Patrick Nugent entered the Ph.D. program in the American Studies Department at George Washington University in the Fall of 2010 after teaching composition, literature, and environmental studies at Brooklyn College from 2006-2010. Investigating the architecture, ecology, and political culture of the mid-twentieth century metropolis, Pat is particularly dedicated to telling interdisciplinary histories of urban place and culture.
His dissertation, “Ecological Renewal and the Urban Crisis: From Social Diversity to Biodiversity in New York City's ‘Last Frontier,’ 1958-1993,” traces a history of city-planning disputes on Staten Island, revealing how the planning preferences of liberal citizens shifted away from dense, integrated landscapes, toward low-density, biodiverse habitats. The narrative follows “the era of urban renewal” through its demise in mid-1970 and 1980s New York City, revealing how ecological renewal and environmental education offered urban citizens an alternative avenue for government intervention and redress even if such governance elided the housing segregation and social inequality etched into the metropolis.
Having received grants and fellowships from the Rockefeller Archive Center, New York State Archives, Jeffrey C. Kasch Foundation, and Northeast Modern Language Association, his research has followed the many planners, politicians, architects, and ecologists engaged in debates over the future of Staten Island. Pat has presented his findings at the annual meetings of the Policy History Association, Modern Language Association, Northeast Modern Language Association, City University of New York’s Contemplative Network, and Freshkills Park Alliance.
As an instructor, Pat has designed and taught courses for the English Department at Brooklyn College—such as “Ethnicity and Identity in New York City Literature” and “Ecological Science in American Literature and Politics”—and served as a teaching assistant for several American Studies courses offered at GWU, including “American Architecture, 1860-Present,” “The American City,” and “America in the 1960s.” For a number of these courses, he has designed and guided historical tours through various urban environments with the goal to make course concepts ever more tangible and exciting for students. Some of his tours have included “Landscape, Monuments, and Memory on the National Mall,” “The Modern Skyscraper and Progressive Park in Downtown D.C.,” and “African-American Migrations in the Nation’s Capital: From the Mid-City Alleyways to Black Broadway and LeDroit Park.”
Meet A GA: Pat Nugent
Spotlight: Patrick Nugent
What are you studying/ working on right now?
I am working on my dissertation which is about the urban and environmental history of Staten Island, New York City's ‘forgotten borough’.
What did you study in undergrad and where?
English, at the University of Maryland
Why American Studies and why GW?
I chose American Studies because it welcomed multiple approaches to the study of the urban environment. I grew up just outside of DC so GW was a way to return to the DC area.
What is your favorite book?
Danger on Peaks by Gary Snyder or Brutal Imagination by Cornelius Eady. Both are books of poetry.
What is your favorite thing to do in DC?
I like to explore DC by bike and go trail running in Rock Creek Park.
What advice would you give to the GW undergrads in American Studies?
Undergraduate studies should not be about getting perfect grades or finding the perfect major but finding an approach to learning that excites you.