Meet a Social Scientist: Dr. Christopher Coutts from the Department of Urban and Regional Planning

What is your name?

Dr. Christopher Coutts.

What kind of work do you do in the college?

I am a Professor in the Department of Urban and Regional Planning at Florida State University. I teach, do research and engage in service in the department, profession and community.

Why did you decide to become an academic?  

I decided to become an academic after performing manual labor and working in the trades my entire young life.  You name it:  carpentry, electrical, plumbing, steel, roofing, brick paving, food service.  This experience was fulfilling and provided me with innumerous, tangible skills, but as I continued to balance work with a class or two at community college I discovered I might have the skills necessary to pursue a career that would allow me to engage my mind (and not just my back) to devise and answer prickly theoretical and practical questions.  Eventually, while still pressing ahead with college in New Mexico, I ended up as a river guide, and this provided me the opportunity to teach.  Some key interactions with professors provided me (a first-generation college grad) with the confidence to pursue a career where I could teach and produce knowledge, and I never looked back.  What a life!   I am grateful every day for the charmed life of an academic that rewards freedom of thought and expression and holds to account insidious social, political, and economic practices.  

What do you find most fulfilling about your job?  

By far, the most fulfilling part of my job is my interaction with students.  The shaping of young minds is definitely the part of my job that I take most seriously.  I remember how influential my professors were in determining the direction of my life and career.  I invest a great deal of time in counseling students in order to pay forward that inspiration.  This rarely involves course content and most often is a conversation about life’s predicaments and decisions that will determine a student’s life trajectory. 

What are you working on or teaching right now that has you excited professionally? 

My most exciting projects right now are those that support the work of my PhD students.  A number of years ago, I allowed my own research interests to be superseded by those of my students.  My students are working on a number of projects that complement my expertise in health promotion through landscape conservation.  Basically, how does conserving (or degrading) the natural environment and ecosystems affect human health?  This involves the basic elements of life such as water, food, and air but also includes other arenas such as mental health and social capital.  Without functioning ecosystems, health suffers and eventually life ceases.  Examples of the projects I am working on with my students include 1) examining large urban greenbelts for their health potential but also the unintended consequences of displacing vulnerable populations, and 2) examining the environmental justice implications of limiting children’s access to greenspace. 

Is there anything else that you would like to share, such as a recent publication, your website, or your favorite book?

My website is: https://coss.fsu.edu/ccoutts/ 

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