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Environmental Design Dean Mary Anne Alabanza Akers

Mary Anne Alabanza Akers has more than 40 years of experience of academic and executive leadership in higher education supporting underrepresented minority (URM) students.


Prior to her appointment as dean of the College of Environmental Design at Cal Poly Pomona, Akers was the founding dean of the School of Architecture and Planning at Morgan State University, a public historically Black research university and Maryland’s largest historically Black college and university. She started teaching in 1979 at various universities in the Philippines, focusing on classes that involved immersive community experiences. From 1991 to 2007, she taught urban planning at the University of Georgia and served as the university’s liaison with former U.S. President Jimmy Carter’s Atlanta Project and the university’s Institute of Community and Area Development.


As a professor and as an administrator, Akers’ record of supporting URM students includes applied research on learning spaces for ethnically diverse American classrooms; pioneering community-based education and the creation of a special education research program for indigenous students at the Baguio campus of the University of the Philippines.


Her research interests focus on urbanism – the study of people in their geographic, economic, political, historical and socio-cultural environments – at the street and community levels, and the impact of environmental design on public health. Other topic areas include community empowerment for economic development, equity strategies in design and planning education, and the decolonization of urban spaces.


Akers is one of the founding members of the Deans’ Equity and Inclusion Initiative, a national fellowship program for junior Built Environment academics of color. She has served on the boards of the Maryland Governor’s Parks Commission, Maryland Center for Construction Education and Innovation, MSU Entrepreneurial Development and Assistance Center, and the Katipunan Filipino American Association of Maryland.

Recent Grants and Fellowships:

  • National Telecommunication and Information Administration, MSU Center for Health Disparities, MSU McKenzie Fund. “Smart Tiny Homes for the Elderly”, $470,000 (2022-23)
  • AIA Upjohn Research Initiative, “Learning Environments: Design and Diversity,” $15,000 (2014)
  • Town of Easton, Maryland, “Small Area Plan for the Hill,” $50,000 (2013)
  • Baltimore City Homeless Census, $20,000 (2010)
  • Caroline County Department of Tourism, Maryland, “Caroline County, Poplar Neck Visitor Experience Master Plan on the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway,” $50,000 (2010)
  • S. Department of Energy, “Flexible Manufacturing Networks for the Green Construction Industry,” $500,407 (2010)
  • S. Small Business Administration, “Case Studies of Green Construction Networks,” $50,000 (2010)
  • City of Baltimore Mayor’s Office, Baltimore Homeless Services, “Impact Study of a Homeless Resource Center,” $45,000 (2008)

Selected Publications:

  • Urban Environments and Health in the Philippines: A Retrospective on Women Street Vendors and Their Spaces (Routledge, 2021)
  • With C. Dunlop Martin, J. Determan, C. Hohmann and I. Williams, “A Conceptual Framework for the Design of 21st Century College Classrooms: Preparing for the Needs of Ethnically Diverse Students” in Spaces of teaching and learning: integrating perspectives on research and practice (Springer, 2018)
  • “Street Urbanism in a Global Context: Research Methods in Understanding Health and Place,” American Collegiate Schools of Architecture, Fall 2017 Conference: Building for Health and Well-Being,” University of Hawaii at Manoa, pp. 50-54, 2016
  • “Urban Streets Struggling to Survive: An Urban Design Solution,” Recent Researches in Sustainability, Architecture, and Structures. Proceedings for the World Scientific and Engineering Academy, 2013
  • With P. Voos and D. Green, “Heritage Tourism Development Plan for the Preston/Poplar Neck of the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway,” 127 pp., Caroline County Office of Tourism, Maryland, 2012
  • With T. Akers, “Designing Healthy Communities: The Health Impact of Street Vendor Environments,” World Health Design, 2008
  • “Addressing Design Disparities: The Role of Historically Black Colleges and Universities,” DesignIntelligence, 2007
  • With T. Akers, “Health and Environmental Design: The relationship between urban environments and health in a Philippine setting,” Global Health, 2007
  • With C. Brandon, T. Akers, D. Hall, P.B. Ryan, C. Bayer and L. Naeher, “Particulate Matter and Carbon Monoxide Multiple Regression Models Using Environmental Characteristics in a High Diesel-Use Area of Baguio City, Philippines,” Science of the Total Environment, 381:1-3, pp. 47-58, 2007



B.A., Sociology; M.A., Urban and Regional Planning; University of the Philippines, Quezon City

M.S., Professional Writing (Creative Writing), Towson University, Maryland

Ph.D., Social Science-Urban Planning and Community Organization, Michigan State University


Tagalog (Filipino)

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