Kerry Rohrmeier

Kerry Rohrmeier

Assistant Professor, 

Urban and Regional Planning

What research questions currently preoccupy you?

My primary aim is to understand urban experimentation in the desert. My graduate work was on Black Rock City, Burning Man’s annual manifestation in the Northern Nevada desert. Now my research more broadly addresses why anyone would intentionally call these harsh landscapes home. Historically, desert dwelling sat on the societal fringe, but today several sites are prime canvases for experimental development, and the places that form in the perceived absence of life often face similar cultural complexities as traditional cities, even if only ephemerally.

What personal factors contributed to your research?

Part of my early career was spent working in city planning before discovering geography. Applied practice offered first-hand knowledge of entrenched challenges of proposed sweeping changes in established places. As I learned about people who just went out and made their own built worlds at Black Rock Desert and beyond, I was compelled to be a part of it.

What has been most challenging in your research?

There are a handful of people who actively study what I study in the discipline of geography, and with this limited exposure comes limited funding. Still, universally the feedback I receive is how interesting and readable can be, tales of dwelling at Black Rock City especially.

How has your position in SJSU contributed to your research?

At year two I still consider myself relatively new to SJSU. Teaching has been my primary focus, and though I have received conference, travel, and workshop funding, I have not been able to engage students in my larger research yet, but please come help!

A hidden (research) talent:

I’m perfectly happy to be covered in dust for weeks at a time while working in the field.

One book that changed your life (or research) and why:

From a purely theoretical lens I always go back to Le Corbusier's Towards a New Architecture. I appreciate the poetics and grand vision that went into changing the global aesthetic toward material technology and simplicity as a tool to overhaul cities. I like massive scale efforts, even though I recognize the undeniable failings of urban renewal which can be attributable to Le Corbusier dogma.

A website/journal/newspaper (in your field?) you follow without fail:

The Atlantic CityLab and PLACES offer interesting general interest reads. The Geographical Review for rich histories and think pieces.

Advice you’d give to newer faculty or students:

Working as a part-time lecturer means I can relate to students nearing graduation. It is all about staying focused on achieving a desired full-time job and maximizing my class time and professional experiences as a great opportunity to create and experimenting with bold projects, new courses, and take advantage of department and college conference funding opportunities.

RSCA Accomplishments

Rohrmeier, K.D. and Scott Bassett. (2015). Planning Burning Man: The Black Rock City Mirage. The California Geographer. (54) 23–46.

Pedagogy or prerogative: fostering independent undergraduate research at San José State University. Thriving in a Time of Disruption in Higher Education. 2006 AAG Annual Meeting, San Francisco, March 29–April 2.