My Leave-Taking From Professor Hillary Brown

When a CCNY faculty member initially approached me about joining the faculty at the Spitzer School of Architecture back in 2008, I did indeed hesitate. Instead, I started as a visiting professor. Unsurprisingly, I immediately fell in love with CCNY, its mission, and its extraordinary student body! Luckily for me then, given my sustainability background, I became Professor in 2010 to help ramp up the Sustainability in the Urban Environment program. Since then, I’ve served continuously on its Executive Committee before becoming Program Director in 2016. I always felt it a true serendipity and privilege to be part of this unique program. To a real extent, it’s shaped my pursuits.

Beginning the very first day of my first class, Cities and Sustainability, I was looking at two very shy young men sitting in the front row, on special scholarship from post-earthquake Haiti. Their presence and their country’s plight did indeed alter my then focus on resource consumption reduction in industrialized cities. Subsequently, my Case Studies class almost every year since, has emphasized urban systems—water, food, and energy security—in the developing world. Thanks to Elius and Paul (both graduated CCNY with Ph.Ds.), this eventually led to a second book and my ongoing work. 

So, it is with truly mixed emotions that I step away from this position and my full-time involvement at CCNY, even though I will continue to teach as an emeritus program faculty member. During my years here, I enjoyed what I considered the true luxury of pursuing scholarship on topics of keen personal interest. I fittingly allowed my research to cross disciplinary lines and to explore the complexity of urban systems (infrastructure) from a sustainability perspective. A few books, multiple chapters, and articles later, I have to say, however, that the real joy came from learning with, and helping to launch, a wide diversity of students in this most vital field. Today, I count very many former students as true colleagues and friends. Of course, another genuine bonus for me was also getting to connect and collaborate with many Sustainability program faculty across the College’s departments. Thanks to this, it was my great fortune to have spent my sabbatical working with an interdisciplinary cohort of American and Hungarian students on a sustainability initiative for a small town in rural Hungary!  Indeed, this has helped launch my current activities and research pursuits that I am now making more room and time for.  

I’m tremendously grateful that the program will be in good hands as Director Professor Kyle McDonald, along with Assistant Director Katherine Gloede Silverman, will lead it its next phase. Wishing them every success in progressing the program’s next chapter! Naturally, I look forward to staying in touch with current Sustainability students and alumni!