Academic Spotlight: Silvia Gullino

With a huge variety of wonderful staff members and academics teaching our courses and shaping the futures of our students, we wanted to unpack their stories and discover how they got to where they are now.

Silvia Gullino, Associate Professor in City Making and Course Leader for the BSc / MPlan Property Development and Planning, shares an insight into her career and work.

What do you do at BCU and how long have you been part of the University?

I am a Chartered Member of the Royal Town Planning Institute and I am Associate Professor in City Making in the Department for the Built Environment at BCU, where I lead the Urban Planning and Real Estate Team, and I am a course leader for the BSc / MPlan Property Development and Planning course. I joined BCU in 2017.

Could you tell us about your experience and how this feeds into your teaching?

My journey as an academic started in Italy, where I initially trained as an architect. However, the neighbourhood and the city scale were more attractive to me. With their high levels of social inequalities, in particular for women, it is at that scale that I wanted to focus my academic contribution. Therefore, the decision to start a PhD in Urban Planning and focus on cities and their social diversity came along quite naturally.

In terms of my research, my interdisciplinary background in architecture and urban planning allows me to explore debates across planning, governance and collaborative, community-led initiatives with the aim of making cities more inclusive and sustainable. One aspect of my work focuses on how technologies can be employed to empower citizens in envisioning, designing and shaping the city's future through local and innovative initiatives.

My international and interdisciplinary background and collaborative approach to city-making is what I distinctively bring in my teaching, where I try to bring my enthusiasm and creativity.

What are some of the greatest achievements you have accomplished at BCU?

Seeing my students thriving in their studies and confidently entering the planning profession is one of the most enjoyable aspects of my academic job!

I strive to foster in students the development of their self-confidence, ambitions, and own career trajectories both academically and professionally. Many of my students have received international and national recognition: the International Urban Promo, Royal Town Planning Institute Trust Awards, Women in Property Awards Midlands nominations, BIM Champion Awards and international studentships. Other students have had the opportunity to partner with me in some exciting research projects - for example, on podcasting in learning and teaching, and present the outcomes at international conferences.

Last year I was nominated The Planner Woman of Influence 2021, because of my teaching approach through a variety of digital technologies and students' support during the Covid pandemic. I carry this unique award with a great sense of responsibility! 

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What makes the course you teach on distinct and what is the learning environment like?

We engage a lot with the property and planning industry, both in the Midlands and nationally. Our teaching is distinctively practice-led and industry-related. We build in field visits, use live projects, and invite guests from the industry, for example. Students learn in a very supportive and friendly environment as they learn through seminars, mentoring and pastoral care.

Why do you think Birmingham is a good place to study?

Birmingham is an exciting and diverse city to study in. It is undergoing several urban transformations and the University's City Centre Campus is at the heart of the city redevelopment activities. Our students have access to the industry behind these new developments. 

Furthermore, our excellent links with industry employers provide opportunities for career opportunities, industry-led guest lectures, seminars, and presentations.

We prepare students for a diverse range of career destinations both in the public and private sectors. We see our planning graduates working for local authorities across Midlands or companies like WSP, Savills, CBRE, just to name a few.

What can students do to help prepare them for the course you teach?

Studying the Property Development and Planning course means learning how to make buildings, places and communities more sustainable and having the opportunity to proactively engage in global challenges like climate change and housing shortage. Students should arrive to the course by having awareness of ongoing debates like for example on climate change, housing shortage, retrofitting buildings, the importance of public and green spaces. These topics are in the news daily. 

What’s your favourite thing about working at the University?

My colleagues and my students! My colleagues are amazing: they are really a great team! Working with them on new ideas, planning new projects and initiatives is a delight. I always learn so much from them. I find it extremely rewarding to see my students growing in terms of academic skills and knowledge and in terms of confidence and in their vision for their future.

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