Shawhin Roudbari on Cultures of Ethical Community Engagement

Shawhin Roudbari is an assistant professor at the University of Colorado Boulder’s Program in Environmental Design. He is interested in better understanding activism and political engagement in the design professions, domestically and transnationally. In his dissertation, for example, he studied ways Iranian architects connected with foreign professional institutions to shape political power at home.

Shawhin is working on two projects: the first is an extension of his dissertation to study ways activism is absorbed from the fringe into the mainstream of design professions. The second project, and the subject of his discussion with CPID, is a study of cultures of ethical community engagement in university programs that send architecture and engineering students to work in developing communities. This second project was recently awarded a National Science Foundation grant toward a three-year study of mechanisms of culture formation in “engineering for development” programs. 

By studying engineering and design programs side by side, Shawhin seeks to understand ways public interest design work by architects, planners, and civil engineers—as professionals engaged in the design and construction of the built environment—compare. He is looking forward to using this discussion to share his analytical framework and to engage the CPID community in brainstorming ways that framework can be extended from engineering to design programs.