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Stephen Mainzer

Assistant Professor of Landscape Architecture
Stephen Mainzer
229 Stuckeman Family Building
Instagram drmainzer
Twitter drmainzer
LinkedIn @smainzer

The widening fractures across our national political landscape have polarized opinions about our systemic environmental problems. In response, Stephen Mainzer’s work aims to advocate for societal benefits while producing evidence that contributes to the infrastructure of research.

As a designer, educator, and researcher, Mainzer engages a socio-ecological systems approach to exploring how political and environmental sentiment drives the decision dynamics of coupled human and natural systems. He aims to identify new theoretical frameworks that describe the complex interactions between a person or community’s values and their social and biophysical environment. By building upon the field theories of landscape, community, and behavior, Mainzer explores the conflicts implicit in: the socio-ecological drivers of voting; the politics, place, and race of the coronavirus pandemic; and the urban-rural dynamics of solar energy suitability. His methods draw upon a background in professional practice and a transdisciplinary doctoral program to apply systems-thinking, geographic information systems, statistics, and qualitative techniques.

Mainzer teaches across the landscape architecture curriculum with a focus on the introductory studio design process, culture, and communication. He encourages nascent designers to learn by doing, developing self-critique, and thinking independently through an equitably scaffolded process that meets students where they are while preparing them for a rigorous nationally-ranked curriculum.

  • Education
    • 2017 Ph.D., dual title – Architecture & Human Dimensions of Natural Resources and the Environment. The Pennsylvania State University
    • 2011 M.S. in Landscape Architecture. The Pennsylvania State University
    • 2005 B.L.A., The Pennsylvania State University
  • Courses Taught
    • Introductory Design Studio I
    • Skills Lab I: Hand & Digital Graphics
    • Design and Theory V: Advanced Landscape Architectural Design (Climate Change Studio)
    • Design and Theory V: Advanced Landscape Architectural Design (Rivertown Resiliency Studio)
    • Design and Theory V: Advanced Landscape Architectural Design (Restitching Political Polarization Studio)
    • LARCH 424: Design Theory Seminar: Threats to Democracy, Humans & the Environment
  • Honors + Awards

    Selected Grants

    • Mainzer, S. (Principal Investigator), Pakhtigian, E. (Co-Principal Investigator), “Sustainability Research Team Grant,” College of Arts & Architecture & Sustainability Institute.
    • Mainzer, S. (Principal Investigator), Andrews, L. (Co-Principal Investigator), Jasani, S. (Co-Principal Investigator), Brown, J. (Co-Principal Investigator), “Finding Common Space: Reconciling One Health Socio-environmental Factors in Pennsylvania,” Institute for Energy and the Environment.
    • Mainzer, S. P. (Co-Principal Investigator), Flohr, T. (Co-Principal Investigator), “Pennsylvania’s Solar Future: Comparing Potential between Urban and Rural Areas,” Living Labs (Lightsource BP w/ Sustainability Institute).
    • Mainzer, S. P. (Principal Investigator), “Socio-Ecological Structure of Pro-environmental Governance in Pennsylvania Counties,” College of Arts & Architecture, The Pennsylvania State University.
    • Mainzer, S. (Co-Principal Investigator), Cole, C. A. (Co-Principal Investigator), “Deep Decarbonization and Renewable Energy in Appalachia (DDREAM),” College of Arts & Architecture.
    • Mainzer, S. (Principal Investigator), “Research Incentive Grant,” Center for Human Ecology.
    • Mainzer, S. (Principal Investigator), “Transdisciplinary Action Research Design Studio (TARDes) for Climate Change Intervention.,” The Center for Pedagogy in Arts and Design Discovery Grant.
  • Publications + Presentations

    Selected Presentations

    • Mainzer, Stephen, Pakhtigian, Emily L. Framing Political-Environment Dynamics of Coupled Human Health and Social Equity in The Chesapeake Bay Watershed., EDRA, Greenville, SC, Accepted, peer-reviewed/refereed. (June 1, 2022 – June 4, 2022)
    • Mainzer, Stephen. Toward a comprehensive approach to social & ecological divides in the environment, Southern Illinois University Research Design Lecture Series, Virtual, Invited. (November 3, 2021)
    • Mainzer, Stephen. Finding Value in Undergraduate Research Assistants from Design Majors: Examples from Landscape Architecture, Rethinking Undergraduate Research in the Humanities, University Park, PA. (October 15, 2021)
    • Mainzer, Stephen, & Flohr, Travis L. The Urban-Rural Battleground: statewide socio-ecological system drivers of voting in Pennsylvania., Council of Educators in Landscape Architecture Annual Conference, Louisville, KY,. (March 18, 2021 – March 21, 2021)
    • Mainzer, Stephen. Voting for the environment: coupled dynamics of political sentiment and biophysical environments, ARCC Virtual Conference, (April 18, 2020)
    • Mainzer, Stephen P., Cole, Charles A., Hendricks, Leslie. DDREAM: Deep Decarbonization and Renewable Energy in the Appalachian Mountains: a socio-ecological systems approach to evaluating ecological governance, Environmental Design and Research Association Conference., Brooklyn, NY. (May 2019)
    • Mainzer, Stephen P., Mainzer, Kendall R., Chomyn, Alexandria. Assessing the state of landscape, community, and behavior inquiry in landscape architecture practice., Council of Educators in Landscape Architecture Annual Conference., Sacramento, CA. (March 2019)
    • Mainzer, Stephen. Community and landscape driven pro-environmental behavior: preliminary findings of household energy consumption in two rural towns., Psychology of Architecture Conference, Austin, TX. (December 2016)
    • Mainzer, Stephen. Towards a transdisciplinary action research design studio: adapting a human dimensions of natural resources education structure, Environmental Design Research Association Conference, Raleigh, VA. (May 2016)

    Peer Refereed Papers

    • Cui, Z., Dillard, J., Pinto, High, A., De La Criz, J.J., Mainzer, S., & Cole, C. A. Media Contributions to a Chesapeake Bay Watershed Collective Identity: A Tale of Three Cities. Environmental Management. [Accepted August 2022].
    • Mainzer, Stephen. The socio-spatial fractures of place, politics, and race from the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S, EDRA, Detroit, MI, Accepted, peer-reviewed/refereed. (May 19, 2021 – May 23, 2021)
    • Mainzer, S. P., Cole, C. A., & Flohr, T. (2019). Deep decarbonization and renewable energy in the Appalachian Mountains (DDREAM): a socio-ecological systems approach to evaluating ecological governance. Socio-Ecological Practice Research, 1(3-4), 14.
    • Zawadzki, S. J., Mainzer, S., McLaughlin, R. A., & Luloff, A.E. (2017). Close but not too close: Landmarks and their influence on housing values. Land Use Policy(62), 351-360.
    • Mainzer, S., & Luloff, A.E. (2017). Informing environmental problems through field analysis: Toward a community landscape theory of pro-environmental behavior. Community Development, 48(4), 483-498.

    Dissertation, Thesis & Monographs

    • Mainzer, Stephen. A community landscape theory of pro-environmental behavior: the effects of landscape and community interaction on residential energy consumption in two Pennsylvania towns. Dissertation. The Pennsylvania State University. 2018.
    • Barrett, Austin, Lauren Abbott, Sarah Eissler, Carolyn Fish, Lacey Goldberg, Stephen Mainzer, and Max Olsen. Community perceptions of local food: a mixed methods approach in State College, PA. State College, PA. The Hamer Center for Community Design. The Pennsylvania State University. ISBN 978-1-941659-04-5. 2015.
    • Mainzer, Stephen. Measuring structural heterogeneity in neighborhoods: the relationship between ecologic principles and physical design attributes in Greendale, W.I. M.S. Thesis. The Pennsylvania State University. 2011.

    Selected Technical Reports

    • Space Coast Long Range Transportation Plan, Renaissance Planning Group. 2014.
    • Pompano Beach Vision Plan, Renaissance Planning Group. 2014.
    • Space Coast Bicycle and Pedestrian Masterplan, Renaissance Planning Group. 2013.
    • Manatee County Complete Streets Policy. Renaissance Planning Group. 2012.
    • Installation Design Guidelines at Fort Drum, Fort Meade, Fort McNair, & Tobyhanna Army Depot, PBS&J, Inc. 2009
  • Built Works


    • Potomac Yard Neighborhood, Alexandira, VA. LandDesign, Inc.
    • The Alexan at Carlyle, Alexandria, VA. LandDesign, Inc.
    • The Groveton, Owning Mills, MD. LandDesign, Inc.


    • Long Bridge Park, Arlington County, VA. Hargreaves Associates.
  • Service + Affiliations


    • Arts & Humanities Division Councilor, Council on Undergraduate Research (CUR)

    College of Arts & Architecture

    • Committee on Scholarships & Awards Committee
    • Research & Creative Scholarship Committee
    • General Education Committee

    Department of Landscape Architecture

    • Ecology + Design (E+D)
    • Graduate Affairs Committee
    • Landscape Architecture Student Society Advisor


    • Social Sciences
    • Land
    • Landscape Journal
    • Environmental Design Research Association Conference
    • Council of Educators in Landscape Architecture Conference
  • Expertise
    • Decision dynamics
    • Coupled human and natural systems
    • Human dimensions of natural resources
    • Political sentiment
    • Environmental sentiment