Susanne Cowan, Ph.D.
phone: (406) 994-7413
Susanne Cowan is an Assistant Professor at the School of Architecture at Montana State University. She received her Ph.D. at University of California, Berkeley in the History of Architecture and Urbanism. Her research focuses on the relationship between urban design and the social conditions of cities, particularly regarding participatory democracy as a method for making city planning and policy decisions.
In her dissertation, “Democracy, Technocracy and Publicity: Public Consultation and British Planning, 1939-1951”, Cowan explores how architects and town planners created a forum for democratic debate about new planning policies. She also completed an oral history documentary film, “Design as a Social Act,” which examines how designers in the 1960s and 1970s approached the social needs of users into the design process. In her recent work, she has been tracing the ways that planning policies in de-industrializing cities have shaped the process of urban decay and/or gentrification, and what positive or negative impacts urban design interventions have had on social and economic conditions of residents. Susanne Cowan received Montana State University's Research and Creativity Grant to work on her book manuscript, Saving the Neighborhood, which examines the effects of community organizing on racial and class integration in St. Louis.
Her interest in participatory design grows from her commitment to professional activism in the design of the built environment, demonstrated in her work as an environmental educator for Americorps, and her training as a facilitator for collaborative policy-making.