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Meet Professor Vivek Shandas
Meet Professor Vivek Shandas

Associate Professor of Urban Studies and Planning

Integrating the science of sustainability with citizen engagement and decision making efforts

Ph.D., Urban Design and Planning, University of Washington
M.S., Economics, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, NY
M.S., Environmental Policy and Management, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, NY
B.S.,  Biology, University of California at Santa Cruz



  • Associate Professor of Urban Studies and Planning
  • Fellow, Institute for Sustainable Solutions
  • Chair, Internationalization Council
  • Director, Sustaining Urban Places Research Lab

Urban ecosystem services, development patterns and environmental impacts, water and air quality, environmental stewardship and engagement, decision-making processes and the role of knowledge and information, stormwater management

  • USP 313 Urban Planning -- Environmental Issues
  • USP 399 Global Cities
  • USP 493/593, Public Participation GIS
  • USP 512 Environmental Planning Methods
  • ESR 510 Ecosystem Service Toolbox
  • Several IGERT courses

Towards an Integrated Approach to Urban Watershed Planning: Linking Vegetation Patterns, Human Preferences, and Stream Biotic Conditions in Puget Sounds Lowlands, 2005.



Office: Urban Center, room 350L
Phone: (503) 725-5222

Professor Vivek Shandas specializes in integrating the science of sustainability to citizen engagement and decision making efforts. He evaluates the many critical functions provided by the biophysical ecosystems upon which we depend, including purifying water, producing food, cleaning toxins, offering recreation, and imbuing society with cultural values. Dr. Shandas studies both the value of these “ecosystem services” and how urban development impacts their function. His research strives to improve environmental conservation and governance efforts at neighborhood and national scales. He teaches courses in environmental planning, participatory geographic information systems (GIS), and ecosystem services.

Dr. Shandas serves as a fellow with PSU’s Institute for Sustainable Solutions directing sustainability efforts campus-wide. Serving as on the Internationalization Council (Chair from 2010 – 2012), Dr. Shandas also helps to coordinate international activities across PSU, linking the world to Portland and Portland to the world.  

On the Executive Committee for the Portland-Vancouver Urban Long-Term Research Area- Exploratory (ULTRA)-Ex, Dr. Shandas evaluates the City of Portland and the City of Vancouver’s approach to local resource management, governance, and the role citizens play in stewarding the environment. As the Principle Investigator for the Healthy Trees, Healthy People project, Dr. Shandas works with the U.S. Forest Service, the American Lung Association, and State and County health departments to research how trees improve human health by mitigating urban heat island and improving air quality. Funded by the Qatar Research Foundation, his current international project includes building a ‘sustainability resource center’ in the Middle East, specifically in Doha, Qatar. Dr. Shandas has written articles on water quality and use, climate justice, air quality, and interdisciplinary education for diverse publications including Urban Geography, Journal of the American Planning Association, Landscape and Urban Planning, BioScience, Connections, and Metroscape.

Early in his career, Dr. Shandas was an outdoor school teacher in Vernonia, Oregon under the camp name “Chickadee.” He learned the value of bringing students into the field to explore the connections between human health and ecosystem integrity. He developed a watershed curriculum for San Jose, California, which brought city kids to explore the natural environment by testing local water quality and contributing to a national watershed campaign. The San Jose Children’s Discovery Museum adopted this curriculum, translated it into Spanish, and still uses it today. As a health and environmental policy analyst for the New York Governor’s Office, Dr. Shandas grew fascinated with the brokering of information to make policy decisions. He pursued his doctorate to improve the quality of information that ultimately informs environmental and community health policy.

During his doctorate studies, Dr. Shandas received the prestigious Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship (IGERT) fellowship with the National Science Foundation to help develop the field of urban ecology from an interdisciplinary perspective. As an IGERT fellow at the University of Washington, Dr. Shandas had the opportunity to travel to conferences and meet his intellectual mentors including E.O. Wilson, Nancy Grimm, Mark McDonald, Robert Costanza, and Elinor Ostrom. After joining PSU faculty in 2005, Dr. Shandas worked tirelessly with several faculty to apply and successfully win an IGERT program on Ecosystem Services for Urbanizing Regions (ESUR), which aims to bring over 25 PhD students to PSU through 2015.

Dr. Shandas approaches teaching through problem-based inquiry. He asks students to identify a pressing community problem and the skills and knowledge needed to evaluate that problem. Students work collaboratively to test their ideas and develop workable solutions. By connecting students to problems of real consequence, he makes learning relevant and engaging.

What Professor Shandas has to say...

BEST PARTS OF JOB: Working in teams to enable the free flow of ideas that can help to improve the health of our landscapes and communities.

ON TEACHING IN PORTLAND: The long history of contributing to the region has allowed me to bring into the classroom and research efforts examples of connecting scholarly pursuits to social and environmental change.

VISION FOR THE TOULAN SCHOOL: I strive to build on the extensive planning opportunities and willingness of institutions to collaborate in the Portland area.

HOW I FIT INTO THAT VISION: My work is inherently collaborative. I bring practitioners into the classroom and research projects as direct contributors, and aim to find ways to assist regional decision-making efforts.

APPROACH TO TEACHING: Systematic, problem-based, interdisciplinary, accessible. I think of myself as a facilitator for learning and sharing ideas. I encourage collaboration among students to focus on, analyze, and discuss specific problems related to the urban environment.

ON INTERACTING WITH STUDENTS: I like testing, through creative exercises, our pre-conceived notions about human behavior and environmental processes; helping to organize the way we think about complex problems; and channeling our collective curiosity and enthusiasm to address social and environmental change.

FAVORITE URBAN PLACES: My favorite urban setting are those that are incomprehensible, specifically ‘mega-cites’ or those of the largest cities that have ever existed. These intrigue me because I wonder how do we engage people at these scales?

FAVORITE NON-URBAN PLACES: Remote, austere, and sublime landscapes have always drawn my interest. Examples include the northern Cascades, the Adirondacks, K2 and Annapurna in the Himalayas, and mountain lakes.

SABBATICAL? I will be on sabbatical beginning in Spring 2013 through Spring 2014.