Interdisciplinary and Global Studies

Contact Information

Project Center, 210A
Phone: +1-508-831-6167
Fax: +1-508-831-5485

Melissa Malouf Belz

I am a geographer with a focus on the cultural landscape, meaning landscapes that are shaped by people. I am interested in development, how and why places change, and why certain traditions endure. I study this mainly through vernacular architecture (traditional regional design). My recent research is based in the Indian Himalaya and explores what connections forest policy and cash crop markets have with the decline in architectural woodcarving and vernacular design. I hope to better understand how modernization and preservation can be balanced to sustain culturally distinct landscapes.

Previous to pursuing my Ph.D., I spent 10 years working in the field of architecture, blending interests in international development, sustainable construction, and preservation. I worked as a designer and spent several years in preservation and zoning in a National Historic District in Colorado. Additionally, I worked in the international development field with projects focused on appropriate and sustainable construction. Most of my work took place in Mexico’s border region for U.S. based non-profits and in Mongolia for the United Nations Development Program.

I am thrilled to bring these experiences to my position as Assistant Teaching Professor in IGSD. Previously, I have taught courses in Human Geography, Geography of Tourism, and Environmental Geography. At WPI, I teach ID2050 (which prepares students for their IQP experience) and advise at various off-campus IQP project centers. It is very rewarding to work with students as they take on actual problems that matter in a community. I am particularly excited to be part of their experiences as they learn how their skills have broad application and can have a positive impact on society.

Research Interests

  • Vernacular Architecture and Cultural Landscape Change
  • The Role of Traditions in Modernizing Societies
  • Food Systems and Sustainability


  • BS, Environmental Design, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, 1995
  • MA, International Architectural Regeneration and Development, Oxford Brookes University, Oxford, England, 2000
  • PhD, Geography, Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS, 2012

Featured Publications

  • Belz, Melissa. 2015. The Role of Decorative Features in the Endurance of Vernacular Architecture in Kinnaur, Himachal Pradesh, India. Geographical Review. Forthcoming April.
  • Belz, Melissa. 2014. Review of “Potent Landscapes: Place and Mobility in Eastern Indonesia" by Catherine Allerton. In Social and Cultural Geography. 15(6): 687-688.
  • Belz, Melissa. 2013. "Unconscious Landscapes: Identifying with a Changing Vernacular in Kinnaur, Himachal Pradesh, India." Material Culture Fall, 45(2): 1-27.
  • Belz, Melissa. 2013. Review of "Managing Cultural Landscapes" edited by Ken Taylor and Jane L. Lennon. Routledge: London. In The Journal of Cultural Geography 30(1): 156-158.
  • Malouf, Melissa. 2004. "Tell, Show, Do: Teacher Training Programs for Tomorrow’s Housing Solutions." In Building Without Borders, Sustainable Construction for the Global Village. Edited by Joseph Kennedy, 109-117. Gabriola, B.C.: New Society Publishers.

Professional Highlights

  • Society of Women Geographers, Pruitt National Fellowship, 2011
  • Presidential Teaching Excellence Award, 2012 graduate student nominee, College of Arts and Science, Kansas State University
  • International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) International Preservation Exchange, Jamaica, 2005
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