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Ellen Bassett

Associate Professor
Charlottesville, VA

Ellen M. Bassett is an Associate Professor in Urban and Environmental Planning and the Chair of the departmental.  Her areas of research interest and expertise are land use planning and law, climate change planning, health and the built environment, and international development.  She is particularly interested in community decision-making around land and natural resources, including understanding how different societies and cultures create institutions (like property rights systems or policies) for their management. 

Bassett came to U.Va. from Portland State University (PSU) in Portland, Oregon where she  taught for five years in an urban studies program.  Prior to that, she taught at Michigan State University’s School of Planning, Design, and Construction.  Professor Bassett’s professional experience is in international development; she worked from 1989 to 2001 as a technical advisor in East Africa (Kenya and Uganda) with bilateral aid agencies and international NGOs.

One current research project is focused on planning reform in Kenya, a topic for which she received support from the US Fulbright program during the 2013-2014 academic year.  In a nutshell, in the last several years Kenya has radically reformed its system of governance by passing a new Constitution and establishing a new form of local government known as "devolution."  Her research is looking at these changes relative to urban land management and physical planning, with the overarching objective of understanding what these institutional changes mean for urban areas and for urban residents, including slum dwellers.  Additionally, she has begun to examine the phenomenon of "new towns" on the African continent, specifically in Kenya and Morocco.  Planning has a long and somewhat checkered history in planning entirely new cities and the research seeks to understand why there is this resurgence in interest in new towns at this time, how they are being designed and constructed, and the extent to which they will achieve societal goals like poverty reduction and slum alleviation.

She is a co-lab leader of the African Urbanism Humanities Lab with Jim Igoe of Anthropology.  The lab's objectives, research areas and membership are available at: https://emb7d1.wixsite.com/africanurbanism.  Prof. Bassett also represents the School of Architecture in the UVA Faculty Senate; she is an At-Large member of the Senate's Executive Committee.

Bassett holds three degrees from the University of Wisconsin-Madison:  a PhD and MS in Urban and Regional Planning and an MA in History.  Her first degree in History and Political Science was earned at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.