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New Institute Will Raise Atlanta’s Profile In Addressing Urban Issues Worldwide


Jan Nijman, Director, Urban Studies Institute, Georgia State University

Our modern society is increasingly urban. Nearly 60 percent of the world’s population lives in urban environments of one sort or another. By 2030, a billion more people will live in cities. Much of this growth, and its accompanying challenges, takes place in Asia. The United States and other Western societies, too, are experiencing rapid urbanization.

The economy of the 21st century is highly concentrated in large urban areas. In recent years, roughly 90 percent of new jobs and 90 percent of all economic growth in the U.S. is in metropolitan areas. For example, the New York metro area alone accounts for one-tenth of America’s gross domestic product. The Atlanta regional economy, at about $320 billion a year, is greater than that of dozens of countries, including Singapore, Israel and Denmark.

Given this urgency, Georgia State University is making a major investment in a new Urban Studies Institute with expertise on a range of urban questions faced by Atlanta and cities around the world. Under development in the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies, the institute will house the expertise of outstanding new faculty hires along with faculty experts from across the university. As we build collaborative networks across the nation and internationally, our new institute is gearing up to be a leading center of research and teaching in the southeastern United States.

The Urban Studies Institute will conduct interdisciplinary research, create new degree programs and teach about urban resilience, inclusive development and challenges such as mobility.

A significant part of our agenda will focus on metro Atlanta. What is the role of foreign investment and multinational corporations in Atlanta’s economy? Does the political fragmentation of the metro area impede efficiency in the recruitment of companies or in the management of, for example, waste recycling? What are the ramifications of Atlanta’s extremely low densities for public transit? (Even Los Angeles, the epitome of the American automobile city, is more than three times as dense as Atlanta.) How could MARTA extensions and new stations help open access throughout the metro area and affect particular neighborhoods? How does gentrification (for example, the Belt Line) influence real estate values and housing access for low-income residents? What is the role of metro Atlanta in our state and southeastern region’s economies?

At the same time, the scope of the institute’s work will reach beyond Atlanta. We are already looking into comparative studies on affordable housing strategies in the U.S. and European cities and the impact of the digital economy on employment rates and income distributions from Silicon Valley to Bangalore. We are examining urban adaptation to global climate change and rising sea water levels in port cities from Miami to Shanghai and the role of higher education institutions and health care in contributing to the socio-economic future of cities.

The move to Atlanta to direct the new institute has been very exciting for me. I’m looking forward to learning from many of you as we move forward. Our prime location in the heart of Atlanta—a major, rapidly changing, globalizing metropolitan area that faces enormous opportunities along with considerable challenges—will bring many benefits to this important field of study.

Dr. Jan Nijman is a professor in the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies and director of Georgia State University’s Urban Studies Institute.



Published in Higher Education Thought Leadership on SaportaReport. Retrieved at on 4/14/17