Current Teaching Role:

Assistant Professor of Race and Social Justice in the Built Environment | Tenure Track Joint Appointment in the Northeastern University School of Architecture and School of Public Policy & Urban Affairs

Read recent TRACE course reviews here and below:

Course Descriptions

Summary of new courses that I have created and taught at Northeastern University:

ARCH 6340: Participatory Mapping

Although a land acknowledgment is never sufficient, it is important to do so in a class that focuses on mapping place. We acknowledge the territory on which Northeastern University stands, which is the land of The Wampanoag and The Massachusett People.

This section of “Graduate Topics in Architecture” picks apart traditional conventions for delineating/remembering the shape of our physical and social geography. Students will have an opportunity to develop new and shared visual tools for mapping through experiments with meditation, sound journeys, surrealist painting, and movement practice. We will explore the power dynamics embedded in contemporary and historic cartography as a tool for stratification, oppression, and spatial injustice. Through readings and guest lectures by participatory mapping practitioners, the class will introduce students to recent efforts to democratize. Grounding texts will range from spatial practice to science fiction, including – adrienne maree brown, André Breton, Audre Lorde, Edward Soja, Guy Debord, Henri Lefebvre, Octavia Butler, Rebecca Solnit, BlackSpaceNYC, Center for Urban Pedagogy and Center for Land Use Interpretation.

The semester will be divided into three modules: 1) ‘A’ History of Cartography; 2) Psychogeography & Surrealism; 3) Contemporary Strategies in Participatory Mapping.

PPUA 5235 – Participatory Community Planning Methods

This class examines participant engagement’s role as a fundamental aspect of most urban planning processes. From mandatory community meetings to assess private development proposals in NYC’s Uniform Land Use Review Process (ULURP) to DS4SI’s “People’s Redevelopment Authority” (PRA) project, contemporary planners are employing a range of strategies to ensure buy-in from a project’s stakeholders. Together, we will engage historical precedents to locate gaps between the “plan the present” model (ULURP) used in many planning processes and ‘co-design’ processes (PRA) that seek to redefine the role of the “technical expert”.

Urban Design studios like Jan Gehl’s office have ventured to propose open-source engagement strategies. Municipal urban planning departments codify sometimes outdated methods of engagement into policy. But is there a “right way” to lead participatory planning processes? When and where should community stakeholders engage with the planning and design process? And how does a planner identify the right stakeholders? PPUA 5235 offers students the opportunity to develop a toolkit of engagement methods from varied models of participatory planning processes. We will engage in project-based work that enlists these methods. To conclude the class, students will develop presentations or papers to assess the efficacy of these methods when identifying the right stakeholders, and when determining when/how to bring stakeholder participation into a planning process.


ARCH 5310 – Design Tactics and Operations

  • “The content of the class were very interesting, it really made you think about mapping in more than one way and recognize the influences that they have. The assignments reflected the course timeline and I liked that it was separated into three sections. I also appreciated different ways of learning, the presentations, going outside to meditate, showing our work talking with experts in the field. I also really felt valued by the professor through the vibe check-ins and by prioritizing our health when needed.”
  • “Cara is so smart!! I loved learning from her and finally seeing myself in an instructor. I think she values aspects of design that are often forgotten, and shifts from training all students identically same in their career.”
  • “I think it is a completely different way of teaching architecture and design. Mapping is taught so rigidly in architecture that I was so excited to see its in a different way.”
  • “Cara is an engaging professor; I appreciated her perspective and approach to interacting with students. I also thoroughly enjoyed the structured-but-creative assignments that gave us a framework through which to think about place and mapping practices.”
  • “Cara’s enthusiasm for the course was refreshing, and the projects felt very unique in their format while still being well-tailored to the curriculum.”
  • “I got a totally new view of what mapping is and what it can achieve. Cara is super enthusiastic and understanding of our other obligations outside of this class. She is really good at keeping us engaged in class work and her mental health check ins with us before each class are much appreciated.”

PPUA 5235 – Participatory Community Planning Methods | Fall 2022

  • “This is a great class for future practitioners. I loved that Cara brought in a variety of guest speakers that gave us insight into the different players/perspectives/aspects of community planning, while Cara’s own experiences were often the source of useful insights. She also promotes an inclusive and open learning environment that I think really benefited those of us who were engaged in the course.”
  • “Cara was passionate about the material and created a welcoming and fun environment. She did a great job of structuring class time into chunks to keep things engaging. Her lectures were the best part of the class.”

ARCH 1450 – Understanding Design | Spring 2022

  • “Professor Michell seemed very passionate about design and was able to teach how to incorporate design into many different aspects, areas, and fields. She also created a respectful and welcoming space that made it easy to share thoughts and ideas.”
  • “Amazing communicator and was very clear with what she expected”
  • “Professor Michell brought a lively and positive energy to the classroom and was super kind. She was informative and passionate within the material she taught.”
  • “Good presentations, engaging guest lectures, no cold-calling.”
  • “Strong professor who engaged the students. I could tell she was passionate about the topics and took into consideration all majors for the class.”
  • “Prof. Michell has been a practicing urban planner and designer, so her experiences in the field definitely further enriched my learning experience in the class. Her unique perspectives made the material more relatable to me despite me not being a design/architecture major, and she does an excellent job teaching the many ways that design is incorporated into everyday life.”
  • “Professor Michell is enthusiastic and intelligent and her passion for design is evident in every class and assignment she creates! She put an emphasis on design for care, was very communicative throughout the semester, and made sure to do check-ins every class. One of the best professors I’ve ever had!”
  • “Interesting material, clear and simple assignments, help more than available when needed.”

PPUA 7673 – Capstone in Public Policy and Urban Affairs | Spring 2022

  • “The best professor I’ve ever met! She’s very knowledgeable and approachable.”
  • “Cara is an enthusiastic, outgoing, and understanding professor. The course itself was open-ended in nature as every group had a different capstone client and project, and Cara handled that with grace.”
  • “Cara is amazing and helpful! I think her ability to show us real examples of her work was instrumental in understanding and developing our deliverable.”
  • “Very good at communication and supporting her students. Especially when it came to client/student relations.”
  • “The professor was very good at backing and standing up for her students. She was able to navigate some challenging situations with our client this semester without losing respect from her students or the client.”
  • “Cara anchored us and helped us create a meaningful project.”

ARCH 1450 – Understanding Design | Fall 2021

  • “Like Professor Li, Professor Michell was an excellent professor and brought a lot of design experience with her and was very engaging when teaching the class. The course was very valuable for me as I try to figure out my career path in covering so much, and Professor Michell was always very open with sharing her experience and providing advice or feedback.”
  • “I thought this instructor was very coherent and explains all topics completely and clearly. We had great activities where students can interact and learn more about the material through discussion problems. It made the course a lot more interactive and interesting.
  • “Instructor was clearly passionate about the course material and gave thoughtful feedback when approached individually. They were usually pretty helpful in asking questions that were thought provoking and helped me improve my project.”
  • “She engages the class with her enthusiasm and joy in discussing various topics. She includes real stories from her life which provide the students with clear examples as well as creates a natural bond between her and the class.”
  • “I think that it allowed for a lot of different perspectives to be met and was something at least for me a class that I have never really done before anything like it. Professor Michell was a great professor and really nice person. She is always understanding, and you can tell that she loves what she does”
  • ” The instructor was very passionate about her lectures and provided the students with a great amount of information. She were always organized and prepared for class.”
%d bloggers like this: