AMHERST, Mass. - Meir Gross, head of the department of landscape architecture and regional planning (LARP) at the University of Massachusetts, has received a Fulbright Scholar Award to teach and conduct research in Russia. He has been a faculty member at UMass since 1977.
Gross will spend three months in early 1999 at Pskov Polytechnical Institute in northwest Russia, where he will lecture and study the potential for sustainable economic development in the region.
"This grant will enable me to further strengthen the connections we’ve established between the Pskov region and the University and our department," says Gross. The University, through LARP, has maintained a partnership with Pskov since 1992.
Pskov (pronounced "skove") is a western border state in Russia about the size of the state of Maine. The region is characterized by two major urban centers and large expanses of rural lands which remain ecologically unspoiled, according to Gross. Because of its location and its proximity to St. Petersburg and the Baltic Sea, Pskov is poised to experience significant population growth and development in the coming years, says Gross. Those factors, along with the fundamental political and economic changes that have occurred in Russia, including increased citizen participation and the privatization of state-owned property, underscore the crucial need for planning in the region, he says.
The initial contacts between UMass and Pskov began with faculty/student exchanges and visits by Pskov officials to the University. Funding from the Eurasia Foundation enabled Russian students to study at UMass for a semester, and to support UMass faculty to teach in Pskov. In 1995, a $1.3 million grant from the U.S. Agency for International Development enabled the establishment of a more formal partnership.
LARP faculty assisted in the creation of a department of regional planning at the Pskov Polytechnical Institute in 1996, as well as in the establishment of the Pskov Center for Regional Planning (CRP). With help from Richard Taupier, of the UMass Environmental Institute and the Office of Geographic Information and Analysis, UMass also helped CRP to begin providing computer-assisted planning services, market research for economic development, and planning services to smaller cities and towns, and to offer a variety of short courses in planning and development for regional and municipal officials. In addition, the partnership has sponsored an exchange program between Massachusetts and the Pskov region, pairing various officials with their counterparts.