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Meet Professor Marisa Zapata
Meet Professor Marisa Zapata

Marisa A. Zapata
Associate Professor of Land-use Planning
Understanding how people collaborate for equitable land-use change
Ph.D., Regional Planning, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
M.U.P., Urban Planning University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
B.A., Anthropology, Rice University



  • Associate Professor of Land-use Planning
  • Committee Member, Masters in Real Estate Development

Land-use planning, participatory planning process, regional planning, social equity


Planning across differences: Collaborative planning processes for the California Central Valley’s future




Urban Center, 370H
(503) 725-5179

As an educator, scholar, and planner, Dr. Zapata is committed to achieving spatially - based social justice by preparing planners to act in the face of the uncertain and inequitable futures we face. She believes how we use land reflects our social and cultural values. Dr. Zapata’s research can be divided into three interrelated questions: 1) How can future-oriented actors plan across deeply embedded cultural differences to produce just and sustainable places?; 2) How can planners prepare places to act in the face of uncertainty and the multiple futures that may unfold in a given place?; and 3) What are the most effective institutional arrangements between governments and civic society to collaborate regionally? She is especially concerned about equitable planning for uncertain futures in highly diverse communities. Dr. Zapata has conducted research in Ohio, California, and Costa Rica. Dr. Zapata joined the TSUSP in the fall of 2013, relocating from Cincinnati, and is looking forward to developing research projects in Portland.

Dr. Zapata has published in peer review journals such as Planning Theory & Practice, International Planning Studies, Policy Studies, and Critical Policy Analysis. She also contributed chapters to Diálogos: Placemaking in Latino Communities (Routledge: 2012) and Transborder Latin Americanisms: Liminal Places, Cultures, and Power (T)Here (Routledge: 2013). She published an article in Progressive Planning Magazine along with Lisa K. Bates based on their research into the HUD Sustainable Communities Regional Planning grants and the operationalization of equity. Dr. Zapata is the co-editor of Engaging the Future: Forecasts, Scenarios, Plans and Projects, published in 2007 and recently translated into Chinese.

Dr. Zapata creates a lively learning space relying on lectures, discussions, and classroom activities to deliver learning about complex issues. She also draws on practitioner guest lecturers and films to supplement information. Dr. Zapata believes in community based learning and incorporates applies course projects. Dr. Zapata believes that humor and laughter are part of a healthy life and learning experience.

Dr. Zapata has been working with the REACH community development corporation on a community based research project. Through the project residents are identifying ways that REACH can better support their financial literacy. In Cincinnati, Dr. Zapata served on the Steering Committee for Plan Cincinnati, the first comprehensive plan in the city in over 30 years. Plan Cincinnati was awarded the American Planning Association’s national award for Best Comprehensive Plan in 2014. Dr. Zapata is preparing to present research findings at this year’s Urban Affairs Association annual conference based on her experiences on the Cincinnati steering committee.

Dr. Zapata has worked in the fields of planning and public policy, public health, and international development. She is a proud Texan and considers her childhood in San Antonio the best adventure. Dr. Zapata has also travelled and lived in several countries such as Costa Rica, Ghana, Ireland, and India.

What Professor Zapata has to say...

UNIQUENESS OF THE TOULAN SCHOOL: I am encourage to be a scholar, educator, and practitioner. We apply knowledge to our communities.

ON TEACHING IN PORTLAND: Portland and Oregon have long and rich histories in land-use planning. I could not ask for a better live classroom.

WHAT STUDENTS SHOULD TAKE AWAY: Learning is a lifetime process. Keep reflecting and growing.

ADVICE FOR PROSPECTIVE STUDENTS: Look to see if the program and faculty match what you are most interested in.

FAVORITE URBAN PLACES: Portland, San Antonio, New York City, Paris, Accra


INFLUENTIAL BOOKS/ARTICLES: Italo Calvion's Invisible Cities