Editor's note: GVSU communications specialist Brian J. Bowe is visiting Kingston University in England on an annual staff exchange program. The following is the second in a series of dispatches he is sending back.
For Richard Jelier, a professor in the school of Public and Nonprofit Administration, Grand Valley's exchange program with Kingston University in England has been a fruitful one professionally.
GVSU professor Richard Jelier, who is at Kingston University on sabbatical, is continuing a long-standing research project on planning and urban development in the United Kingdom.
'I'm really looking at a comparative urban studies manuscript on the U.S., the U.K, and Australia, kind of a triangular study of planning and economic development and looking at our common traditions and divergent pathways,' Jelier said.
'The whole system is really undergoing perhaps its most significant change in the last 50 years, It's a very dynamic period because of that change,' he said.
There are tremendous differences between our systems of planning and urban development.
'It's a fundamentally different approach between planning and governance in the U.K. versus the U.S. There's a tremendous coordination among local authorities where we have tremendous fragmentation,' Jelier said.
'There are many things that the British system does much better than the U.S. system It has strong policies that promote coherent and very vibrant town centers. They have a wonderful system for protecting green space,' he said.
But there are some drawbacks to the British system, too, Jelier said.
'The trade-offs in the UK are that there are impacts on the cost of housing because of the restrictions of the supply of land that can be developed. The standard of living is less than the United States, and you can attribute some of that to the protections they have on available land,' he said.
Which leads to the third part of the study.
'It's very difficult to make broad sweeping statements, but my research ¿ made the argument that the Australians have struck a middle ground between the very strong planning orientation in the U.K. and the pro-market policies of the U.S.,' Jelier said.
His ultimate goal is a book manuscript that can be used in all three countries
'What can we learn from each other and in what direction are we all moving? What are the best approaches for dealing with sustainable urban design and livable communities in the future? I get really excited about looking at comparative approaches to problems,' he said.
While in England, Jelier has presented a couple of papers at conferences and conducted field interviews. He has also co-taught a course at KU with geography professor Peter Garside.
'I think (international study) helps to infuse my teaching ¿ to actually live and breathe these principles,' he said.
Jelier has visited Kingston University several times, beginning in 1998 when he was selected for the annual faculty exchange.
'It was the staff exchange which really gave me my initial contacts at Kingston and I've made some good friendships and close associations that I've maintained these last four years.
He is a supporter of the relationship between GVSU and KU.
'The relationship is a very good one for our students in that Kingston is an ideal physical setting. It's on a scale that's very accessible for our students, but it's only a 20-minute train ride from central London. It's the best of all worlds,' Jelier said.
'I think the students are confronted with public transport and urban density and vital street life and the kinds of things they can't really experience back home,' Jelier said.
He continued: 'It's really confronting the way locals live and the way they react to their environment. I've seen it with my students the past three years in the study abroad program. Within days, all of their assumptions about urban life have been changed. They love the kind of diversity that an urban center can bring that you'll never find in the suburbs because you're separated by space and other kinds of barriers that restrict the mixing of people.'