Elizabeth Hermann teaches interdisciplinary courses on the urban built environment; transdisciplinary design in the context of social and economic development; urban water issues, poverty and land rights; sustainability and resilience; and critical cartography looking at issues of displacement, place and identity. She is founder and co-director of DESINE Lab Collective, an independent applied research lab where RISD faculty, together with students and alumni from RISD and Brown, work with partners in South Asia, Africa, Latin America and the US to develop and implement design-based integrated multi-scalar social and economic strategies for under-resourced, post-conflict and post-disaster societies. The work covers the arenas of human capacity building, livelihood development, women's empowerment, entrepreneurship, education and institution building and the built environment and sustainable practices.
Hermann has been a visiting professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Brown University’s Watson Institute for International Studies, Harvard University and Washington University St. Louis. She has been a social innovator-in-residence and a visiting scholar in Babson College’s Social Innovation Lab and Entrepreneurship Program and a SPURS fellow in Urban Studies and Planning at MIT. She is a research fellow in the Collaborative for Inclusive Urbanism, University of Oregon; a professional fellow in Economic Empowerment with the US State Department; and a fellow of the American Academy in Rome. She has served as a senior planning consultant for the new Asian University for Women founded in Chittagong, Bangladesh and as a consultant for the new Aga Khan Islamic Art Museum in Toronto.
At Harvard University, Hermann’s work focused on the urban built environment in the pre-modern Muslim world and changes driven by medical and political responses to pandemic disease and associated environmental upheaval. Prior to her design and urbanism studies, she did graduate work at the School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University where her research focused on tropical diseases in Latin America and their relationship to settlement patterns and human behaviors.
Hermann’s current research focuses on urbanization through conflict-driven displacement in Sri Lanka; the role of the creative industries in the redevelopment of the war-impacted parts of the country; and ideas of community participation in government-led land-use and urbanization planning processes in the Eastern Province, with particular attention to the region’s unique (for Sri Lanka) matrilineal land inheritance system and its implications for a greater role for women in decision-making processes.
Hermann is a faculty affiliate of Brown University’s Center for Contemporary South Asia and the Humanitarian Innovation Initiative at the Watson Institute for International Studies.