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Q&A: Runstad Department welcomes new faculty member Vince Wang

The Runstad Department is thrilled to welcome Vince Wang as he joins the department as part of the college’s new faculty cohort.

This faculty cohort search attracted applications from across the globe with a broad range of collaborative research and teaching interests.  Through the search, the college found faculty that will help implement an important part of the CBE strategic framework: growing the capacity for collaborative interdisciplinary work with the goal of advancing climate solutions.

Vince’s prior position was at Grounded Solutions Network, a national nonprofit organization promoting inclusive communities through housing strategies with lasting affordability. Vince’s research interests include spatial justice and inclusive communities, including their impaces reflected in the built environment, human behaviors, and policy interventions. He was/is the PI/Co-PI of eight funded research projects totaling over $1 million. Vince grounds his research with applied tools to democratize data for low-income communities. His work has been published in academic journals such as the Journal of the American Planning Association, Urban Studies, Housing Studies, and Housing Policy Debate, as well as through other publishers such as Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, Cityscape, and Shelterforce.

Vince received his masters and doctorate in Urban and Regional Planning with a minor in Real Estate from the University of Florida. In 2005, he spent one year at CBE as an undergraduate exchange student from China. Vince is excited about his new role as a scholar and educator that builds upon extensive professional experience in public, nonprofit, research, and for-profit sectors.

We talked with Vince about his research, what he’s excited to teach, what inspires him, and more.

How did you get into your field of study?

I feel that my field found me, not the other way around. I was actively searching for a graduate research assistant position when an opportunity came up with a housing research center at the University of Florida. My reaction then was “why not?” So I applied and luckily, I got it. I started working on housing-related research projects and a semester later, the Center asked me if I would consider pursuing a doctoral degree and continue working for the Center. My reaction again was “why not?” So I ended up working for the housing research center for 6 years. After graduation, I worked as the research manager at the Center before becoming the director for a national nonprofit organization promoting permanently affordable housing solutions for another 6 years before I entered (or really, went back to) academia. Now looking back, these “why not” decisions have turned into an endeavor, passion, and commitment to my field of study.

What attracted you to the College of Built Environments?

I joined CBE as part of the faculty cohort hire across all five departments in the college. This cohort hire reflects the college’s commitment to expanding interdisciplinary research and inclusive learning. It also reflects that the college is committed to creating a supportive structure of mentoring and collaboration for this new faculty cohort to start tenure-track careers. And it reflects that the college has doubled down on the commitment to DEI work guided by the Strategic Framework. These reflections resonate with me as I value diversity, equity, and inclusion in my own work.
My connection with CBE dates back to the mid-2000s when I came to study as an international undergraduate exchange student. In that year, I took courses across disciplines in the college when it was called the College of Architecture and Urban Planning. The quality of education amazed me and set a high bar that I am still in awe of now.

Please describe your research and what makes it meaningful to you.

My research is focused on examining the causes, consequences, and solutions of housing unaffordability and residential segregation in the U.S. I study in what way and to what extent urban amenities and opportunities are disproportionately distributed in the built environments. And I examine the effectiveness of various affordable housing strategies that intend to mitigate housing unaffordability and insecurity and the impact of these strategies on general housing markets. My recent work centers on building nationwide datasets of inclusionary zoning policies and community land trusts. This work is fundamental and groundbreaking in that the datasets allow us for the first time to evaluate these affordable housing policies and programs at the national level.

What’s your vision for the impact you want to make through your teaching and research?

I consider myself a streetlight. My role as a teacher is to shed light and offer guidance for students to build their own journeys. And as they pave their way for future endeavors, I hope students are aware of and learn the balance between individual pursuits, community needs, and broader societal responsibilities. Raised in a family of professional sports coaches, I apply a unique coaching perspective in academic learning that encourages communication, participation, and practice. I believe in teaching students to be effective agents of change through their ability to not only read how a system works but to critically examine how it can work better.
I hope my research can raise broader awareness of the housing unaffordability and inequity issues in society. With evaluations of affordable housing strategies, I hope residents, policymakers, developers, and advocates make informed decisions that, together, help create just and sustainable communities.

What’s a course that you’re especially excited to teach?

The first course that I will teach at UW in the upcoming Winter Quarter is called Introduction to Real Estate Data Modeling. This is a 5-credit, 300-level studio course. I hope my students will find it useful and fun as I put my 10+ years of research and professional experience in data crunching into a systematic and easy-following learning process. Plus, I have invited four guest speakers who are leading great national initiatives relating to data modeling in the real estate field. Students will have ample opportunities to not only learn how to prepare data and conduct analyses through hands-on experience but also get to understand how data-crunching activities should be tied to the larger research objective/question. In addition, students will have a chance to learn data visualization and presentation skills. So, this course covers the full package of data modeling, which is critical in practice but often an overlooked perspective in education.

If you could pass on any wisdom to your students, what would you share?

There is no shortcut to learning. Believe in yourself – hard work is always rewarding.

What inspires and motivates you?

Although it is only a couple of months, I will say my CBE colleagues, especially faculty in the real estate department and faculty cohort members who I have most interactions with, are inspiring and motivating. As a streetlight I may shed light on one spot of the road; my colleagues are other streetlights that help light the entire road section. I also expect my future students to be a huge inspiration and motivation. To me, teaching is a mutual learning process as I can improve and refine my work by engaging and interacting with students.

What’s one thing you hope students who take a class with you will come away with?

Data crunching is fun and rewarding!

When you are not teaching/researching/working, what are you up to?

Folks are most likely to spot me caddying in my son’s golf tournaments or digging razor clams on the coast.