The University of Maryland has named Dr. Sonia A. Hirt to be the next dean of its School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation. She will take over for David Cronrath, who became dean in July 2010.
This marks the first time a woman has been named to lead the school, which is located on the University’s College Park campus, close to Washington, D. C. Hirt will officially assume her role in October 1. “Dr. Hirt’s leadership skills and more than a decade of experience teaching and researching in the fields of architecture and urban planning make her the perfect candidate for this role,” said Mary Ann Rankin, UMD’s senior vice president and provost. “I am enthusiastic about the future of the School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation under the leadership of Dr. Hirt.”
Hirt will join the University of Maryland from Virginia Tech, where she most recently served as professor and associate dean for academic affairs in the College of Architecture and Urban Studies. In that role, Dr. Hirt oversaw academic affairs across the College’s four schools, reported on all aspects of the College’s performance, set diversity goals and strategies, and coordinated alignment of the College’s academic programs with university priorities. She previously held positions as chair, director, associate professor and assistant professor of Urban Affairs and Planning in the School of Public and International Affairs.
“I am thoroughly excited and deeply honored to join the Maryland School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation,” she said, “The school’s accomplishments are known nationally and internationally. What I find especially compelling is the unique integration of the school’s four core fields—architecture, urban studies and planning, historic preservation, and real estate development—in a way that is intellectually coherent and thoughtfully centered on the notion of sustainability. The School has the potential to make (and remake) the world, literally speaking, one building, one development, one neighborhood, one community, and one city at a time. It will be an extraordinary privilege to serve a community of faculty, students and staff of such rare and incredible talent.”
Before joining Virginia Tech, Hirt was a visiting associate professor at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design in the Department of Urban Planning and Design; an assistant professor at University of Toledo in the College of Languages, Literature and Social Sciences’ Department of Geography and Planning; and an instructor at the University of Michigan’s Alfred Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning’s Department of Urban and Regional Planning.
In her research, she has explored three main themes: comparative urban form with a focus on Central and Eastern Europe; comparative urban planning and land-use regulation with a focus on Europe and the United States; and urban planning and design theory and history. Her recent book, Zoned in the USA: The Origins and Implications of American Land Use Regulation, has received several honors. They include being named to Choice Magazine’s Outstanding Academic Titles List in 2016 and Planetizen’s Ten Best Books in Urban Planning, Design, and Development in 2016. It was received the Urban Affairs Association’s Honorable Mention for the Best Book Award in 2015.
An earlier book by Hirt, Iron Curtains: Gates, Suburbs and Privatization of Space in the Post-socialist City, received the Honorable Mention for the Book Prize in Political and Social Studies sponsored by Harvard University’s Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies. Hirt is the Co-editor of the Journal of Planning History and serves on the editorial boards of four other journals: Current Research on Cities, Journal of Urban Cultural Studies, Planning Practice & Research, and Urban Design International.She earned her Ph.D. and M.A. degrees in urban and regional planning from the University of Michigan, and her B.A. from the University of Architecture and Civil Engineering in Sofia, Bulgaria.