduardo Chillida’s interviews and essays. At the time, many urbanists and architects seemed to be going to the book. He had just passed, which may have had something to do with it, but it’s filled with generous observations. An acute sensibility. It’s a great book.
Proudest moment at UGA?
The proudest moment since we’ve been at UGA was the birth of my son.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Support for the Hispanic Student Association and Dignidad Inmigrante en Athens (DIA). Two great groups patiently helping UGA and the wider Athens community to learn.
Originally published Jan. 25, 2015