Olivia Chaudhury

Dhaka, Bangladesh

Our small major size has allowed me to connect with my classmates and learn from their different perspectives, both contributing to my knowledge of the field and allowing me to make lifelong friends.

Why did you choose Cornell and AAP?

Cornell was one of the few universities that offered urban studies as an undergraduate degree and gave it such a high degree of priority. When exploring other schools, I noticed that similar degrees were usually located in colleges of Arts and Sciences. Cornell had AAP — Architecture, Art, and Planning — which had a separate and strong focus from the rest of the university. I saw that Cornell had a separate building for planning — our lovely Sibley Hall — full of resources. I felt that Cornell gave importance to our discipline in a way competitor universities did not. AAP boasts a tremendous faculty from all walks of the city planning spectrum, and it has been a privilege to study and learn from them. Our professors definitely have a range of viewpoints which is very helpful when trying to find your niche in the field.

What inspired you to join the field of city and regional planning?

I grew up in Dhaka, Bangladesh — one of the most notoriously poorly planned cities in the world. Overpopulation, poverty, and lack of resources are issues the city has to grapple with on a massive scale. In spite of this, it was vibrant and exciting, with a beautiful culture and sense of community. Thinking about how to preserve such culture while making necessary changes to the urban fabric to facilitate acceptable standards of living made me want to pursue city and regional planning.

What experiences have contributed to your sense of belonging at AAP?

Urban and regional studies is a small major — there are approximately 25-30 of us per year. Our small major size has allowed me to connect with my classmates and learn from their different perspectives, both contributing to my knowledge of the field and allowing me to make lifelong friends. Our class sizes are small and our professors all know our names and faces which makes me feel welcome whenever I step into Sibley. AAP also has incredible study abroad opportunities, specifically Cornell in Rome. My semester in Rome was eye opening and I learned so much about my field of interest — urban historic preservation.

What are your extracurricular interests and how have you incorporated them into your college life?

I am literary editor of the Collective X Liberation, a student publication dedicated to alternative narratives and minority representation in lifestyle, culture, and the arts. Collective X is a lot of work, but so much fun — I've learned how to plan and execute photo shoots, source content from peers, and conceptually connect themes and current events.

What do you hope to accomplish during your time at AAP and after graduation?

I am very interested in historic preservation. During my time at Cornell, I worked on a semester-long project with the John W. Jones Museum in Elmira, New York, and continued on as a summer intern. The class and internship allowed me to delve into the steps necessary for unearthing and preserving historic narratives, something I hope to pursue post-graduation. I aim to work for a few years after 2020, and afterward, seek a graduate degree in historic preservation planning.