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Reshaping the Intersection Webinar

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Urban planning and design are often approached as an intersection of various fields. However, this bustling intersection has remained complicit in societies built from structural racism, patriarchy, and economic exploitation. The goal of this student-led webinar is to assist in reshaping this intersection and to explore how this intersection can evolve to respect, empathize, and empower the communities that have been left at the margins of the field. This webinar will be split into two back-to-back sections:

Students and speakers will talk about what made us interested in cities and how our experiences have been as planners (or budding planners) pushing against the grain.
We will explore the ways through which planning and design education can transform to build the foundations for a more just and anti-racist future.
Please join us in this interactive event. We will have breakout rooms in the middle of the program where attendees can discuss among each other and an audience question and answer session.


Kellen Cooks (B.S. URS ’23) is a rising sophomore in the urban and regional studies program from Ossining, NY, with a minor in Public Policy. On campus, he’s involved in multiple a capella groups, Collective X (Cornell’s magazine addressing the intersection of fashion, media, and social justice), the Organization for Urban and Regional Studies, along with AAP Ambassadors. His academic interests lie within the worlds of urban housing justice, the visual aesthetics of gentrification, equity in economic development, and black geographies.
Thomas Petluck (B.S. URS ’23) is a rising sophomore in the urban and regional studies program with a double minor in Policy Analysis Management and Demography. Growing up, both in the Bronx and Westchester County, Thomas’ interest in urbanism came from witnessing the differing social stigmas associated with public transportation between those two locales, and plans to critically examine transportation and sociology intersections in the future. On campus, Thomas is involved in notable communication roles with both university-wide and AAP-wide admission initiatives.
Ayana Smith (B.S. URS ’23) is a rising sophomore in the urban and regional studies program with an intended minor in education and a Hunter R. Rawlings III Cornell Presidential Research Scholar. Her academic interests lie in housing policy and educational attainment, school zoning policy and de facto segregation, and transportation education. On campus, Ayana conducts transportation-related research and is a member of the Organization for Urban and Regional Studies and the Cornell Book Review. Off-campus, Ayana interns for GO ITHACA, a transportation management association in Ithaca, NY, and is a leader in the education justice organization Student Voice.

Main Speakers:

Justin Garrett Moore is a transdisciplinary designer and urbanist and serves as the executive director of the New York City Public Design Commission. He has extensive experience in architecture, urban design, and planning, from large-scale urban policies and projects to grassroots and community-based planning, design, and arts initiatives.
Ernst Valery (B.S. URS ’00, M.P.A. ’01) is the founder and president of SAA, EVI affiliate Ernst Valery Investments Corp. (EVI), a private, minority-owned real estate investment firm established in 2001. He is an alumnus of Cornell’s Urban and Regional Studies program, and has been active in social entrepreneurship work with the MIT Community Innovators Lab.

Guest Speaker:

Dr. Jennifer Minner is an Associate Professor in Cornell AAP’s Department of City and Regional Planning. Her teaching and research is focused on connections between preservation, city planning, and additional methods and forms of knowledge in the interest of collectively envisioning and building equitable and just places. She brings people together to conduct research in the Just Places Lab.

Register here for the event.

Gianni Valenti (URS ’22) Receives Rawlings Presidential Scholarship

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The American Dream. image / Gianni Valenti

Gianni Valenti (B.S. URS/B.L.A. ’22) has been selected to receive the Hunter R. Rawlings III Presidential Scholarship for his research proposal Suburban Landscapes: Representations of Inequality. The scholarship is provided through the Hunter R. Rawlings III Cornell Presidential Research Scholars program, aimed to support a select group of undergraduate students across the university in their respective research endeavors.

His research will challenge the notion of “The American Dream” and assessing that phenomena as a construct of suburban advertising, which seemed unachievable for many marginalized communities at the peak of suburban sprawl in the mid 20th century.

“Framing my research, I am asking the question ‘what patterns can be seen in composition, representation, and critique of suburban landscapes in terms of social mobility and equality?’”

The development of this research topic began through his participation in Assistant Professor Jennifer Minner’s The Promises and Pitfalls of Planning class this past spring, where he crafted a small photobook and an accompanying poster series to support his final project on photo-journaling of these suburban communities.

Gianni intends to mold together three different viewpoints of urban planning, landscape architecture, and visual studies to examine these patterns in suburban communities ranging in areas of economic policy, environmental racism, and physical representation. As a primary research method, he hopes that photography will continue to help capture the history of these communities and projects towards a future model of a community that reclaims these spaces for racial, gender, and sexuality inclusion.

Following his written and photographic analysis, Gianni hopes to set off on a road trip to visit significant examples of traditional 1950s suburbs, the suburbs of today, those that aim to predict the future of suburban living.

“It’s important to me, as an artist, for this journey to be by car because not only does it personally connect me to the landscape but it also works to express the connectedness of these places to each other, the cities they encircle, and the minority communities they also exclude.”

Gianni is a rising junior at Cornell, pursuing a double major in urban and regional studies and landscape architecture. Combining these two fields in his education, he aspires to engage in topics surrounding this intersection.

Summer Internship Spotlight: Rewa Phansalkar M.R.P. ’21

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Rewa Phansalkar working from home. Image / Rewa Phansalkar

Rewa Phansalkar (M.R.P. ’21) stayed local this summer and is interning with the New York State Water Resources Institute (WRI). Housed within the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Cornell, Rewa is supporting the institute’s work involving water infrastructure and management projects throughout New York.

“My work with them this summer focuses on adaptation planning for the Lake Ontario Shoreline, and understanding barriers that local governments face in adopting adaptation strategies for dealing with Lake Level Variability that is exacerbated by climate change.”

Rewa is working on mapping and categorizing shoreline protection structures through GIS (Geographic Information Systems) and using these resources to create a scenario planning model that predicts flooding in this shoreline region as a result of wave overtopping.

Given the remote setting of the internship position, Rewa felt she’s been supported through the expansive structure of the internship program. She and other WRI interns participate in different programming and events each month, comprising of participating in webinars on water, watching documentaries on Netflix, and doing virtual tours of infrastructure facilities, including the Wastewater Treatment Plant in Ithaca.

In addition to the virtual programming from WRI, the remote nature of Rewa’s summer has also allowed her to focus on other work commitments, as well as balancing leisure in her schedule. “I also get to work on other projects, as well as spend a lot of time outdoors, enjoying the summer!”

Through this internship, Rewa shares she’s getting a lot of great insight into areas she’s been interested in exploring through the planning field. “I’ve been interested in coastal adaptation, green infrastructure, ecosystem-based management, and indigenous practices for a while now, and want to explore these topics further through my exit project.”

Rewa joined the Cornell M.R.P. program after receiving her Bachelor of Architecture from the Rachana Sansad Academy of Architecture in Mumbai, India. She spent time before returning to school, working on architecture projects throughout the Mumbai region, ranging from large-scale residential and commercial projects.

The de Young Open Selects Art Piece by Alumna Cheryl Derricotte M.R.P. ’89

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“2017 Year-at-a-Glance: 214 Dead Black Men”. Image / Kija Lucas

The de Young Museum, one of the most renowned fine arts museum based in San Francisco, has selected an art piece by alumna Cheryl Derricotte (M.R.P. ’89) to be featured at their open exhibition. Her piece, “2017 Year-at-a-Glance: 214 Dead Black Men” will be featured in the exhibition’s thematic section on art pieces exploring the Black Lives Matter Movement.

Derricotte’s piece takes a yearly planner and denotes with bullet symbols the days where Black men were slain. It takes a powerful stance on shedding light on the issues of police brutality to the museum space.

The exhibition encompasses artwork by local San Francisco artists, a collection that is untraditional for the museum, which commonly hosts exhibitions of internationally acclaimed artists. As the pandemic disrupts museums globally from exchanging international work, the move to showcase local artists is a move many hope will be a model for the museum to engage the local community.

“I hope it’s a partnership that continues and grows going forward,” Derricotte shared on the San Francisco Chronicle.

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Cheryl Derricotte. image / Nye’ Lyn Tho

In her career, Derricotte combines her passion in the arts and community development and activism. She serves as Secretary for the Three Point Nine Art Collective, a group of Black artists who live and make art in San Francisco. At the national level, she is also the Chief Mindfulness Officer of Crux, a cooperative of Black artists working at the intersection of art and technology through immersive storytelling (VR). Additionally, she teaches other artists how to apply for art-based grants, and applying to residencies and shows.

Her recent awards include the Vermont Studio Center Residency (2020/2021), Antenna Paper Machine Residency (New Orleans), San Francisco Individual Artist Commission, and the Puffin Foundation Grant (all 2019/2020). She is also the recipient of the Hemera Foundation Tending Space Fellowship; the Rick and Val Beck Scholarship for Glass; Emerging Artist at the Museum of the African Diaspora and the Art Alliance for Contemporary Glass’ Visionary Scholarship and a D.C. Commission on the Arts & Humanities/ National Endowment for the Arts Artist Fellowship Grant.

To learn more about her art and community development work, check out her website at


Summer Internship Spotlight: Nicole Nomura M.R.P./M.L.A. ’22

picture of man and woman sitting in front of desks with papers
Nicole at the Ki Concepts office with supervisor Joel Kurokawa (left)

Nicole Nomura (M.L.A./M.R.P. ’22) is spending her summer in Honolulu, Hawai’i as a design fellow for SHADE Institute, a public-interest design organization focusing on sustainable and resilient planning and design for underserved communities throughout Hawai’i. As part of the fellowship program, each fellow is assigned a professional mentor who aids the mentee through SHADE projects, as well as becomes involved in their own practice. This year, Joel Kurokawa, who formerly served as SHADE’s president, is Nicole’s mentor, giving her guidance and experience on landscape design projects on the Island.

Joel is the principal and founder of Ki Concepts, a landscape architecture and site planning firm based in Honolulu that provides conceptual design and post-construction landscape management services for a wide range of projects throughout the state of Hawai’i and the Pacific Basin. Through this mentorship, Nicole has been involved in several current projects the firm is currently leading in partnership with the Honolulu government.

“I have been building a comprehensive plant palette for the City and County of Honolulu’s Green Infrastructure and Low-Impact Development Best Management Practices (BMP) for stormwater management,” Nicole shared.

This project has been a collaborative effort between engineers, landscape architects, architects, and planners to establish BMP standards, which will all be part of a finalized government report for the City and County of Honolulu.

Nicole has also been working on a landscape design project for a private residential property located in the mountainous region on the west shore of the Island.

“We are helping this resident develop his property to include stormwater management features because this side of the Island is more frequently wet, compared to the rest of Oahu. We’ve designed a beautiful rock swale with dams going downhill to divert the rainfall on this side of the mountains.”

Nicole feels this summer has augmented what she’s been learning through her experience as a dual degree student at Cornell in planning and landscape architecture. Between her landscape projects with her mentor’s firm and the community design work through SHADE, Nicole aspires to combine these skills she’s obtaining to leverage her interest in participatory planning and design endeavors in her professional career to serve the communities that need it the most.

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