Marshall will work with faculty from across the university — including the Center for the Comparative Study of Metropolitan Growth — to research and make recommendations on housing and transportation policies, green space and redevelopment opportunities that make cities thrive.
Cross-disciplinary teamwork is imperative when it comes to the large-scale question of cities, Marshall says. Planners, architects, engineers, historians, financiers and lawyers must work together to solve problems of preservation, policy and revitalization. His time in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina reinforced this lesson for Marshall.
"They taught me new lessons about the importance of interdisciplinary approaches to urban problem solving," he says of the Rockefeller Foundation and University of Pennsylvania's Center for Urban Redevelopment Excellence, which brought 25 mid-career professionals to New Orleans in 2007 to bolster government agencies and nonprofits.
"It taught me in a special way how as lawyers, our role as communicators and listeners is critical." He and his New Orleans Redevelopment Authority colleagues learned what was needed, what was missing and funneled that information back into their redevelopment proposal.
In meetings with concerned citizens held in packed living rooms and church sanctuaries Marshall talked strategy to people who had lost everything. They had returned to their hometown and began to rebuild with modest insurance checks and their life savings, but "they had done so without any specific promises of how or when their neighborhoods would be redeveloped," Marshall says.
"They had faith, and they had determination," he says. "That experience of working closely with communities and attempting to address their needs will always remain with me and influence my research."
Overall, Marshall's interests in resiliency and sustainability are built on one ideal: never quit. Apathy and complacency are expensive and can cost lives, as seen in New Orleans, he says. "Lawyers are trained as highly skilled critical thinkers. During law school, there's an opportunity for students to develop skills as innovators and change-makers," he says.
A former partner with Holland & Knight LLP, Marshall started NORA's law and planning externship programs. There is "no greater privilege than to help students explore their intellectual interests and to help them find the best ways to communicate their insights clearly and persuasively," he says.
"What really struck me about John," says Metro Growth Center assistant director Karen Johnston (J.D. '08), "is his compassion. I look forward to working with him and seeing how his dedication shapes the work of the center and his students' futures."
Previously he worked at Yale Law School as a clinical lecturer and Ludwig Community Development Fellow. He taught and supervised students in Yale's Community and Economic Development Clinic, who counseled community development organizations working on urban development projects. He will teach environmental law and land use law.