Institute for Environmental Negotiation

Empowering communities to create shared solutions

Courses Taught by Tanya Denckla Cobb


  • Community Food Systems (PLAC 5500-003) – Spring Semester
  • Group Facilitation (PLAN 5580-002) – Fall Semester


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

Food system planning is an emerging and cutting edge 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.

More Information and Food System Course Resources:

Group Facilitation (PLAN5580-002) – Fall Semester

The ability to work in teams and manage teams is becoming an imperative skill in today’s fast-paced collaborative work environment. Another key skill for the 21st century is the ability to help meetings be productive as opposed to meetings that are a waste of everyone’s time, or meetings where some people dominate and others don’t get to participate at all, or meetings where issues are discussed ad nauseum without conclusion, or meetings where conflict surfaces and nobody knows how to handle it.

This course is based on the premise that the only (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 core 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.