Assistant professor Rosanna Rivero and her students in the College of Environment and Design use geospatial tools to help communities plan for the future.
Where did you earn degrees and what are your current responsibilities at UGA?
I earned my undergraduate degree in urbanism at the Universidad Simon Bolivar in Caracas, Venezuela. I worked in Venezuela for several years until I was awarded a Fulbright scholarship to come to the University of Florida, where I got my master’s degree in urban and regional planning and my Ph.D. in interdisciplinary ecology with a focus on geographic information systems. Currently, I am an assistant professor in UGA’s College of Environment and Design, teaching courses in the Master of Environmental Planning and Design program and in the newly started Environmental Design and Planning Ph.D. program.
When did you come to UGA and what brought you here?
I came to UGA in fall of 2012. The Environmental Planning and Design program had started in 2009, and they were looking to complete their faculty by having one more professor.
What are your favorite courses and why?
One of my favorite courses is the regional planning studio because it is a hands-on and very applied type of course where we get to collaborate with an organization and develop a plan or a set of proposals for a region. Another course that I enjoy is the advanced geographic information systems course that I teach in the summer (and sometimes in the spring) because I enjoy seeing how students progress through the semester and apply their new knowledge on projects of their interest—sometimes their thesis or dissertation—or practical projects.
What interests you about your field?
I love everything that has some kind of spatial component: maps, satellite images, aerial photography… all of these have always fascinated me. Using these for modeling and planning for the future—to unravel the knowledge of a region, a city, a neighborhood—is what motivates me the most.
What are some highlights of your career at UGA?
Several programs and/or projects have been very rewarding for me. One is my collaboration with the geography department on a couple of NASA DEVELOP projects, one in Miami and the other one in Atlanta. These projects have been highlighted in several NASA and American Geophysical Union publications.
The other ones are projects on the coast of Georgia in collaboration with the Coastal Regional Commission of Georgia as well as with Georgia Sea Grant and UGA Marine Extension through a Public Service and Outreach Fellowship. I have a parallel collaboration with a team from University College London and Harvard Graduate School of Design Emeritus Professor Carl Steinitz, who is an expert on geodesign, an area of research where maps, technology and collaborative planning processes coexist.
How does your research or scholarship inspire your teaching, and vice versa?
Both activities go hand in hand in my studio because as I am conducting research on the coast I also teach this course every fall, and we use results from both to feed each other. Also my research interest in geospatial tools for decision-making has been reflected in both my teaching and service projects.
What do you hope students gain from their classroom experience with you?
Independence and a thirst for knowledge. I want them to think of me as a facilitator who gives them a few tools but also teaches them how to rely on themselves to find solutions and approaches to conduct their plans and proposals. Also, I want them to think broadly—outside the box—to expand their boundaries.
Describe your ideal student.
Curious and highly motivated to learn and experiment, but also to deliver results without being afraid of taking risks.
Favorite place to be/thing to do on campus is…
I love our building, the Tanner Building on North Campus, and also its proximity to downtown. Having that pleasure of walking only one block to get my coffee is priceless.
Beyond the UGA campus, I like to…
Many things: travel, listen to all kinds of music, dance and sing, hike, hit the road now and then...
Community/civic involvement includes….
… Casa de Amistad, a nonprofit organization assisting Hispanic communities in Athens. I have been a board member of this organization since 2013. I also have collaborated with the Center for Community Design & Preservation and with several organizations on the coast of Georgia.
Favorite book/movie (and why)?
I am currently reading “Amsterdam: A History of the World’s Most Liberal City” by Russell Short, and I am loving this author because of how the book portrays current and past history with a very unique narrative. My two other favorite authors are Latin-American: Gabriel García Márquez and Isabel Allende.
Proudest moment at UGA?
It is a very simple one: when I received the call from our dean to tell me that the position of assistant professor was mine. Back then I felt proud, and I still am. Helping build a program from scratch with such an amazing group of faculty is what motivates me every day.
(Originally published Feb. 5, 2017)