Hemalata Dandekar, Cal Poly's city and regional planning department head, received an award from the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning for helping to advance women in the field with her book "Shelter, Women and Development." Hannah Croft – Mustang Daily

Cal Poly’s city and regional planning department head, Hemalata Dandekar, recently received the Margarita McCoy Award from the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning (ACSP).

Dandekar received the award, which is given semi-annually to educators who work toward advancing women in the field of planning on Oct. 9, and said she was happy to have made a lasting difference in her field.

Dandekar said her book “Shelter, Women and Development,” which she wrote with some of her graduate students at the University of Michigan, was one of the most important factors in her award.

“The book is a prime example of considering women as a special part of society,” she said. “It focuses on how important access to housing is in women’s lives.”

Dandekar said work in planning wasn’t easy for women in the ‘70s and ‘80s. She said her colleagues inspired her, and the associates who helped her during the time made her realize the importance of incorporating women into planning communities.

Ann Forsyth, a city and regional planning professor at Cornell University and Margarita McCoy Award chair, said Dandekar was recognized because of her mentorship of female students and faculty. Forsyth also noted her impressive research records which revolved around women and equity.

Dandekar studied architecture at the University of Bombay in 1967 and went on to receive a master’s from the University of Michigan in 1969. She received her Ph.D in city and regional planning from University of California, L0s Angeles in 1978. She has taught at University of Michigan, MIT, Arizona State University and joined Cal Poly’s faculty in Fall of 2009, according to her Cal Poly profile Web page.

“I love San Luis Obispo,” she said. “I’m so glad to be back in California.”

Of the architecture and city and regional planning departments at Cal Poly, Dandekar said the female to male ratio is almost balanced.

“When I started college, there would be maybe 10 women in a class of 100,” she said. “Now some classes here are one-third, sometimes two-thirds women.”

Dandekar said there are various opportunities for women in planning.

“Attitudes have changed a lot,” she said. “There are many things that are newly possible for women.”

She is an advocate for female leaders and said more women need to accept their leadership roles.

“That’s why we need mentors and support in the department” she said.

Bill Siembieda, former chair of the city and regional planning department, said Dandekar has acted as a role model and mentor for the female staff as well as students.

“She is a great mentor,” he said. “She’s very strong.”

Siembieda also said Dandekar has taken on a very active role within the department.

“She’s put in a proposal for federal funding which will support student tuition, fellowships and professional meetings,” he said.

Siembieda said Dandekar is a “big deal,” the epitome of the teacher-scholar model and the most highly regarded of Cal Poly’s faculty.

“She represents exactly what Cal Poly wants to see,” he said. “She’s widely read and a very high scholar.”

Dandekar has also worked closely with Cal Poly alumni to create a newsletter displaying the accomplishments from the city and regional planning department.

“I want to give them credit,” she said. “They really do deserve it.”

For now, Dandekar is taking a breather after finishing a book called “Michigan Family Farms and Farm Buildings” about the subsistence farm towns of Michigan.

“I’m thinking of what to do next,” she said. “And I’m going to relax.”

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