Lars Christiansen

Associate Prof., Sabo Sr. Fellow, Urban Studies Program Dir.

Memorial Hall 434
CB 105

Lars Christiansen joined the Department of Sociology and the Metro-Urban Studies Program at Augsburg in 2001. Lars’ teaching and scholarship focuses on urban resilience and sustainability, urban planning and public engagement, transportation systems, the philosophical tradition of American Pragmatism, innovative and alternative liberal arts education, social movements, and research methods.

In 2008, Lars was named recipient of Augsburg University’s Distinguished Contributions to Teaching and Learning – Award for Teaching.

In 2009, Lars and Professor Nancy Fischer received a Canadian Studies Faculty Enrichment Grant from the Government of Canada for the development of their “Sustainable Cities in North America” course.

Innovations in Teaching — Highlighting Four Courses

“Sustainable Cities” (Vancouver, BC; Portland, Ore.; Copenhagen, Denmark; Mexico City, Mexico)

In July 2008 Lars and Nancy Fischer taught a (then) new study abroad course called “Sustainable Cities in North America.” This course brought students to Portland, Oregon for one week, and Vancouver, British Columbia for two weeks. We explored and analyzed these cities, as well as the Twin Cities, on bicycles, on foot, and using transit. We met with scholars, policy makers, and community organizers to better understand how these cities are accomplishing progressive planning practices and addressing challenges. This course was taught again in 2010, that time incorporating Victoria, BC, and with grant assistance from the Government of Canada.  In January 2014, this course was taught in Mexico City to address how megacities are positioned in the global striving for sustainability.  In Spring 2016, Copenhagen, Denmark is the destination. For a description of the first version of this course, read “Auggies Traverse the Concrete Jungle” at Or, read “Studying Sustainability” at

“Legacies of Chicago: Ideas and Action in Place”

In Spring of 2010, 2011, and 2013 Lars and Augsburg President Paul Pribbenow taught “Legacies of Chicago” as the theme for the Honors Senior Seminar. The course is about the intersection of sociality and place, focusing on networks of activity or communities of thinkers-doers engaging in creative and innovative work. Every great place produces great ideas and actions, sometimes to a level of influence that they become gifts (or curses) to the city or even the larger culture, gifts (or curses) from one generation to another. With the help of colleagues in art, business, history, English, and theater, this course explores major contributions that Chicago has given to U.S. culture and history, including: Deweyan pragmatism and progressive education; Addams’s social ethics and neighborhood building; the Chicago School of Sociology and Urban Ecology; Chicago architecture (ie., the work of Burnham & Root, Sullivan, Richardson, Cleveland); the literature and film of Chicago; the Alinsky model of social change; agricultural cooperatives and commodities markets; and Chicago-style improvisational theater. We finish the course focusing on events in 1990s to the present, from the Chicago Heat Wave of 1995 to Obama’s community organizing in the 2000s. During the semester the class spends a long weekend in Chicago experiencing directly various themes of the course.

Integrated Term (I-Term):  “Fate Of The Earth 101: Consumption of Food, Fuel and Media in Contemporary Culture.”

In Fall 2009, Lars and five other faculty members, along with several support staff, created a learning community called “Fate of the Earth 101.” Together the faculty utilize our different disciplinary perspectives and a wide array of creative teaching and learning activities to inquire about the consequences of living in a consumerist society.  The course was taught again in 2010 and 2012.

“Divided States of America?  A Seminar in Pragmatism” (version 2012)

“Overcoming Ideology and Embracing the Body:  A Seminar in Pragmatism” (version 2016)

Co-created/taught with Professor Larry Crockett, this Seminar provides an overview of the American philosophical tradition of Pragmatism as a way to explore the challenges of divisive politics. We explore the work of William James, C.S. Peirce, John Dewey, Jane Addams, Alain Locke, Mark Johnson, Richard Rorty, Larry Hazelrigg, Bruno Latour, Cornel West, Kennan Ferguson, Louis Menand, and others. We address historical and contemporary controversies including Civil War, the Vietnam War, Black Freedom movements, the abortion debate, the Israel/Palestine conflict, and other events that present the challenges of ideological commitment and the desire to achieve social change.

Courses Lars Teaches

  • CityLife:  Introduction to Urban Sociology (SOC 111)
  • Introduction to Human Society (SOC 121)
  • Protest and Social Change: The Sociology of Social Movements (SOC 240)
  • Sustainable Cities in North America (SOC 295), co-taught with Professor Nancy Fischer Photo Album
  • Research Methods (SOC 363)
  • Disaster and Resilience (SOC 380)
  • Internships (SOC 399)
  • Legacies of Chicago: Ideas and Action in Place (HON 490) co-taught with President Paul Pribbenow
  • Fate of the Earth 101: Consumption of Food, Fuel, and Media in Contemporary Culture (Integrated Term)
  • Divided States of America? A Seminar in Pragmatism, co-taught with Professor Larry Crockett
  • Overcoming Ideology and Embracing the Body:  A Seminar in Pragmatism, co-taught with Professor Larry Crockett


“The Timing and Aesthetics of Public Engagement:  Insights from an Urban Street Transformation Initiative.”

This paper analyzes an urban street transformation initiative in Saint Paul, Minnesota—the Central Corridor Friendly Streets initiative—in relation to theories of public engagement in urban planning processes, and in light of recent theorizing in the philosophy of embodiment. It offers a critique of a public engagement processes that ignore aesthetics.  Journal of Planning Education and Research, Winter 2015.

“Bodies in Motion:  What the Embodiment Revolution means for how we get around.”

This project examines the phenomenological and other social psychological conditions of transportation, with particular attention to situational conditions and their relation to bodily senses.

Service at Augsburg

Lars is currently a Sabo Scholar for the Sabo Center for Citizenship and Democracy.  He is approaching the last year of a six-year stint as Chair of Sociology.  Lars is an active member of the Urban Studies program.  Lars is past member of the board of directors of the Higher Education Consortium for Urban Affairs (HECUA) (2009 – 2012).  He is also a past member of the Augsburg faculty senate (2005-2007), the Social Science Collaborative, and the Assessment Committee. He was also faculty advisor for Augsburg’s Sociology Club (2002-2006).

Service and Interests beyond Academia

A resident of Saint Paul, Lars is a member of the Hamline-Midway Coalition and serves on its Transportation Committee.  He is Director of Friendly Streets Initiative.  Lars is also a member of the League of American Bicyclists and Adventure Cycling Association.  Lars enjoys bicycle touring and mountain centuries, and commutes by bicycle in the Twin Cities year-round. As a former musician and now merely a discerning fan, he can’t seem to get enough of The Bad Plus, Bela Bartok, Deftones, (the) Melvins, Primus, Radiohead, Self-Evident, System of a Down, Tool, Tortoise, Traindodge, Frank Zappa, and John Zorn & Electric Masada.

Current and Past Board Service

Lars currently serves on the Board Cycles 4 Change. Lars served on the board of directors of Nice Ride Minnesota (2009-2012), the non-profit organization that is responsible for creating and implementing Minneapolis’ bike share program.  Lars has also served on the board of directors of St. Paul Smart Trips (2010-2012), and Transit for Livable Communities (2013 – 2016), two organizations advocating for the viability of multiple modes of transportation in St. Paul and beyond.


  • B.A. Clark University, Music and Sociology (1991)
  • Ph.D. Florida State University (1999), Sociology, with an emphasis on political economy and social movements
  • The road, mountains, trees, rivers, and creatures