The University of Alabama, PhD; The University of Alabama in Birmingham, M.A; The University of Alabama, B.A.
Suzanne Morse Moomaw has spent the last three decades observing communities through social, design, and political lens at local, regional, national, and international scales. Her teaching in community economic development challenges students to consider possibilities and create transdisciplinary solutions to the “wicked” problems facing civilization. She involves students--both in and out of the classroom--in wrestling with the systemic causes of issues such as poverty, racial inequities, economic restructuring, human settlements, and lack of affordable housing through historical and cultural frames.
Her primary courses are Housing and Community Development, Economic Development, Advanced Housing Seminar, Economy and the Environment, and the Neighborhood Planning Studio. The studio gives students the opportunity to use their knowledge of planning and design to reimagine "place” in collaboration with a community partner. Over the years, students have designed a dedicated service center for public housing developments, addressed the challenges of increasing jobs in low-to-middle income neighborhoods, and proposed scenarios for better connecting neighborhoods in cities reeling from economic downturns. She founded and co-teaches the Sustainable Europe program offered during Summer Sessions. She was a 2015 recipient of the All University Teaching Award by the University of Virginia, and in 2017, she received the Outstanding Faculty Award from the Virginia Chapter of the American Planning Association.
Moomaw's research specialty is post-industrial communities, particularly, communities that have depended on manufacturing, extraction, textiles, and agriculture as economic mainstays. On the local and regional scales, she works in Charlottesville on design equity issues and with Southwest Virginia towns on the economic revitalization of their main streets. Nationally and internationally, her research interest is the revitalization ad sustainability of local and regional economies. In 2015, she launched a new project to analyze a subset of the nation’s largest cities beginning in 1956. This research resulted in a book project, Cities Without Work: The Long Road from Boom to Bust (Harvard University Press forthcoming), which situates the 17 post-industrial cities in the United States that had the highest rates of unemployment in 1960 along a fifty-year trajectory. She received the Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities Fellowship for 2017-2019 for her Cities Without Work digital project.
Nationally and internationally, she is advancing a new body of research on the role that design can play in an advanced manufacturing economy. Based on a preliminary research project, Design Driven Manufacturing, funded in 2013/14 by the Faculty Grants for the Arts in collaboration with Architecture faculty member, Jeana Ripple, this grant explored sustainable products and processes in the bamboo industry. The current phase of this work is a speculative study of the economic resiliency of Cuban sugar. This work, Bittersweet: Extant Sugar Towns and the New Cuba, responds to one central research question: How can the design and planning disciplines influence the next iteration of manufacturing, production, and spatiality in post-industrial communities?
Before coming to the University of Virginia, she was a leader in the philanthropic and non-profit sectors. She served as president of the Pew Partnership for Civic Change, director of programs at the Kettering Foundation, and in a variety of administrative positions in liberal arts colleges and research universities. Her most recent book (and the accompanying blog) is Smart Communities: How Citizens and Leaders Can Build a Brighter Future (Second Edition, Jossey-Bass, 2014). It has served as a model of change for literally hundreds of communities worldwide. Earlier, she wrote two research monographs published by ERIC/ASHE in partnership with the George Washington University Press on the role of corporations in workforce development and the enriched civic role of colleges and universities. These join a whole series of articles, speeches, and commentary on topics ranging from the dropout crisis to Cuban landscapes to communities of the future. She has given invited lectures and presentations at the Aspen Ideas Festival, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, the Scottish Council of Development and Industry, HUD Anniversary of Rural CDBG, Federal Home Loan Bank, Virginia Housing Development Authority, and the Jessie Ball Dupont Fund as well as in many communities.
Nationally, Moomaw served on the National Academies Expert Committee on Pathways to Urban Sustainability from 2014-2016, is a member and past chair of the Kettering Foundation Board of Trustees, and is a board member of the Albemarle Housing Improvement Fund (AHIP). At the university, she serves as chair of the University of Virginia Press Board of Directors, Provost's Office Academic Outreach Committee, and as academic lead of the Appalachian Prosperity Project. The research agenda for APP includes collaborative work by faculty, students, and community members to work with southwest Virginia communities to make them more globally competitive by improving health, education, and economic vitality. At the School of Architecture, she is Director of the Community Design Research Center. She is the faculty representative on the Dean's Alumni Advisory Board and served on the Faculty Council from 2016/17.
The Academy of Community Engaged Scholarship elected Morse Moomaw a fellow in 2016 honoring her career-long commitment to community translational research. In 2011, 2013, and 2018 she was invited by the students in the School of Architecture to give one of the School's commencement addresses. In 2006 she received the Content of Our Character award from Duke University. Past board memberships include chair and board member of the Piedmont Community College Board; Campfire, Inc., Paul J. Aicher Foundation; Everyday Democracy, and National Advisory Board of the LBJ School at the University of Texas. She has been a research fellow at the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities and the Center for Organizational and Technological Development at Virginia Tech.