Humanities Seminar Tackles the Challenges of Successful Planning
All modern institutions plan, but what does it take to avoid glitches and develop an effective plan? Scholars participating in Bentley University’s Humanities Research Seminar will look through a multidisciplinary lens at the logistics and logic behind planning. Slated to launch this fall with support from a National Endowment for the Humanities Challenge Grant, the unique initiative opens the door for collaboration among a diverse group of faculty and graduate students from top institutions.
“The goal of the seminar is not to explicitly come up with best practices for planning across various industries or impose a single outcome,” says Professor of History Cyrus Veeser, faculty coordinator of the seminar. “It is a larger conversation aimed at fostering exchange among people who would not normally be sitting around a table together and to flesh out commonalities as well as differences.”
Planning in all fields is subject to particular kinds of error, he adds. “Until very recently, planning — whether by governments, corporations, even nonprofits or multilateral agencies like the UN — has always been an elite activity, a process controlled by a small group of specialists or decision-makers. The result has been top-down decision making in many fields.”
The seminar theme — “Intended Consequences: The Historical and Contemporary Problematic of Planning” — recognizes the idea that planning comes with glitches and explores emerging correctives to elite planning. In urban and government planning, for example, “visioning” has been introduced as a way to incorporate more stakeholders in the process of thinking through what the on-the-ground results of a policy or program might be.
Bentley faculty and graduate students will be joined by colleagues from Boston University, Dartmouth College, Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, University of New Hampshire, University of Massachusetts-Lowell and Wellesley College. Participants will be grouped based on research interests and explore subthemes such as how UN agencies plan peacekeeping and environmental projects; big data and its implications; urban planning issues; planning policies of post-industrial cities; and government planning for natural and human disasters. Three Bentley undergraduate fellows — seniors Shannen Amicangioli and Alexandra Missirian, and junior Ryan Mailhot — will have an opportunity to work on a directed study project with a Bentley faculty participant.
Seminars usually are organized for a single discipline, or several very closely connected disciplines,” Veeser notes. “Crossing disciplinary borders can be very stimulating — even paradigm-shifting — to get a close reading of your work from someone in a totally different field.”
The seminar is presented by the Jeanne and Dan Valente Center for the Arts & Sciences at Bentley.