Each year, two of the nation’s leading planning experts are invited to Orlando to participate in UCF’s Urban and Regional Planning Distinguished Lecture Series. The lectures are open to the public and supported by generous contributions from members of the Central Florida planning community, as well as local organizations.

Current sponsors include MetroPlan Orlando, GAI Consultants, Ustler and the American Planning Association.

Spring 2018 Lecture

“Build It, Hack It, Share It! Making Data Work for Policy Change”

To register, visit the Continuing Education website. 

The latest lecture will feature Sarah Williams, an associate professor of technology and urban planning, and the director of the Civic Data Lab at MIT.

Big Data will not change the world unless it is collected and synthesized into tools that generate policy change. The Civic Data Design Lab has developed tools, visualizations, and analyses which helps to facilitate policy change. This talk calls everyone to act on the lab’s motto of “Build It, Hack It, Share It” – by showing examples from lab projects that crowdsource transportation data, capture social media, automate development of zoning envelopes, and use sensors to understand the use of public space. All the projects show that building tools with big data can generate policy change.

Sarah Williams
is currently an associate professor of technology and urban planning. She also is director of the Civic Data Design Lab at MIT’s School of Architecture and Planning. The Civic Data Design Lab works with data, maps, and mobile technologies to develop interactive design and communication strategies that expose urban policy issues to broader audiences.

Trained as a geographer (Clark University), landscape architect (University of Pennsylvania), and urban planner (MIT), Williams’s work combines geographic analysis and design. Williams is most well known for her work as part of the Million Dollar Blocks team which highlighted the cost of incarceration, Digital Matatus which developed the first data set on an informal transit system searchable in Google Maps, and a more a recent project that uses social media data to understand housing vacancy and Ghost Cities in China.

Her design work has been widely exhibited including work in the Guggenheim, the Museum of Modern Art, the Cooper Hewitt Museum in New York City. Before coming to MIT, Williams was Co-Director of the Spatial Information Design Lab at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture Planning and Preservation. Williams has won numerous awards including being named top 25 planners in the technology and 2012 Game Changer by Metropolis Magazine. Her work is currently on view in the Museum of Modern Art and the Seoul Biennale Cities Exhibition in Korea.



Fall 2017 Lecture

“Learning from Where You Live: Innovation and Authenticity in Changing Places”

Ray Gastil, the director of planning for the city of Pittsburgh.

Panel Moderator:
Staci M. Zavattaro is author of “Cities for Sale” and “Place Branding Through Phases of the Image.” Her research focuses on city branding strategies and government use of social media. Her next book project examines neighborhood branding and its implications. She is an associate professor at SPA.

Jason Burton
, is a chief planner with the city of Orlando, practicing in various land development capacities as a professional planner for more than 23 years.  During his past 13 years with the city of Orlando, Burton has been the city’s zoning official, has managed the city’s land development process, and now works with a studio of planners, architects and economic development professionals that create visions for sectors of the city while proposing new land development code amendments. Burton also manages the Appearance Review Board process and serves as the zoning official for the permitting process. Burton is also the staff liaison for the city’s Historic Preservation Board.  Prior to coming to Orlando, Burton was a land development planner, downtown redevelopment planner and transportation manager for the city of San Jose.

Peter Sechler, is the director of GAI’s Community Solutions Group, focused on community planning, design and economic development. Sechler specializes in urban design, campus planning and landscape design projects in the eastern United States for public, private, and institutional clients. His focus has been to work inclusively, identifying the community context and mission, understand economic potential, and thereby position specific initiatives to support broader goals, enhanced livability and sustainable success.  Currently, the Community Solutions Group is working with cities across the State of Florida – particularly in Central Florida, Tampa/St. Petersburg and Jacksonville – as well as several selected private Community Developers.  Additionally, CSG is working with the Port Authority of Allegheny County on transit oriented design and development opportunities at several locations in downtown Pittsburgh.