Institute for Engagement & Negotiation

Empowering communities to create shared solutions

Staff Taught Courses

Academic Courses by IEN Staff

All courses below taught at the University of Virginia are through the Department of Urban and Environmental Planning in the School of Architecture. Current course offerings in the department can be found here. For more information, please contact us.

Frank Dukes

Course Descriptions

Mediation Theory and Skills (PLAN 3250/5250) – Spring Semester

This one-credit, pass-fail course introduces students to the principles and practices of mediated negotiations, with an emphasis on inter-personal conflict. Through readings, role plays, and other exercises, students develop competency in mediating a variety of issues, such as neighborhood or roommate disputes.  Students also examine the theoretical basis of mediation and develop a capacity to assess the strengths and weaknesses of different models of mediation.


Collaborative Planning (PLAC 5240) – Fall Semester

“Collaborative Planning” proposes that public decisions are generally better when developed by processes that are inclusive of diverse views, transparent and inviting to those such decisions affect, and responsive to participant needs. Such processes need to encourage behavior that builds relationships of integrity and trust and decisions that are creative, effective and legitimate. Communities can only be sustained ecologically, socially, and economically with informed, legitimated participation by citizens actively engaged in public life. People yearn for accessible forums and processes to engage one another productively and safely, to speak of their own concerns, needs and aspirations, and even to learn the real needs of their neighbors. Such caring can engender conflict, which may be harmful, but authentic collaborative processes provide an opportunity to transform civic disarray into civic responsibility.

Students  develop a capacity to assess the strengths and weaknesses of collaborative processes, learn best practices for engaging stakeholders and publics, and practice designing and conducting public meetings and other forums useful for collaborative planning. Groups are formed to study a topic and to offer recommendations for developing a collaborative process to address key issues. Learning to work effectively in groups and to plan and conduct effective collaborative projects are important parts of the class.


Righting Unrightable Wrongs: Challenges of Restitution and Reparations (USEM 1570) – Spring Semester

From African-Americans demanding payment for slavery and its aftermath, to Native Americans seeking a return of lands, to Japanese-Americans attempting to draw attention to the shame of internment, many groups seek to right past harms and ongoing injustices. Can communities ever make right what appear to be irreparable wrongs? This course examines that large question within the context of communities affected by severe environmental contamination, reparations for slavery, Native American forced displacement and genocide, Japanese-American internment during World War II, and relevant examples from around the world, before turning to the question of history at the University of Virginia.

Truth, understanding, repair, and relationship are four components of reparation that may be considered in any situation involving what appears to be an unrightable wrong. Drawing upon the reparations literature as well as literature on restorative justice, this course provides students with the knowledge and skills to articulate, discuss, and facilitate action about repairing injustice in a variety of settings.


Tanya Denckla Cobb

Course Descriptions

Community Food Systems (PLAC 5500-003) – Spring Semester

Food system planning is an emerging field within planning that is commanding greater national attention every year. The Department of Urban and Environmental Planning at the University of Virginia offers several courses on food system planning. Tanya Denckla Cobb and Timothy Beatley launched this area of study in Spring 2006 with a graduate course that is also open to upper level undergraduates.

The courses offered are Planning Applications Courses (PLAC), in which students take on semester-long team projects that apply planning skills to real community issues in the greater Charlottesville region or elsewhere in Virginia. Students are required to incorporate community engagement into their projects, learning from community members to inform and shape their project findings and community-based recommendations. Student projects are very demanding, requiring self-discipline, creativity, ingenuity, team-work and perseverance.

A number of different food system planning courses have been developed over the years, and currently one is offered every spring semester, along with a Morven Summer Institute course. Graduate students therefore have the opportunity to take at least three of these over the course of their two-year program. Undergraduate planners who continue into the graduate program may have time to take more than three courses. For each course, students will be assigned different readings and community-based projects.

Through their course work, students have contributed to building knowledge about the local food system in the greater Charlottesville and other areas. Their work is presented at the end of every semester to the community.


Group Facilitation (PLAN 5580-002) – Fall Semester

The ability to work in teams and manage teams is a necessary skill in today’s fast-paced collaborative work environment. Another key skill for the 21st century is the ability to create productive meetings as opposed to meetings that are a waste of everyone’s time, meetings where some people dominate and others don’t participate at all, meetings where issues are discussed relentlessly without conclusion, or meetings where conflict surfaces and is unmanaged.

This course is based on the premise that the best way to develop or improve these important skills is through reflective and deliberative practice. Students will learn the basics of group facilitation, including accepted values and ethics of facilitation, as well as procedural, behavioral, and problem solving techniques that comprise a group facilitation tool kit.

This is strictly a hands-on class. Instruction involves a combination of dynamic group exercises, experiential role-plays, and mini lectures with the key emphasis on practicing and experiencing group facilitation.