Assoc Prof Debra Cushing

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Program Leader - Resilient Communities

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Design and Planning (University of Colorado), Master of Science (MS) in Landscape Architecture (University of Wisconsin, Madison)

Dr. Cushing’s research combines her interest in healthy and supportive environments for children and youth with her understanding of effective community participation, creating sustainable and vibrant environments, and theory related to environmental psychology and placemaking. Her current research areas include:

  • children and youth participation in community design and planning to create child- and youth-friendly communities;
  • innovative intergenerational park design to encourage physical activity and social interaction;
  • the use of public art in public parks;
  • purposeful placemaking with young people; and
  • design pedagogy and immersive learning formats.

Deb is currently a Senior Lecturer in Landscape Architecture and the Higher Degree Research Training Coordinator for the School of Design and the QUT Design Lab in the Creative Industries Faculty. She is the lead investigator on an ARC Linkage Project titled Intergenerational Park Design for Active and Engaged Communities. The trans-disciplinary project will lead to a better understanding of how parks and open space impact physical activity levels for intergenerational populations.

Prior to arriving at QUT, Deb received a Bachelor’s in Landscape Architecture from Pennsylvania State University and a Master’s of Science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in Landscape Architecture with a focus on ecological restoration. Deb worked for several years as a landscape architect practitioner for engineering and planning firms in Colorado, USA. During her time in practice, she served on interdisciplinary teams with planners, engineers, and community administrators to find sustainable solutions to community issues. Deb facilitated participatory planning methods during public workshops and community meetings to gain input regarding community parks, trail systems, and outdoor learning environments.  She received a PhD in Design and Planning from the University of Colorado Denver, where she completed her thesis on youth master plans in the United States. She also served as one of the founding coordinators for Growing Up Boulder, an ongoing child- and youth-friendly city initiative created to facilitate youth participation in community decision-making.



Additional information

Debra has served on the following committees:

  • Selected member of the Steering Committee for the Institute for Ethical and Civic Engagement at the University of Colorado Boulder, 2009 to 2011
  • Selected as an external grant reviewer for Great Outdoors Colorado, 2002 to 2005
  • Selected to participate in the ASLA Community Assistance Team Design Project in Cleveland Ohio, USA, 1995