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The School includes a cluster of faculty members who study how places are organized and function, what they mean to the people who live in them, and how they can be adapted to meet the challenges of environmental and societal change. Especially significant in this regard is the role of culture in defining and changing the nature of place characteristics. Research themes include urbanism, landscape, mobility, social justice, ethnicity, and representation. Ongoing studies explore the transformation of societies as manifest in the cultural landscape, and the ways places function in the everyday lives of people.
Specific studies in this theme address how ethnicity shapes community landscape, how landscapes are represented through media processes, social justice implications of sustainable development, the role of migration (international, internal, and intra-urban in changing places and landscapes, the role of lifestyle and cultural legacies in explaining energy use,
Interest in place, identity and culture includes the Central Arizona Phoenix area, but extends more broadly to take in other parts of North America and Asia and the Middle East. Research in this theme uses mixed methods and relies heavily on field study.
The School's research and teaching related to Cultures, Identities and Places is enhanced by its strong links to a broad range of centers and organizations on campus, particularly the Asian/Pacific American Studies Center , the School of Global Studies, and the School of Social Transformation.
Kelli Larson, a professor of geography and sustainability, focuses on human dimensions of natural resource management. She is particularly interested in the social-ecological dynamics of landscape design and planning.
Li, a senior Fulbright Scholar to India, focuses her research on ethnic geography, highly-skilled international migration and transnational connections. She is the author of more than 90 journal articles and book chapters.
McHugh is a cultural geographer with research interests in geographical thought & theory, geohumanities, post-phenomenology, and more-than-human geographies.
Pfeiffer's work focuses on housing and health, the outcomes of the foreclosure crisis and its lasting impact, and issues of equity in relation to housing.
Shaeffer, a principal lecturer of geography, teaches the introductory World Geography course and numerous specialized regional geography courses.