Skip to main content

Stefania Staniscia

Stefania with her students


I study landscape changes over time with a focus on anthropogenic drivers of change - so how humankind affects landscape. I’m now studying the post-industrial landscape, in particular southern West Virginia coalfields, former coal mines and mountaintop removal. How does that industrial activity affect the landscape in the past; what are the remnants in the present; and trying to understand what will happen in the future because landscapes can evolve.


We get used to changes in the landscape. We grow up into those changes. We can get used to very bad things, which is not a positive. We don’t realize that big changes are affecting the way we live. We can assume that they are normal when they are not. We don’t even realize that we can stop it. 


My second research area is related to islands. I usually use islands as hotspots for understanding what happens in the mainland. They are an example of situations we could see in the future of the mainland.

What jobs did you have before coming to WVU?

I was a research fellow at the University of Trento, Italy. I also practiced as an architect.

What has been the best or most enjoyable time/class/moment in your job?

What I really enjoy is to see my students maturing, not just in learning the discipline but as people. I teach the sophomore level and senior level. I meet my students first when they are sophomores and I meet them again their last year. It’s amazing to see how they mature. You can tell. They go from being very shy to very outspoken. You see how they evolve in a couple of years. That’s something that surprises me a lot and I really enjoy being able to see the evolution. 

What has been the best or most enjoyable time/class/moment in your education?

I remember a trip with classmates in architecture school to visit pieces of contemporary architecture. I was living in Italy at the time. I remember the first time I visited one of the first buildings designed by Zaha Hadid. She was a very famous female architect from Iraq but lived in the UK and was practicing there. She was a very relevant architect and to me she was an important figure. I can still remember the feeling of being in one of the first buildings she designed.

What’s one thing you wish you had known in college?

I trained as an architect. I was not aware of the business of architecture. It’s not just to learn how to design a building or design a space or design whatever. They never told us what the skills are you really need to have to be in architecture, which is not just design or the more technical aspects. I think I was very naive when I entered the profession. 

If you won a billion dollars, what would you do with the money?

First of all, I would travel a lot. The second thing, which is related to my education and background, is that I would donate projects. I would design things and donate things to people, like housing or office buildings or parks. People are not aware of and not everyone understands that design is a way to change the environment to make it better and to affect the way we live. People usually think that design only has an aesthetic purpose, but that’s not the case. Because I love to design, I’d want to give projects to communities and people and the city. I think that it will increase the quality of the city that we live in. By increasing the quality of the space we live in, we’re increasing the quality of our lives.

What were you most grateful for in 2020?

I was grateful that my family and close friends made it through the pandemic safely. That was my worst concern.

What have you been excited for in 2021?

To see what we have learned from the pandemic and use that knowledge to improve. I’m trying to use what I learned from the pandemic in a sort of new normal environment. I’m still trying to use everything that I’ve learned from teaching online that improved my performance in teaching. 


I learned to collaborate with people without meeting with them in person. That increased my ability to collaborate with people that are not here in West Virginia or that don’t necessarily work at WVU. I think that’s something I’ve been excited about in 2021.


Just for Fun

What are you currently reading?  The School of Life: An Emotional Education by Alain de Botton; The Song of the Lark by Willa Cather; The Overstory by Richard Powers 

What’s your favorite meal? Pasta and broccoli 

What’s a band that you can listen to on repeat? My husband’s band 

What’s one thing you can’t live without? Italian ice cream