Personal details

Associate Professor Debra Cushing
Discipline Leader
Creative Industries Faculty,
School of Design Office
Associate Professor
Creative Industries Faculty,
School of Design Office,
Landscape Architecture
Discipline *
Architecture, Urban and Regional Planning
+61 7 3138 2886
View location details (QUT staff and student access only)
Identifiers and profiles

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Design and Planning (University of Colorado), Master of Science (MS) in Landscape Architecture (University of Wisconsin, Madison)

Professional memberships
and associations
  • Member of the QUT Design Lab
  • Editorial Board Member of the Children, Youth and Environments Journal
  • Member of the Australian Research Alliance for Children & Youth

Children, Youth and Environments, Community Engagement, Design Pedagogy, Landscape Architecture, Participatory Planning

* Field of Research code, Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification (ANZSRC), 2008


Dr. Cushing’s research combines her interest in healthy and supportive environments for children and youth with her understanding of effective community participation, creating sustainable and vibrant environments, and theory related to environmental psychology and placemaking. Her current research areas include:

  • children and youth participation in community design and planning to create child- and youth-friendly communities;
  • innovative intergenerational park design to encourage physical activity and social interaction;
  • the use of public art in public parks;
  • purposeful placemaking with young people; and
  • design pedagogy and immersive learning formats.

Deb is currently a Senior Lecturer in Landscape Architecture and the Higher Degree Research Training Coordinator for the School of Design and the QUT Design Lab in the Creative Industries Faculty. She is the lead investigator on an ARC Linkage Project titled Intergenerational Park Design for Active and Engaged Communities. The trans-disciplinary project will lead to a better understanding of how parks and open space impact physical activity levels for intergenerational populations.

Prior to arriving at QUT, Deb received a Bachelor’s in Landscape Architecture from Pennsylvania State University and a Master’s of Science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in Landscape Architecture with a focus on ecological restoration. Deb worked for several years as a landscape architect practitioner for engineering and planning firms in Colorado, USA. During her time in practice, she served on interdisciplinary teams with planners, engineers, and community administrators to find sustainable solutions to community issues. Deb facilitated participatory planning methods during public workshops and community meetings to gain input regarding community parks, trail systems, and outdoor learning environments.  She received a PhD in Design and Planning from the University of Colorado Denver, where she completed her thesis on youth master plans in the United States. She also served as one of the founding coordinators for Growing Up Boulder, an ongoing child- and youth-friendly city initiative created to facilitate youth participation in community decision-making.


This information has been contributed by Associate Professor Debra Cushing.


Dr. Cushing currently teaches the following units in the Creative Industries Faculty:

  • NYC Creative Cities Study Tour (tour leader)
  • People and Place Seminar (unit coordinator)

She has also taught Landscape Design studio units, including 2, 3, 5, and 7.

Dr. Cushing believes that students learn best when they are exposed to information through multiple modes and can actively engage in their learning experience. To enable active learning, Deb often incorporates discussion groups, hands-on practice, and opportunities for students to teach others what they are learning into her classes. When feasible, Deb also structures her classes to include a service-learning project. Although service-learning is often a more complex class format, it can also result in a richer and more memorable learning experience for the students. When the service-learning project follows best practices to ensure the “service” is specifically requested by the partnering community organization and it matches the learning objectives of the class, it can create a beneficial experience for everyone. Deb has extensive experience using service-learning in classes she taught in the United States, including:

  • Designing with Multicultural Youth:  Using Multimedia Techniques for Social Change
  • Sustainable Planning and Design
  • Participatory Community Planning:  Designing Outdoor School Environments with Children and Youth
  • Participatory Community Planning:  Designing Healthy Communities with Children and Youth
  • Participatory Community Planning:  Urban Agriculture
  • Environment and Behaviour (University of Colorado Boulder)
  • Plants and Ecology in Design (University of Wisconsin-Madison)
  • Regional Planning (University of Wisconsin-Madison)
This information has been contributed by Associate Professor Debra Cushing.


Debra has served on the following committees:

  • Selected member of the Steering Committee for the Institute for Ethical and Civic Engagement at the University of Colorado Boulder, 2009 to 2011
  • Selected as an external grant reviewer for Great Outdoors Colorado, 2002 to 2005
  • Selected to participate in the ASLA Community Assistance Team Design Project in Cleveland Ohio, USA, 1995
This information has been contributed by Associate Professor Debra Cushing.


For more publications by this staff member, visit QUT ePrints, the University's research repository.