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Book Discussion: Infrastructure, Wellbeing and the Measurement of Happiness

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This event features two of the contributors to the recent volume Infrastructure, Wellbeing, and the Measurement of Happiness, Professor June Thomas and Professor Carol Ryff. The discussion will explore the questions raised in the volume around current thinking and strategies around wellbeing, the measurement of happiness, and how infrastructure design and construction impacts on these. The discussion will be moderated by Professor Hoda Mahmoudi and Dr. Kate Seaman, two of the editors of the volume.

Professor June Thomas

June Manning Thomas is the Centennial Professor Emerita of Urban and Regional Planning at the University of Michigan’s Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning, where she also is the Mary Frances Berry Distinguished University Professor of Urban Planning. In 2003, she was inducted as a fellow in the American Institute of Certified Planners.

Thomas served as president of the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning from 2013 to 2015 and was immediate past president from 2015 to 2016. Thomas writes about diversification of the planning profession, planning history, and social equity in neighborhoods and urban revitalization. Recent research explored the relationship between the concept of social equity and the civil rights movement, and examined the land-use reactions of community organizations to vacant land in Detroit. Her books include the co-edited Urban Planning and the African American Community: In the Shadows (Sage, 1996); Redevelopment and Race: Planning a Finer City in Postwar Detroit (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997; second edition, Wayne State University Press, 2013); Planning Progress: Lessons from Shoghi Effendi (Association for Baha’i Studies, 1999); he co-edited The City after Abandonment (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2013); and the co-edited Mapping Detroit: Evolving Land Use Patterns and Connections (Wayne State University Press, 2015). Her latest book is the semi-autobiographical Struggling to Learn: An Intimate History of School Desegregation in South Carolina (University of So. Carolina Press, 2022).

Professor Carol Ryff

Carol D. Ryff is Director of the Institute on Aging and Hilldale Professor of Psychology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Dr. Ryff is Principal Investigator of the MIDUS (Midlife in the U.S.) national longitudinal study, which is widely used by researchers around the world. She also directed MIDJA (Midlife in Japan), for which she received an NIH Merit Award. A major objective of these studies is biopsychosocial integration – i.e., understanding pathways to health or illness via linkage of sociodemographic factors (age, gender, race, socioeconomic status) with behavioral, psychological, and social factors, including stress exposures and contextual influences. Her own research focused on a model of psychological well-being she developed decades ago, which has been translated to 40 languages and is used across diverse scientific fields. Dr. Ryff studies how psychological well-being varies by age, educational status and cultural context as well as by the challenges and transitions of adult life. Whether well-being is protective of good physical health is a major interest, with numerous findings linking different aspects of well-being to morbidity and mortality, diverse biomarkers (neuroendocrine, immune, cardiovascular) and neural circuitry. A guiding theme is resilience – how some are able to maintain, or regain, well-being in the face of adversity and what neurobiology underlies this capacity. Increasingly, she is interested in how encounters with nature, which can occur in urban environments, matter for well-being and health.


Professor Hoda Mahmoudi

Hoda Mahmoudi has held The Bahá’í Chair for World Peace at the University of Maryland, College Park since 2012. As director of this endowed academic program, Professor Mahmoudi collaborates with a wide range of scholars, researchers, and practitioners to advance interdisciplinary analysis and open discourse on global peace. Before joining the University of Maryland faculty, Professor Mahmoudi served as the coordinator of the Research Department at the Bahá’í World Centre in Haifa, Israel. Prior to that, Dr. Mahmoudi was Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Northeastern Illinois University, where she was also a faculty member in the Department of Sociology. Professor Mahmoudi is co-editor of Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Human Dignity and Human Rights (Emerald, 2019) and of Children and Globalization; Multidisciplinary Perspectives (Routledge, 2019). Professor Mahmoudi is also co-author of A World Without War (Bahá’í Publishing, 2020), co-editor of The Changing Ethos of Human Rights (Elgar, 2021), and most recently co-editor of Fundamental Challenges to Peace and Security: The Future of Humanity (Palgrave Macmillan, 2022), and co-editor of Systemic Racism in America: Sociological Theory, Education Inequality, and Social Change (Routledge, 2022).

Dr Kate Seaman

Kate Seaman is Assistant Director of The Bahá’í Chair for World Peace at the University of Maryland. Dr. Seaman previously held positions at the University of Baltimore, the University of Bath and was a Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of East Anglia. Dr. Seaman received her Ph.D. from Lancaster University. She is the author of UN-tied Nations; The UN, Peacekeeping and the development of global security governance (Ashgate, 2014). Dr. Seaman is the co-editor of The Changing Ethos of Human Rights (Elgar, 2021), co-editor of Fundamental Challenges to Global Peace and Security: The Future of Humanity (Palgrave Macmillan, 2022) and co-editor of Infrastructure, Wellbeing and the Measurement of Happiness’ (Routledge, 2022). Her research has also been published in Global Governance and Politics and Governance.



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