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Welcome to Planning, Design and the Built Environment! 

PDBE Student Spotlight

Michelle Eichinger

Michelle Eichinger is a doctoral candidate in the PDBE program. She holds a Master of Public Administration and Master of Science in Health Promotion from the University of Delaware. Her dissertation, “Spatial Planning to Address the Urban Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities Analyzing the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Retail Environment”, applies a machine learning approach in examining the relationship of SNAP retailer types, neighborhood characteristics and  racial/ethnic disparities of obesity and diabetes in urban neighborhoods in the United States. Using both quantitative and geographic information systems (GIS) analysis, her research aims to address food access and affordability in planning to improve community health and reduce racial/ethnic disparities. Her research contributes to an emerging discipline of food systems planning within urban and regional planning.

Michelle had an extensive career in public health prior to starting the PDBE program. In her career of public health, she found that delivering health promoting messages were meaningless if the environment did not support those messages. As a result, while she was the director of the Physical Activity, Nutrition and Obesity Prevention Program at the Delaware Division of Public Health, she developed strategic partnerships with the Delaware Office of State Planning and Coordination, Delaware Department of Transportation and Delaware Department of Agriculture, as well as the regional metropolitan planning organization. Later, she and was subject matter expert in addressing healthy eating and active living through the built environment and land use policies in the Division of Community Health at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, GA. During her time at Clemson, she has studied under Dr. James Spencer and was awarded the National Science Foundation’s Research Traineeship Program Fellowship in Resilient Infrastructure and Environmental Systems. She has participated and co-authored in interdisciplinary research including, Bayesian forecast spatial modeling of the opioid epidemic in South Carolina; humanitarian assistance in crisis zones through the Clemson Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering; and, food security and anti-hunger in South Carolina. She has also co-authored a textbook chapter, “Urbanization and Urban Nutrition”, in Public Health Nutrition: Rural, Urban and Global Community-based Practice.

PDBE Alumnus Spotlight

Dr. Jeremy C. Wells

Dr. Jeremy C. Wells is an associate professor in the Historic Preservation Program at the University of Maryland, College Park. Jeremy graduated from the PDBE program in 2009, worked for a few years as the lead preservation planner for the City of Denver and then as an assistant professor at Roger Williams University. He has been at the University of Maryland since 2017.

Jeremy’s research and teaching are focused on transforming the historic preservation enterprise to be more people-centered, just, equitable and diverse, which includes legitimizing the need for basic social science research in the field. His research focuses on the psychology of heritage places; making the preservation enterprise more equitable, just, and resilient; and innovative community engagement tools for preservation planners. He is currently researching how various regions of the brain respond to environmental patina and collaborating with computer scientists on the creation of a “social heritage machine” that will have the ability to geolocate grassroots heritage meanings as a planning tool.

Jeremy is the co-editor (with Barry Stiefel, College of Charleston/Clemson) of Human-Centered Built Environment Heritage Preservation: Theory and Evidence-Based Practice (Routledge, 2019). His research has been published in the Journal of Architectural and Planning Research, Journal of Environmental Psychology, International Journal of Heritage Studies, Journal of the American Institute for Conservation, and the Association for Preservation Technology Bulletin along with numerous book chapters.

In 2015, Jeremy received a Fulbright research scholarship to work at the Federal University of Pernambuco, Brazil to explore the use of community-based participatory research to conserve cultural landscapes. He is the former Chair of the Environmental Design Research Association (EDRA) where he founded the Historic Environment Knowledge Network to work with other academics and practitioners in addressing the person/place and environment/behavior aspects of heritage conservation. Jeremy runs the web site that explores a more human-centered approach to historic preservation practice.  

One of the reasons Jeremy chose to study in Clemson’s PDBE program is that it allowed him to combine his interests in the social sciences (e.g., psychology, sociology, anthropology, geography) with historic preservation. The faculty associated with Clemson’s built environment programs have long had an interest in environment and behavior research and evidence-based design, which was critical for helping Jeremy to craft his dissertation research. The ability to take courses across the university, especially from the Parks, Recreation, and Tourism Management program, provided the interdisciplinary foundation that has since proved to be critical for his research.