Associate Professor and Director of Undergraduate Programs, Urban + Environmental Planning

Education: The University of Alabama, PhD; The University of Alabama in Birmingham, M.A; The University of Alabama, B.A.

Suzanne Morse Moomaw has spent the last three decades observing communities through social, design, and political lens at local, regional, national, and international scales. Her teaching in community economic development challenges students to consider possibilities and create transdisciplinary solutions to the “wicked” problems facing civilization. She involves students--both in and out of the classroom--in wrestling with the systemic causes of issues such as poverty, racial inequities, economic restructuring, and housing patterns through historical and cultural frames.

Her primary courses are Housing and Community Development, Economic Development, Advanced Housing Seminar, and the Neighborhood Planning Studio. The studio gives students the opportunity to use their knowledge of planning and design to reimagine "place” in collaboration with a community partner. Over the years, students have designed a dedicated service center for public housing developments, addressed the challenges of increasing jobs in low-to-middle income neighborhoods, and proposed scenarios for better connecting neighborhoods in cities reeling from economic downturns. She founded and co-teaches the Sustainable Europe program in Switzerland, Italy, and Germany offered during Summer Sessions. She was a 2015 recipient of the All University Teaching Award by the University of Virginia, and in 2017, she received the Outstanding Faculty Award from the Virginia Chapter of the American Planning Association.

Moomaw's research specialty is post-industrial communities and the global economy particularly communities that have depended on manufacturing, extraction, textiles, and agriculture as their economic mainstay. On the local scale, she is working with Southwest Virginia towns on the economic revitalization of their main streets; nationally, she is collaborating with Architecture faculty member, Jeana Ripple on a new initiative, Design Driven Manufacturing, to introduce sustainable products, processes, and industries to areas in economic decline; and internationally, her focus is on economic resiliency in Cuba. All of her work responds to one central research question: How can the design and planning disciplines influence the next iteration of manufacturing, production, and spatiality in post-industrial communities? In 2015, she launched a new project to analyze Department of Labor employment reports on a subset of the nation’s largest cities beginning in 1956. This research resulted in a book project, Cities Without Work: The Long Road from Boom to Bust, which situates 17 post-industrial cities that had the highest rates of unemployment in 1960 along a fifty-year trajectory. While all 17 of the cities in the study had different challenges, they shared a singular problem—a sustained period of unemployment that exceeded the national average by as much as 50 percent. Of the 17, eight still have unemployment rates above the national median.

Before coming to the University of Virginia, she was a leader in the philanthropic and non-profit sector. She served as president of the Pew Partnership for Civic Change, director of programs at the Kettering Foundation, and in a variety of administrative positions in liberal arts colleges and research universities.  Her most recent book (and the accompanying blog) is Smart Communities: How Citizens and Leaders Can Build a Brighter Future (Second Edition, Jossey-Bass, 2014). It has served as a model of change for literally hundreds of communities worldwide. Earlier, she wrote two research monographs published by ERIC/ASHE in partnership with the George Washington University Press on the role of corporations in workforce development and the enriched civic role of colleges and universities. These join a whole series of articles, speeches, and commentary on topics ranging from the dropout crisis to Cuban landscapes to communities of the future. She has given invited lectures and presentations at the Aspen Ideas Festival, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, the Scottish Council of Development and Industry, HUD Anniversary of Rural CDBG, the Federal Home Loan Bank annual conference, Virginia Housing Development Authority, and the Jessie Ball Dupont Fund as well as in many communities and regions.

Nationally, Moomaw served on the National Academies Expert Committee on Pathways to Urban Sustainability from 2014-2016, is a member and past chair of the Kettering Foundation Board of Trustees, and is a director of the Council for Public Policy Education. At the university, she serves on the University of Virginia Press Board of Directors, Provost's Office Academic Outreach committee, and as academic lead of the Appalachian Prosperity Project. The research agenda for APP includes collaborative work by faculty, students, and community members to work with southwest Virginia communities to make them more globally competitive by improving health, education, and economic vitality. At the School of Architecture, she is Director of the Community Design Research Center. The Community Design Research Center is an interdisciplinary research organization that focuses on applying design research and practice to [re]shaping contemporary communities--www.cdrc/ She is the faculty representative on the Dean's Alumni Advisory Board and was elected to the Faculty Council for 2016-17.

The Academy of Community Engaged Scholarship elected Morse Moomaw a fellow in 2016 honoring her career-long commitment to community translational research. In 2011 and 2013, she was invited by graduate students in the School of Architecture to give the School's graduate commencement address.  In 2006 she received the Content of Our Character award from Duke University. Past board memberships include chair and board member of the Piedmont Community College Board; Campfire, Inc, Paul J. Aicher Foundation; Everyday Democracy, and National Advisory Board of the LBJ School at the University of Texas. She has been a research fellow at the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities and the Center for Organizational and Technological Develpment at Virginia Tech. She received the Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities Fellowship for 2017-2019 for her Cities Without Work project.