Nationally recognized urban planner William Fulton named director of Kinder Institute

Rice University
Office of Public Affairs / News & Media Relations

Amy Hodges

Nationally recognized urban planner William Fulton named director of Rice University’s Kinder Institute for Urban Research 

HOUSTON – (Aug. 1, 2014) – William “Bill” Fulton, a nationally recognized urban-planning expert, has been named director of Rice University’s Kinder Institute for Urban Research. Fulton’s appointment is effective this fall.


“We’re thrilled that Bill Fulton will be coming to Rice and Houston to lead the Kinder Institute,” said Rice President David Leebron. “He brings an extraordinary breadth of political, academic and urban-planning experience. The Kinder Institute is the lynchpin of our commitment to making a difference in the future of Houston, and I am confident that Bill, working together with our outstanding faculty, will enable it to achieve those aspirations and more.”

“We believe the Kinder Institute for Urban Research has the potential to be a premiere contributor to an understanding of the issues affecting Houston, as well as other cities in America and around the world,” said Rich Kinder, chairman and CEO of Kinder Morgan, one of the largest pipeline transportation and energy storage companies in North America. “We hope to build on the foundation of knowledge accumulated over the years by the Houston Area Survey, and we are delighted that Bill Fulton has accepted the challenge to lead our efforts in the coming years.”

A $15 million gift from Kinder and his wife Nancy funded the establishment of the Kinder Institute in 2010, which houses numerous urban research programs, including the Houston Area Survey. Now in its 33rd year, the survey tracks the city’s evolving demographic and socio-economic makeup and measures area residents’ response to urban issues such as traffic, crime and immigration.  No other metropolitan region in America has been the focus of a research program of this scope and duration.

A prominent expert and commentator on urban planning in California, Fulton currently serves as director of the Planning Department for the city of San Diego. He leads a 120-employee department with a $24 million annual budget overseeing all long-range city planning, infrastructure financing and economic development efforts. He has also served since 2004 as a senior fellow in the Sol Price School of Public Policy at the University of Southern California.

Fulton previously worked as a city councilmember, deputy mayor and mayor of the city of Ventura, Calif., vice president for policy development and implementation at Smart Growth America and as a principal in various urban planning and environmental consulting firms. A prolific writer, he has authored hundreds of articles, dozens of reports and five books on urban planning in California, including Guide to California Planning, the state’s standard textbook on urban planning. In 2009, Planetizen, a public interest information exchange for the urban planning, design and development community, named Fulton to its list of “Top 100 Urban Thinkers.”

“The search committee conducted an extensive national search to find the right person to fill this position,” said former Rice Board of Trustees Chair Jim Crownover, who chaired the search committee. “We were so fortunate to find Bill, who has focused his whole career on positively impacting urban environments. He has done this in many ways — as a writer, educator, mayor and urban planner — and always with great success.”

“I’m incredibly excited about joining the Kinder Institute,” Fulton said. “The 21st century will be the century of cities, and Houston will be a major laboratory in the search to make cities more prosperous and livable. I’m looking forward to working with everyone at Rice — and everyone in Houston — to bring about a better urban future in Houston and translate those lessons to help other cities around the nation and the world.”

Born and raised in Auburn, N.Y., Fulton received a B.A. in mass communications from St. Bonaventure University, an M.A. in journalism from American University and an M.A. in urban planning from the University of California, Los Angeles. Fulton is a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners.

Kinder Institute Founding Director Stephen Klineberg and colleagues Michael Emerson and Ruth López Turley said they are “absolutely thrilled” about Fulton’s selection as director.

“Bill has an exceptional professional background as an urban planner and former city mayor, and he will be bringing to the Kinder Institute a skill set that perfectly complements our own skills as academics,” they said in a joint statement. “As we work to advance the institute’s mission, these combined skill sets are exactly what we need to set the Kinder Institute apart from other centers of urban research.”

Rice University’s Kinder Institute for Urban Research conducts multidisciplinary scientific research, engages in public outreach and sponsors educational programs that advance the understanding of pressing urban issues and fosters the development of more humane and sustainable cities. Its programs are designed to further ongoing research initiatives at Rice and to serve as catalysts to foster informed decision-making and effective action in the Houston community and beyond. Scholars at the Kinder Institute study both macro changes in the economic, demographic and socio-cultural patterns of large metropolitan regions and the micro experiences of life in local neighborhoods and communities.

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About Amy McCaig

Amy is a senior media relations specialist in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.