As 2021 draws to a close, numerous academic institutions are announcing major appointments, including deanships and departmental chairs, that will commence at the start of the new year or during the first half of 2022 (if they haven’t already started already). Among these recently named academic leaders is Ellen M. Bassett, who is transitioning from her current role as professor of urban and environmental planning and the associate dean for Research in the School of Architecture at the University of Virginia (UVA) to the John Portman Dean’s Chair of the College of Design at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta.
Bassett was announced as dean of Georgia Tech’s College of Design on November 23 after an intensive national search and will formally take up the reins beginning on January 1. Bassett succeeds Steve French, who had served as dean of the College of Design since 2013 and has since returned to the faculty in the School of City and Regional Planning. Michelle Rinehart, the college’s associate dean for Academic Affairs and Outreach, has served as interim dean of the college since August 1 while the search for French’s successor was underway. French had announced he would step down as dean of the college in January of this year, effective July 31.
Prior to her current role at UVA, Bassett served as chair of the School of Architecture’s Department of Urban and Environmental Planning, where she led the department through two reaccreditation processes, developed a real estate certificate program, and helmed curricular revision, according to the announcement of her deanship at Georgia Tech. She is also a past leader of UVA’s African Urbanism Humanities Lab and currently, among other roles, serves as a member of the UVA Environmental Resilience Institute’s steering committee.
“Professor Bassett’s contributions across the School of Architecture and the University of Virginia have been extraordinary,” said Malo A. Hutson, dean of the School of Architecture at UVA, in a statement. “In addition to being a highly respected faculty colleague engaging in impactful research, her active role in university-wide faculty governance demonstrates a rare but powerful asset – the combination of insightful strategic decision-making and spirited advocacy through inclusive leadership. While we will miss her greatly, we are so proud to have her join such an exceptional institution.”
Before her impactful time spent at UVA, Bassett was a professor within the urban studies program at Portland State University in Oregon and has also taught at Michigan State University’s School of Planning, Design, and Construction. Although her academic career has seen her crisscross the United States and beyond, Bassett has roots in the Midwest: she holds both a Ph.D. and M.S. in urban and regional planning, along with an M.A. in history, from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She earned her bachelor’s degree in history and political science from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor.
Bassett, who is widely published in a number of peer-reviewed journals and possesses a deep expertise and scholarly interest in land use planning and environmental law, climate change adaptation and mitigation planning, and land rights and urban deprivation within fast-growing cities of the Global South according to the announcement, was a Fulbright Scholar and lived for more than a decade in Kenya and Uganda. In East Africa, she worked as an urban and environmental planner with “international development agencies and environmental conservation nongovernmental organizations” per the announcement. She has also consulted with the World Bank and played a “key role” in the State Department-funded Mandela Washington Fellowship Program.
“In addition to expertise in her field, Ellen Bassett exhibits the vision and inclusive leadership style that will serve Georgia Tech well,” said Steven W. McLaughlin, provost and executive vice president for Academic Affairs at the university. “She brings a global perspective to her research, teaching, and community engagement, and we are looking forward to her administrative leadership at Tech.”