Rachel Bondra is a doctoral student in City and Regional Planning and the inaugural Fellow in the Initiative in the History of the Built Environment at the University of Pennsylvania’s Stuart Weitzman School of Design. As an historian of the built environment, she studies the social and cultural history of urban environments and planning in the nineteenth and twentieth century United States as they are reflected and embedded in the built environment, discards, and visual and material culture. Her research cultivates a process of reading waste as an avenue through which to understand urban and social transformation. Broadly, she is interested in how the urban landscape is a repository for historical narratives, how waste shapes the planning and management of the modern city, what the histories of landfills and waste facilities convey as a city changes over time, and how -- and to what end -- planning scholars and practitioners transform these sites for the future.
Her doctoral work is informed by her background in urban planning (Master of Urban Planning, CUNY Hunter College) and as an art and architectural historian (Bachelor of Arts, Ithaca College). Most recently Rachel was a Research Coordinator within the Office of Community Engagement and Inclusion at Barnard College in New York City where she conducted research with a community partner in the Bronx and supported college-wide infrastructure for engaged scholarship. She has also been a teaching assistant in the Urban Studies Department at Barnard and Columbia for courses including Shrinking Cities, Neighborhood and Community Development, and Crisis Management and Municipal Government. Rachel is interested in public history and digital humanities at the intersection of her work as both an historian and scholar of urban planning.