Geopolitical lecture ties College of Arts and Science to School of Architecture

Geopolitics, government power and the aesthetic appearance of city structure are closely related, said the featured speaker at a lecture hosted by the Miami Consortium for Urban Studies Friday.

Herman Van der Wusten, the guest lecturer, is professor emeritus of political geography and former dean of the faculty of social and behavioral sciences at the University of Amsterdam.

Jan Nijman, a University of Miami professor of geography and regional studies, said he invited the former dean to enrich students and faculty, while presenting a topic that represents a new direction for the university. He is also a former colleague of Van der Wusten.

“A lot of students are not aware of it yet, but we’re trying to build a program on urban studies,” Nijman told The Miami Hurricane before the lecture.

“We have the curriculum, but we don’t have the department as of yet. There’s probably going to be a minor starting in the fall.”

The new minor will focus on urban studies and involve faculty from various departments in the College of Arts and Sciences including sociology, geography, anthropology and political science.

Professors in the geography department at UM hope to build a bridge between the social sciences and architecture, and Van der Wusten’s lecture on government structures and their impact on power emphasized the relationship between the two fields.

“The architecture students should be more involved with what’s going on in Arts and Sciences, and also the students and faculty in the College of Arts and Sciences should get a better sense of the huge impact that the School of Architecture has had on Miami and many other places,” Nijman said.

Ryan McLemore, a graduate assistant to Nijman, agreed that students from various disciplines should be aware of the topics of other fields. He believes that geography fuses culture, economics, politics, sociology and anthropology.

“Geography is not just coloring maps and finding capitals,” McLemore said. “It’s a holistic discipline. We look at the connections and interrelationships of different phenomena. We all hear about globalization, and Van der Wusten merges his ideas about political geography with that global context.”

During the lecture, Van der Wusten discussed capital cities in Europe and related the architectural design of places such as Paris and London to the power of government in those areas.

Besides bringing a European perspective to UM, Van der Wusten drew students from the CAS to the School of Architecture where the lecture took place.

“It was a great opportunity to be in [the School of Architecture],” said Benedict Teagarden, a UM student from outside the school of architecture who attended the lecture. “Even now as a junior, I’m discovering beautiful places on campus and I’m just wondering if there are other beautiful places that I’ve never been to.”

In addition to sponsoring the lecture, the Miami Consortium for Urban Studies is also holding a student paper competition for papers on any topic dealing with the greater Miami area. Final papers would be due on April 27.

For application forms and more information, students may contact McLemore via e-mail at

Karyn Meshbane may be contacted at