Bev Wilson, AICP

Associate Professor of Urban and Regional Planning

PhD, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill 2009

Room 224 Temple Buell Hall 611 Taft Drive
Champaign IL 61820

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Phone: 217.244.1761

Bev Wilson's research is grounded in land use planning and informed by the use of geographic information systems (GIS) and spatial data analysis. He is interested in better understanding the spatial and temporal aspects of development, as well as its implications for the environment and society. Professor Wilson's work spans the urban to rural continuum and ranges in scale from the individual housing unit to the metropolitan region. He is also interested in the livability of small towns and rural communities and believes that planners can play a significant role in successfully meeting the many issues these areas face. The use of tools like GIS, mobile phone apps, and video to inform better planning and decision-making is a key thread connecting his research and teaching.

Professor Wilson teaches Urban History and Theory (UP 504), part of the core curriculum and a requirement for incoming Master's students. In addition to reflecting on the multidimensional and dynamic nature of historical narratives, students discuss classic and critical urban theories then demonstrate their ability to apply these lessons and frameworks to contemporary urban issues. Advanced Applications of GIS (UP 519) builds on basic GIS concepts and techniques with a particular emphasis on the urban context, theory and tools of geospatial analysis, and direct exposure to software using real-world data. Term projects often center on thesis or dissertation research, but have also involved collaboration with local nonprofit organizations like Prairie Rivers Network and Working Landscapes as well as local government agencies. An undergraduate course called Chicago: Planning and Urban Life (UP 204) provides an introduction to urban planning using the city of Chicago as a semester-long case study. This course introduces students to basic mapping and data analysis, but also includes biweekly discussion sessions that allow a different, yet complementary way to engage with planning issues covered during lectures. Professor Wilson also teaches the Small Towns and Rural Planning Workshop (UP 457), which allows students to apply what they have learned in other courses outside the classroom and beyond the boundaries of Champaign-Urbana. Participants in this course engage with small towns and rural communities in central Illinois in order to better understand their challenges and to help develop solutions. The focus of this course varies with each offering and Professor Wilson has worked closely with University of Illinois Extension to identify projects and community partners. Past student projects have involved conducting semi-structured interviews and producing a video highlighting the history, challenges, and resilience of Hoopeston, IL; providing technical support for a Rails-to-Trails project in Hanna City, IL; and conducting a suitability analysis for locating a proposal food hub in the southern portion of the state. A course entitled Civic Technology and the Digital City introduces students to contemporary debates surrounding the role of techology in cities, builds technical capacity, and brings data science to bear on issues like racial disparity in the criminal justice system.

Wilson received his Ph.D. in City and Regional Planning from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in May 2009. He also holds a Master's degree in City and Regional Planning from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a Bachelor's degree in Economics and Political Science from Duke University. Prior to returning to UNC-Chapel Hill for his doctoral studies, he worked as a Spatial Analyst with the NOAA Coastal Services Center's Coastal Remote Sensing Program in Charleston, SC. In 2014, he was named a CyberGIS Fellow by the CyberGIS Center for Advanced Digital and Spatial Studies and has been working on integrating these tools and techniques into the urban planning curriculum at Illinois.

Professor Wilson is a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP) and began a two-year term as the Vice-Chair of the American Planning Association Technology Division in January 2018. During the summer and fall of 2018 he will be a Visiting Associate Professor in the Faculty of Architecture and Town Planning at the Technion in Haifa, Israel.

Download CV  /  Urban Data Blog

Ongoing Research Projects

Professor Wilson is currently researching the role of emerging technologies in urban planning practice as well as the impact of technology and new forms of data on urban life, more broadly. A new project aims to systematically study the structure and impact of civic technology ecosystems in cities around the United States. Only by directly engaging with emerging technologies can we hope to make them responsive to the needs of communities and individuals. Civic technology, with its emphasis on collaboration and its community focus, can help to direct those efforts towards enhancing quality of life and furthering social equity.

A project funded by the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy focuses on developing an open-source, online mapping and analysis application that allows users to visualize: (1) vulnerability to extreme heat events, (2) the distribution of elevated surface temperatures, and (3) where the two intersect and how these patterns shift over time. The resulting tool and framework will help to bridge existing divides in the way that data resources are collected and used in addition to focusing attention on the interdisciplinary issue of heat-related morbidity and mortality in urban areas. These challenges are expected to intensify as a result of global climate change and the project team is coordinating with urban planners, public health officials, and emergency managers to refine and buld upon the tool and framework.

Selected Publications

Wilson, Bev, and Arnab Chakraborty. “Mapping Vulnerability to Extreme Heat Events: Lessons from Metropolitan Chicago,” Journal of Environmental Planning and Management, forthcoming.

Wilson, Bev. “Data Integration and Web Mapping for Extreme Heat Event Preparedness.” In B. Huang (Ed.), Comprehensive Geographic Information Systems. Vol. 2 (pp. 281–289). Oxford, UK: Elsevier.

Wilson, Bev, and Shakil B. Kashem. “Spatially Concentrated Renovation Activity and Housing Appreciation in the City of Milwaukee, Wisconsin,” Journal of Urban Affairs, 39(8), 1085-1102.

Wilson, Bev, and Mallory L. Rahe. “Rural Prosperity and Federal Expenditures, 2000-2010,” Regional Science Policy and Practice, 8(1-2), 3-26.

Kashem, Shakil B., Bev Wilson, and Shannon Van Zandt. “Planning for Climate Adaptation: Evaluating the Changing Patterns of Social Vulnerability and Adaptation Challenges in Three Coastal Cities,” Journal of Planning Education and Research, 36(3), 304-318.

Wilson, Bev, and Andrew Greenlee. “The Geography of Opportunity: An Exploratory Spatial Data Analysis of U.S. Counties,” GeoJournal, 81(4), 625-640.

Chakraborty, Arnab, Bev Wilson, Saket Sarraf, and Arnab Jana. “Open Data for Informal Settlements: Toward A User’s Guide for Urban Managers and Planners,” Journal of Urban Management, 4(2), 74-91.

Teaching and Advising

Classes Taught

  • UP 204 - Chicago: Planning & Urban Life
  • UP 418 - GIS for Planners (summer online)
  • UP 457 - Small Town/Rural Planning Workshop
  • UP 494 - Civic Technology and the Digital City
  • UP 504 - Urban History and Theory
  • UP 519 - Advanced Applications of GIS
  • UP 594 - Technology and the Megacity Studio (co-instructor)

Current Advising

  • Sarah Buchhorn (Masters Urban + Regional Planning, UIUC, 2018), “Rainwater Harvesting in Champaign-Urbana,” Chair
  • Aaron Petri (PhD Urban + Regional Planning, UIUC, 2015-present), “The Role of Urban Tree Location, Spatial Configuration, and Density in Heat Island Mitigation, Ecosystem Service Provisioning and Tree Survivability,” Chair
  • Andrew McMillan (PhD Urban + Regional Planning, UIUC, 2015-present), “After the Foreclosure Crisis: Measuring Neighborhood Recovery and Contributing Factors”

Previous Advising

  • Ketong Xie (Masters Urban + Regional Planning, UIUC, 2017), “Plan for the Village of Mahomet,” Chair
  • Yuyan Huang (Masters Urban + Regional Planning, UIUC, 2017), “Developing an Online Land Use Database for the Chicago Region,” Chair
  • Elizabeth Bastian (Masters Urban + Regional Planning, UIUC, 2016), “Build Better, Build Open: a Case Study of Civic Technology in Greater Chicago, IL,” Chair
  • Stephanie Timm, (PhD Urban + Regional Planning, UIUC, 2016), “Discerning the Role of Culture in Innovative Sustainable Planning Strategies”
  • Shakil Kashem (PhD Urban + Regional Planning, UIUC, 2015), “Moving Towards Disaster: Examining the Changing Patterns of Social Vulnerability in a Multi-Hazard Urban Environment,” Chair
  • Sungwon Lee (PhD Urban + Regional Planning, UIUC, 2015), “The Influence of Urban Form and Fuel Price on GHG Emissions in the U.S. Household Sector”
  • Bernardo Salazar (Masters Urban + Regional Planning, UIUC, 2015), “Online Community Survey Tool,” Chair
  • Kristina Tranel (Masters Urban + Regional Planning, UIUC, 2015), “Sustainable Energy Planning for a Changing Climate in the Southwestern United States: A Fort Bliss Case Study,” Chair
  • Aaron Bond (Masters Urban + Regional Planning, UIUC, 2014), “Bedford Connections,” Chair
  • Dustin Allred (PhD Urban + Regional Planning, UIUC, 2013), “Examining the Effectiveness of Voluntary Coordination Among Local Governments: Evidence from a Regional Land Use Planning Process”
  • Kevin Berg (Masters Geography, UIUC, 2013), “The Social Determinants of Evacuation Time along the Gulf Coast of the United States: A Multilevel Analysis”
  • Shawn Sanes (Masters Landscape Architecture, UIUC, 2013), “Giving New Meaning to “Mound City”: Landfills as a Historical Narrative of St. Louis, Missouri”
  • Katherine Nesse (PhD Urban + Regional Planning, UIUC, 2012), “How Do We Know? Determining School District Fiscal and Administrative Policy in Rural Hispanic Boomtowns in the Midwest”
  • Janel Gomez (Masters Urban + Regional Planning, UIUC, 2011), “Vertical Inequities in Property Taxation: A Spatial Analysis of California’s Proposition 13,” Chair
  • Brie Sherow (Masters Urban + Regional Planning, UIUC, 2011), “Surfbreak Identification and Mapping in New Zealand,” Chair
  • Rachel Siegert (Masters Urban + Regional Planning, UIUC, 2010), “Village of Rochester Comprehensive Plan,” Chair
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