Steve French poses next to the Rapunzel Bench in the West Architecture building.

Steven French

Dean and John Portman Chair, College of Design

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Steven P. French is dean of the College of Design and professor of City and Regional Planning at Georgia Institute of Technology. He joined Georgia Tech in 1992 as the director of the City Planning program and served in that position until August 1999. He was the director of the Center for Geographic Information Systems from 1997 through 2011. He served as associate dean for research for the College of Architecture (now the College of Design) from July 2009 through June 2013.

French’s teaching and research activities focus on sustainable urban development, land use planning, GIS applications, and natural hazard risk assessment. In addition to his administrative assignments, Professor French has regularly taught graduate courses in land use, planning, and GIS. He has graduated six Ph.D. students and advised more than 50 Masters students in City and Regional Planning. He has also served on numerous dissertation committees in Architecture, Civil Engineering, and Public Policy.

Over the past twenty-five years, French has been the principal investigator or co-principal investigator on more than seventy research projects. He has participated in a number of National Science Foundation projects dealing with flood and earthquake hazards and was the Social Science Thrust Leader for the Mid-America Earthquake Center, an NSF Engineering Research Center. He has extensive experience in building and managing multidisciplinary teams of social scientists, architects, engineers, and scientists. French is the author or co-author of more than 25 refereed journal articles and four books. He has served on the editorial boards of the Journal of the American Planning Association, Journal of Planning Education and Research, Journal of the Urban and Regional Information Systems Association and Earthquake Spectra.

French has served on numerous Institute committees at Georgia Tech, including the conflict of interest committee, the strategic technology investment committee and the strategic plan implementation committee, where he was the liaison for the Burdell Interdisciplinary Design Center initiative. He has also chaired the College of Architecture Reappointment, Promotion and Tenure Committee and served on the Institute RP&T committee.

French holds a Ph.D. in City and Regional Planning from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Before coming to Georgia Tech, he taught for ten years at California Polytechnic State University-San Luis Obispo. In 1987-88, he served as the visiting professor of resources planning in the Civil Engineering Department at Stanford University. He is a Fellow of the American Institute of Certified Planners and an associate member of the American Institute of Architects.

Educational Background

1980 - Ph.D. (City and Regional Planning), University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill
1973 - Master of Urban and Regional Planning, University of Colorado - Denver
1971 - B.A. with Honors (Economics), University of Virginia


  • Sustainable Urban Development
  • Geographic Information System Applications
  • Earthquake and Flood Hazard Analysis and Mitigation
  • Modeling Urban Development Impacts


The opportunities in green buildings, alternative energy, sustainability, health care, smart growth and spatial and building information technologies have never been greater. The topics that are central to the College of Design are currently at the forefront of the research agenda of the nation and the Institute. Georgia Tech can and should lead the way in linking design with cutting edge science and engineering research. To do this we need to strengthen the research support infrastructure within the college, build an incentive structure that supports research and develop stronger interdisciplinary ties within the college and, more importantly, to other units across campus.

In terms of my own research agenda, I intend to focus on the development of urban models that can be used to understand and implement more sustainable urban development. This work will draw on my earlier work on land-use modeling, impact assessment, GIS and natural hazards.


Selected Publications

Recent Funded Projects

  • 2011-2012 Co-Principal Investigator - Georgia Tech Foundation – “Caribbean hazard and mitigation project (CHAMP)”
  • 2008, Co-Principal Investigator – U.S. Department of Energy – “Assessment of Energy Production Potential from Tidal Streams in the United States”
  • 2008, Principal Investigator – Georgia Technology Authority – “Georgia GIS Data Clearinghouse”
  • 2008, Principal Investigator - University System of Georgia - “Strategic Initiative for Geographic Information Systems”
  • 2007, Co-Principal Investigator – National Science Foundation – “NEESR-Grand Challenge: Simulation of the Seismic Performance of Nonstructural Systems”
  • 2007, Principal Investigator – Georgia Technology Authority – “Georgia GIS Data Clearinghouse”
  • 2007, Principal Investigator - University System of Georgia - “Strategic Initiative for Geographic Information Systems”


Recent Courses

  • CP 6541 – Environmental GIS, Spring 2007 - 2012
  • CP 6112 – Introduction to Land Use Planning, Spring 2000 - 2003, Fall 2004 - 2012

Dissertations Supervised

  • Ge Song - 2013 - Polycentric Development and Transport Network in China's Megaregions
  • Dalbyul Lee - 2012 - The Impact of Natural Disasters on Neighborhood Change: Longitudinal Data Analysis
  • Ning Ai - 2011 - Challenges of Sustainable Urban Planning: the Case of Municipal Solid Waste Management
  • Liora Sahar – 2009 – Using Remote Sensing and GIS Technology for Automated Building Extraction
  • Subrahmanyam Muthukumar – 2008 - The Application of Advanced Inventory Techniques in Urban Inventory Data Development to Earthquake Risk Modeling and Mitigation in Mid-America
  • Sugie Lee – 2005 – Metropolitan Growth Patterns' Impact on Intra-Regional Spatial Differentiation and Inner-Ring Suburban Decline: Insights for Smart Growth