Assistant Professor Flavia Montenegro-Menezes (or Dr. MM, as she is fondly known) is currently in Rome lecturing for the second year in a row in a course on the Conservation of Built Heritage, Italy. The course is sponsored by the International Centre for the Study of the Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (ICCROM) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization/World Heritage Centre (UNESCO/WHC). She says, "My research focuses on the multiple ways in which cultural diversity promote human well-being and environmental sustainability. Due to this focus, as well as to my own international background and training, my professional activities consistently contain an international component."
In the Department of Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning (LARP) since 2011, Dr. MM has been actively engaging international communities, both locally and abroad, through research and teaching initiatives that involve assessing cultural values and behaviors in order to advance culture-sensitive planning methods. Throughout the spring and summer of 2013, she conducted a comparative study between a Brazilian diaspora in the United States (Massachusetts) and a traditional community in Brazil (Minas Gerais). She involved local graduate students in Brazil and the U.S. to conduct outreach, visual interview and survey activities with over 400 community members. Recruitment, surveys and interview procedures were conducted in Portuguese.
Since the fall 2013 Dr. MM has been working on a new research project which involves the mapping of cultural assets in Holyoke. "While this project does not focus on immigrant populations," she says, "Holyoke contains the highest proportion of Spanish-speaking households of any Massachusetts municipality, among which are many self-identified Puerto Rican residents. The Puerto Rican community within Holyoke is part of a centuries-long continuum of immigration-driven diversity, and as such, this culture may be understood within a context of ‘internationalism’. In conjunction with this research project, the Fall 2013 Public Participation class that I teach in LARP developed and implemented a community engagement strategy to identify cultural values and meanings attached to places in Downtown Holyoke. All of the procedures were conducted in both English and Spanish."