University of Pennsylvania

University of Pennsylvania

Philadelphia, PA


Weitzman Welcomes New Chairs and Faculty for 2024-2025 Academic Year

By Weitzman
Jun 25, '24 12:03 PM EST

The University of Pennsylvania Stuart Weitzman School of Design welcomes seven new members of the standing and associated faculty in the 2024 - 2025 Academic Year, subject to University approval, and two new department chairs.

“As communities across the US and abroad face imminent threats from climate change and social inequality, our newest faculty members share our school’s commitment to working across disciplines and cultural divides to make progress on both fronts,” said Fritz Steiner, dean and Paley Professor at Weitzman.

With decades of combined experience in practice and scholarship, this year’s new appointees represent all five of the school’s academic departments:

  • Michelle Delk, Laurie Olin Professor of Practice, Department of Landscape Architecture
  • Jules Dingle, Professor of Practice, Department of Historic Preservation
  • Xiaoxia (Summer) Dong, Assistant Professor, Department of City & Regional Planning
  • Andrew Holder, Visiting Associate Professor, Department of Architecture
  • Xiaojiang Li, Assistant Professor, Master of Urban Spatial Analytics Program, Department of City & Regional Planning
  • Ani Liu, Carrafiell Assistant Professor (Emerging Design), Department of Fine Arts
  • Jessica Varner, Assistant Professor, Department of Landscape Architecture

Sharon Hayes, professor of fine arts, has been named chair of the Department of Fine Arts, and Megan Ryerson, the UPS Chair of Transportation and professor of city and regional planning and electrical and systems engineering, has been named chair of the Department of City & Regional Planning. Hayes, a widely-exhibited video, performance and installation artist whose work is featured in the 2024 Whitney Biennial, joined the Weitzman faculty in the fall of 2015, following a seven-year tenure at The Cooper Union. Ryerson, an authority on transportation planning with a focus on aviation, joined the faculty in 2013. She served as the Weitzman School’s first associate dean for research and founded the Research Support Center; during her tenure, awarded grants grew by over 300%.

Michelle Delk (Laurie Olin Professor of Practice, Department of Landscape Architecture) is a partner with Snøhetta based in New York City. She leads the Landscape Architecture practice in the Americas as a passionate advocate and designer of the public realm. Her work is evocative of a foundational premise shared with Snøhetta: to create places that enhance the positive relationships between people and their environments. She encourages innovative approach­es to collaboration that are non-hierarchi­cal and trans-disciplinary. Both aspirational and pragmatic, she seeks to discover and expand the urban landscape vernacular, striving to express the subtleties of place through the incongruities of memory, envi­ronment, and social perceptions. Delk is a Fellow with the American Society of Landscape Architects, a board member with New York’s Urban Design Forum, and member of the Cultural Landscape Foundation Stewardship Council, and actively supports a variety of landscape advocacy organizations, cura­torial projects, and academic institutions.

Jules Dingle (Professor of Practice, Department of Historic Preservation) is a co-founding Partner of DIGSAU, a Philadelphia-based architecture practice recognized internationally for thought leadership and design excellence. Collectively they have a broad view of architecture, how it is made, who makes it, and who benefits. Their work is notable for an unwavering optimism that novel design solutions exist for every problem. As a design principal and a critical thought leader, Dingle focuses on how the firm’s work embraces innovation and engages both the practical and the profound. His interest in embodied carbon reduction and overall resourcefulness shapes a vision of preservation as a creative pursuit that engages artifacts of consequence alongside new ideas of adaptive reuse. He believes that questions of equity and the environment encourage a more nuanced way of thinking about preservation that provides continuity with the past, simultaneously recognizing that an important part of that continuity is change. This includes not just physical material and objects, but also questions of use and the cultural, ecological, and economic forces that affect community self-determination.  

Xiaoxia (Summer) Dong (Assistant Professor, Department of City & Regional Planning) has been a research associate and lecturer in the Department of City & Regional Planning at Weitzman since 2021. Previously, he was a Postdoctoral Fellow in the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University. His research examines traffic safety and the impact of new transportation technologies and services on travel behavior and the built environment. He has published peer-reviewed articles on user perceptions of driverless buses, mode preferences for ride-share and transit, road safety, and driver’s education for adolescents in the US. Prior to academia, Summer was a transportation planner at Fehr & Peers, where he participated in first/last mile studies, transportation master plans, and other projects for a wide range of clients in the public and private sectors.

Sharon Hayes (Professor and Chair, Department of Fine Arts) is an artist who uses video, performance, sound and public sculpture to expose specific intersections between history, politics and speech, to unspool reductive historical narratives and to re-ignite dormant pathways through which counter-understandings of the contemporary political condition can be formed. In her work, she lingers in the grammars–linguistic, affective and sonic–through which political resistance appears. Her most recent work Ricerche: four, a two-channel video installation composed of footage from three group interviews with queer and trans elders in Philadelphia, Dowelltown, Tennessee and Los Angeles, is currently being exhibited in the 2024 Whitney Biennial. Hayes has had numerous solo exhibitions, including at n.b.k. (Neue Berliner Kunstverein) in Berlin, Germany (2022), Moderna Museet in Stockholm, Sweden (2019), Andrea Rosen Gallery in New York (2014), the Tanya Leighton Gallery in Berlin (2013), the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York (2012), and the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia in Madrid (2012). Her work has also been exhibited at the Venice Biennale (2013), The Museum of Modern Art in New York, and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. She is the recipient of numerous awards and grants.

Andrew Holder (Visiting Associate Professor, Department of Architecture) is both a practitioner and a theorist of contemporary architecture. He is co-principal of The LADG, an award-winning architectural practice based in Los Angeles, where his design work focuses on using empathy to communicate the intellectual logic of buildings to audiences in ways that can be grasped viscerally. Recent projects include an installation at LACMA, a series of houses in Los Angeles, a retreat in rural Maine, and studies for the densification of single-family neighborhoods. Holder’s writing similarly connects architecture’s form and physical presence to its participation in culture and the history of ideas, most recently in the book Inscriptions: Architecture Before Speech, co-edited with K. Michael Hays. He is a frequent lecturer and guest critic at institutions across the United States. He has held teaching appointments at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, where he served as MArch I Program Director, the University of Michigan, the University of Queensland, UCLA, SCI-Arc, and Otis College of Art and Design.

Xiaojiang Li (Assistant Professor, Master of Urban Spatial Analytics Program, Department of City & Regional Planning) held positions as an assistant professor in the Department of Geography and Urban Studies, Temple University, and a postdoctoral fellow at the Senseable City Lab, MIT. His research focuses on urban analytics, geospatial data science, urban resilience to climate change, landscape and environmental planning, and urban environmental health. He has proposed to use Google Street View and machine learning for urban landscape studies and developed the Treepedia project, which aims to map and quantify streetscapes for cities around the world. He has received support from the National Science Foundation, NASA, and Microsoft to investigate the impacts of extreme heat on pedestrians and heat vulnerability across different neighborhoods and racial/ethnic groups. His research aims to provide a better understanding of urban socio-environmental systems and explore how data, science, design, and planning help us to tackle socio-environmental challenges. He received his PhD from the Department of Geography, University of Connecticut.

Ani Liu (Carrafiell Assistant Professor, Emerging Design, Department of Fine Arts) is an internationally exhibiting artist working at the intersection of art and science. Her work examines the reciprocal relationships between science and technology and their influence on human subjectivity, culture, and identity; reoccurring themes include gender politics, biopolitics, labor, simulation and sexuality. Liu’s work has been exhibited at the Venice Biennale, Ars Electronica, the Queens Museum Biennial, Boston Museum of Fine Arts, the Asian Art Museum, MIT Museum, MIT Media Lab, Mana Contemporary, Harvard University, and Shenzhen Design Society. She has taught at Penn since the fall of 2021 and previously taught at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, Princeton University, and Columbia University. Liu has a Master of Architecture from the Harvard University Graduate School of Design, and a Master of Science from MIT Media Lab. 

Megan Ryerson (Professor of City and Regional Planning and Electrical & Systems Engineering; UPS Chair; Chair, Department of City & Regional Planning) is an authority on transportation engineering and planning, with a focus on intercity transportation planning and urban transportation safety. She has written extensively on air transportation, including environmental impacts, economic development, and multimodal planning. In 2024, she was awarded a $6M NASA University Leadership Initiative award to study, develop, and deploy solutions for aviation system resilience. She founded and leads Weitzman’s Center for Safe Mobility, which focuses on the development of development of novel, human-centered transportation safety metrics as well as the evaluation of safety-focused policies. She has published over 65 peer-reviewed articles, won numerous awards for her scholarship and leadership, and counseled major airlines, cities, universities, airports and Port Authorities, and the Federal Aviation Administration. She is a committed educator dedicated to the advancement of women in transportation.

Jessica Varner (Assistant Professor, Department of Landscape Architecture) is a Getty/ACLS Fellow in the History of Art (2023-24) and is working with the University of Chicago Press on her forthcoming book, Chemical Desires: When the Chemical Industry Met Modern Design (1870-1970). Her current research has received generous support from the Fulbright Foundation, Max Planck Institute for the History of Science (MPIWG), National Science Foundation, Science History Institute, USC Society of Fellows, and the Graham Foundation. Her recent work includes articles, chapters, and book projects on chromium, drywall, toxicity, the EPA’s public history, synthetic chemicals in building materials, neurotoxins, and chemical modernity. Varner works collectively with the Environmental Data & Governance Initiative (EDGI, co-founder of A People’s EPA (APE)) and Coming Clean to seek alternatives and repair in toxics. She has a PhD in History, Theory, Criticism of Art and Architecture from MIT and Master of Environmental Design and Master of Architecture from Yale.

Academic appointments are subject to review and approval by the School, provost, and the Board of Trustees.

Learn more at

Media Contact: Michael Grant, [email protected], 215.898.2539.