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University Building

Unleashing Walkability: Paving the Path to a Vibrant Campus 

Text By: Gisou Salkhi 

Date: June 2023 

At present, I'm in my fifth year as a Ph.D. candidate in the exciting Land-use Planning, Management, and Design (LPMD) field at Texas Tech University. My journey began when I earned my bachelor's degree in Architecture and master's degree in Architectural Technology. Along the way, I was fortunate enough to receive the esteemed Ela Olga Urbanovsky Fellowship, which covered three years of my studies. I've also been honored with scholarships like the Graduate Research Support Awards, the J.T. & Margaret Talkington Scholarship, and a Ph.D. scholarship from the College of Architecture. 

Since joining Texas Tech in 2018, I've been involved in various roles and positions. From being a graduate assistant for professors in the College of Architecture to working as a part-time instructor for the Integrative Design Studio, I've gained valuable experience and insights. Additionally, I've had the opportunity to work as a research assistant, further fueling my passion for exploration and learning. 

When I first arrived in the USA and the charming city of Lubbock, one thing caught my attention—the cities and transportation infrastructure have been heavily influenced by cars and suburban sprawl. As an international student living off-campus, I quickly adopted walking as my primary mode of transportation. Over the past five years, I've noticed a growing number of students struggling with obesity due to sedentary lifestyles and limited physical activity. Especially during the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns, I got struck by the way students became less physically active. I thought our campus could play a vital role in promoting physical activity and well-being for everyone, including staff, professors, and students. 

As someone who genuinely enjoys walking, I became deeply interested in the concept of walkability (check sources at the end of this piece) and its impact on our campus environment. That curiosity sparked my research journey, focusing on understanding the characteristics that make a campus walkable. To do this, I leverage innovative geolocation technology and employ data-driven and theory-driven methods. I'm determined to uncover how certain features of the built environment can enhance walkability on our campus.

Gisou Architecture.jpg

Gisou at the The Architectural Research Centers Consortium (ARCC) Conference in Miami, FL (2022).

One of the things I absolutely love about being part of the LPMD program is the opportunity to think beyond traditional disciplinary boundaries. It has opened my eyes to the fascinating realm of human behavior and its intricate relationship with the built environment. Working on campus walkability has allowed me to collaborate with professors and experts from various disciplines, enriching my research with valuable insights and knowledge. To better understanding of our campus's built environment, I've analyzed its physical structure and morphology. I've also organized engaging workshops that employ participatory mapping techniques to capture the perceptions of our campus users and pedestrians. 


During my academic journey, I took independent research in the Program of Geography and RED Lab, which introduced me to a fantastic qualitative research method called participatory mapping. This tool has been amazing in collecting valuable data from users and incorporating their perspectives into my research. It has provided me with a deeper understanding of the campus environment and how pedestrians experience it. By involving the users themselves in the mapping process, we can capture their unique insights and preferences, ultimately enhancing the quality of our research and its applicability to real-world situations.

My ultimate goal in my Ph.D. research is to create a campus that encourages walking and inspires regular physical activity among students. After all, for many of them, the campus is like a second home—a place where they spend a significant amount of their time. By embracing participatory mapping and understanding the experiences and perspectives of our campus community, we can foster an environment that supports and promotes their well-being through daily physical activity. 

I'm excited to continue this journey of discovery and contribute to creating a healthier and more vibrant campus environment. Stay tuned as I share more updates and insights along the way! 


Want to know more about my work?

My LinkedIn: 

On the The Daily Toreador: 

Got interested in walkability? Here are some great sources:


Path Analysis of Campus Walkability/Bikeability and College Students’ Physical Activity Attitudes, Behaviors, and Body Mass Index


Assessing the Rationality and Walkability of Campus Layouts

Walkability 101: A Multi-Method Assessment of the Walkability at a University Campus

Built Environment and Walking Behavior: A Systematic Review on Campus Walkability Assessments

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