Brian Tochterman

Associate Professor of Sustainable Community Development
Social Sciences Department Chair

Brian Tochterman faculty
Office:Mead Hall 130
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Earned and Honorary Degrees

PhD Modern U.S. History, University of Minnesota-Twin Cities
MS Urban Planning, Columbia University
BS Sociology and Film Studies, University of Wisconsin-Madison


I am a native Wisconsinite, born and raised in Green Bay. I have spent my adult life in large cities both near and far, but I am delighted to have found a niche in the Chequamegon Bay.

I have a broad interdisciplinary background, which speaks to my interests in history, cities, social research, and popular culture. After college I worked for some time with the Parks Department of New York City, an experience that inspired and fed my desire to pursue a graduate education in urban development.

Why Northland?

One thing that contemporary theorists of community and economic development agree on: place matters. That’s why it is exciting to be instructing courses in sustainable community development in a place as unique as this region.

With a host of distinct assets and a stock of common long-term challenges, Ashland, Washburn, Bayfield, and the Lake Superior watershed provide an exceptional laboratory for students interested in community engagement, sustainable planning, and ethical economic development.

Organizing courses around the overarching themes of “how places work” and “how could places work better,” I encourage students to think both boldly and pragmatically, balancing the unfettered theoretical aspects of the classroom with applied experience within the community.


As an associate professor of sustainable community development, I regularly teach Introduction to Sustainable Community Development (SCD 110), Sustainable Community Planning (SCD 220), Sustainable Development Theory (SCD 430), and Advanced Community Planning Studio (SCD 442). For other courses—such as Forces of Change (SCD 235), the History of Planning and Development (SCD 320), Introduction to Film (ART 225)—I draw on my interdisciplinary background and interests in history, political economy, social justice, metropolitan planning and development, and popular culture.

I also lead a triennial spring travel course for SCD majors called The Just City in Practice (SCD 355). We spend ten days in northern Europe walking major cities, riding trains and bicycles, and meeting with community partners (in the past we have started in Amsterdam and then traveled to comparison communities in Maastricht, Copenhagen, Hamburg, and Malmo). The next iteration of the course is scheduled for May 2022.


My main research interest lies in the history of American metropolitan growth and decline since 1945. I’m particularly fascinated by the relationship between cultural narratives and the political economy of cities and metropolitan areas. I also seek to highlight the utility of history in both understanding the present conditions of cities and planning for the future.


"A Big League Minneapolis or a Cold Omaha: Professional Sports and the Promise of Downtown Growth in the Campaign to Build the Metrodome," Journal of Urban History 2022.

“Crime and Violence; or, Hard-boiled Chronicles of Mean Streets and their Hidden Truths” in The City in American Literature. Cambridge University Press, 2021. 218–231

“Theorizing Neoliberal Urban Development: A Genealogy from Richard Florida to Jane Jacobs,” Radical History Review Winter 2012. 65-87

Student Involvement

While a number of my courses examine the history and theory of sustainable and unsustainable forms of development, students in my Sustainable Community Planning and Advanced Planning Studio courses have the opportunity to do applied research in the Chequamegon Bay region.

In the Sustainable Community Planning course, students have the opportunity to be agents of change. One example is a public participation plan for Ashland's Comprehensive Plan Revision that was largely assembled by Northland students that was approved by the Ashland City Council.


In the warmer months, I can be found bicycling around Ashland, greening my thumb at the city’s community garden, hiking forest trails, cooling myself in the lake, and listening to baseball on the porch. Winter means reading, writing, skiing, and warming the house with home-cooked meals. I particularly enjoy these activities in the company of my partner Ana, our kids, our dog, and our community.