Rhea Lopes

Mumbai, India

I believe that interdisciplinary conversation is what sparks innovation to optimize resources and create equitable and resilient communities.

Why did you choose Cornell and AAP?

I was interested in finding a program that balances planning research with professional exposure. I believe the planning program at Cornell provides us with a strong foundation in research while also giving us enough flexibility to specialize in our chosen interests. As a professional program, it offers several avenues to gain practical experience through workshops, Design Connect, conferences, and so on.

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

The city and regional planning department welcomes people from diverse, contrasting backgrounds and skills but aligned drive and vision. I believe that interdisciplinary conversation is what sparks innovation to optimize resources and create equitable and resilient communities. It is this experience that I wish to gain through the formal program as well as peer learning at Cornell.

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

Despite its diversity, the Department of City and Regional PlanningĀ is an extremely close-knit cohort. I remember feeling a strong sense of belonging, even before I got to Ithaca, when people from the prior batch reached out to help us with finding accommodation and getting settled into life in Ithaca. The student social chairs in the department put in tremendous effort in creating several opportunities for us to get together to have discussions, hang out, and relax. Indeed, this is key in ensuring that we excel in our work while keeping healthy and happy.

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

I was never much of an outdoors person, but Ithaca's beauty has pushed me to spend a good amount of time outside; enjoying the gorgeous waterfalls, eating at the Farmer's Market, simply reading a book under a tree in the Arts Quad, and the occasional hike through the gorges. I have also found several opportunities on campus to put my interest in event organizing and design to good use.

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

Upon completion of my education, I aspire to work in international development that prioritizes economic empowerment while maintaining environmental sustainability. I am learning impact investing to better understand the finance of such projects, which is a big player in ensuring their long-term viability.