Professor Paul Cawood Hellmund visited Keene State College last Tuesday, March 3 to speak to students about ecological design.

The lecture “Headwaters thinking: The role of ecological design in uncertain times” focused on problems that many cities and urban areas face today.

Hellmund is the president of The Conway School and the director of the school’s graduate program in sustainable landscape planning and design.

He opened with a few remarks about the school. “You get to learn on the fly, and it is powerful and amazing,” he said.

Hellmund said The Conway School has its graduate students doing hands-on projects in their fields.

All the projects are real and solve real problems. The Conway School is the only school in the country to offer a Master’s of Science in Ecological Design.

Tim Smith / Senior Photographer

Tim Smith / Senior Photographer

Urban stormwater is the first problem facing cities and urban areas that Hellmund spoke of. The combined sewers, featuring sewage and rainwater in the same area, can cause problems related to water quality and flooding.

The goal in cities should be to create a “green in restructure,” Hellmund said. If the waste and water were separated into different drains and tunnels, “It could have a tremendous impact on water quality and the overall . . . the city.”

The second problem Hellmund spoke of is food in urban areas. Often the food in cities is not as affordable elsewhere, especially when figuring travel costs — as many people live over a mile from a supermarket in the city.

Cheaper food nearby is less nutritious, so some people might not be eating what they should be.

“The population of the planet now is primarily urban, so we’re going to have to find out a way to make livable, because that’s where people are,” Hellmund said.

Hellmund introduced some of the projects his students have done in the recent years that have immediately impacted communities.

Some of these ideas were presented to officials in Holyoke last year: a “Green Streets Guidebook” infrastructure project for Holyoke, a “Placemaking Ideabook” for the Holyoke Innovation District and an urban agriculture plan looking at vacant lots in Springfield.

“Our seminar projects for geography are kind of like a small scale version of the projects he was talking about, so it was interesting to see it at a larger scale and look at it directly from the ecological design process,” KSC Senior Hannah Elliot said.

Another senior shared similar sentiments, saying that Hellmund’s talk about using the land you have is important.

“You can green up Keene and you can also clean it up and make things nicer,” Bree Flynn-Kasuba said.

All of these projects are real and, for real clients, not just planning.

Often students and professors see their projects take off years after they work on it. Most of the projects include long term goals, Hellmund said.

Hellmund explained that the whole point of ecological design education is to put practice over theory, to get students out there working how they will in the future.

Hellmund encouraged students to continue to pursue their goals and try and make the world a better, more sustainable place.

“There are thousands of opportunities out there to affect change, all of which are meaningful,” Hellmund said.

Skyler Frazer can be contacted at

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