Elliott Sclar, Director

Elliott Sclar is the director of CSUD and Professor emeritus of Urban Planning at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation. He is a member of the senior faculty of the Earth Institute at Columbia University.

A professional economist, Professor Sclar has written extensively about the strengths and limitations of markets as mechanisms for effective public policy implementation. Sclar’s book You Don’t Always Get What You Pay For: The Economics of Privatization (2000), a critique of overreliance on market mechanisms, has won two major academic prizes: the Louis Brownlow Award for the Best Book of 2000 from the National Academy of Public Administration and the 2001 Charles Levine Prize from the International Political Science Association for a major contribution to public policy literature. An earlier book, Access for All: Transportation and Urban Growth, co-authored with K.H. Schaeffer is considered seminal in transforming the discussion of urban transport from a discussion about mobility to one about access.

Sclar is an international expert on urban development. He was co-coordinator of the Taskforce on Improving the Lives of Slum Dwellers, one of the ten taskforces set up by the UN Millennium Project to help guide the implementation of the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals. The Taskforce Report, A Home in the City (2005, Earthscan), of which he was one of the three lead authors, is now a standard reference on the challenge of transforming the informal urban settlements of the rapidly urbanizing world into healthy and vibrant homes. In November 2007 he received the Humanitarian of the Year Award from the International Society for Urban Health in recognition of his taskforce work. Dr. Sclar was a member of the Advisory Board of the Global Research Network on Human Settlements (HS-NET), UN-HABITAT and of the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Urban Management.

In recent years Sclar has been a leading figure in a scholarly movement to reconnect the work of population health experts and urban planners in creating healthier cities. One of the main challenges he sees is the need to begin to develop more precise measurements of built environment impacts on population health.

Sclar is presently drafting the chapter on the economics of sustainable urban transport for UN-Habitat’s 2013 Global Report on Human Settlements which is dedicated to the challenge of sustainable urban transport. He is one of the three co-authors of the forthcoming World Bank study Making Connections: Putting Social Policy at the Heart of Infrastructure Development.

Nilda Mesa, Director of the Urban Sustainability and Equity Planning Program 

Nilda Mesa is the Director of the Urban Sustainability and Equity Planning Program with Columbia University’s Center for Sustainable Urban Development in the Earth Institute, as well as an adjunct professor with the School of International and Public Affairs. She has had a long career in environment, energy and sustainability at the city, state, national and global levels, and now writes and presents extensively on the subjects of climate, energy, equity and urban systems relating them. Prior to joining CSUD, she served as NYC Director of the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability under Mayor Bill de Blasio, where she developed and oversaw innovative programs in climate, energy, sustainability, air quality, waste, green buildings, transportation, public education and other initiatives. She directed and was the principal author and editor of OneNYC, the city’s long-term sustainability plan, which for the first time for a major US city tied together environmental initiatives with economic development, equity and resilience. The innovative process brought together over 70 city agencies, elected officials, a distinguished advisory board, and engaged city residents. Reports published under her direction included One City: Built to Last Technical Working Group Report, which was the first study to plot a detailed strategy by building type to reduce substantially building greenhouse gas emissions for new construction and substantial renovation. She worked closely with state and federal energy and sustainability officials on behalf of the City’s goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by 2050. Internationally, she represented New York on the U.S. cities delegation to China, as part of the Obama Administration’s U.S.-China Climate Cities Initiative, with C40, and with the Under2 Coalition founded by California Governor Jerry Brown. Under her leadership, New York City received numerous awards for sustainability and climate initiatives.

Previously at Columbia, she founded the University’s environmental stewardship office, one of the first in the U.S. for a university. She pioneered the development of sustainability theory and practice in urban settings. She worked to establish energy reduction and climate goals, green building standards, improve recycling, establish programs that sent used equipment and supplies to nonprofits in the local area as well as abroad, set up food recovery programs for local food banks and shelters, and worked on interdisciplinary initiatives bringing together scientists, researchers, faculty, students and operations teams. She helped establish the first green roofs and promoted research on them, as well as worked with community advocates and the design and construction teams on environmental standards for new construction, including the new Manhattanville campus, which was the first university campus to attain LEED-ND Platinum. Under her leadership, the University began incorporating environmental justice considerations such as air quality into its practices. Columbia was recognized for its sustainability efforts and greenhouse gas emissions reductions.

Before joining Columbia, Mesa served in other environmental leadership roles at the White House Council of Environmental Quality, the U.S. Air Force, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the California Attorney General’s office. She led an interagency task force on the National Environmental Policy Act, as well as was responsible for the assessment and recommendation report of NEPA’s effectiveness, and authored the history of NEPA chapter in the 25th anniversary report. At the Air Force, she brokered negotiations on airspace and range expansions with tribal nations, state and federal resource agencies, local business communities, and environmental advocates. At EPA, she was Counsel to the NAFTA Task Force, serving as lead U.S. attorney in the implementation negotiations for the environmental side agreements, and on the U.S. NAFTA delegation. She also developed policy on international environmental negotiations. At the California Attorney General’s office, she handled civil side environmental enforcement on toxics, air quality and endangered species issues, particularly in urban settings, and wrote amicus briefs for the U.S. Supreme Court. She is a graduate of Harvard Law School and Northwestern University. She also studied painting and sculpture at the Maryland Institute College of Art and the Art Students League. Her art may be found in the permanent collection of the 9/11 Memorial Museum, and she has exhibited in New York, Canada and France. She was born in Cuba.

She teaches at SIPA on sustainability planning and content at the urban scale, incorporating design and creative techniques with policy planning and research on urban systems, public health and economic inclusion. Her forthcoming book on climate resilience and cooperation is under contract with Routledge for 2019, and her chapter on innovation at the city scale on sustainability planning will appear in July 2018 in the book, Smart(er) Cities, with Columbia University Press.

Jacqueline Klopp, Associate Research Scholar

Jacqueline Klopp conducts research at the intersection of sustainable transport, land use, accountability, data and technology. Klopp is the author of numerous academic and popular articles on land and the politics of infrastructure with a focus on Africa and is increasingly exploring the potential of new technologies to impact transportation and land-use in the 21st Century. Recently, she has been experimenting with creative urban mapping projects for both analysis and advocacy and is a founding member of the award winning DigitalMatatus consortium which has produced the first open transit data and public transit map for Nairobi’s quasi-formal minibus (matatu) transit system. She also helped found “Digital Cairo” a consortium of  Transport4Cairo, Takween Integrated Community Development and DigitalMatatus to create open transport data for Cairo. She also started the blogs CairofromBelow and to provide more grounded and open urban information to citizens. She is currently writing a book on the politics of planning in Nairobi

Klopp received her B.A. from Harvard University where she studied Physics and her Ph.D. in Political Science is from McGill University. Prior to joining CSUD Jacqueline Klopp was an Assistant Professor of International and Public Affairs at the School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) and Director of the Economic and Political Development Concentration where she taught the politics of international development and oversaw student workshops across the globe. She currently teaches in the Sustainable Development undergraduate program at Columbia University.

Anna Rubbo, Adjunct Senior Scholar

Anna Rubbo, B.Arch (Melbourne), D. Arch (Michigan) joined CSUD in 2012. Prior to this she was Associate Professor in the Faculty of Architecture, Design and Planning at the University of Sydney. A member of the UN Millennium Project Task Force on Improving the Lives of Slum Dwellers (2002-04) she went on to lead the Global Studio, an action research project to assist urban professionals to work effectively with the urban poor.  Working with academic partners, local government and NGOs,  the program attracted over 600 students, academics and professionals from 66 universities, and over 30 countries and 10 disciplines to its conferences and programs in Istanbul (2005), Vancouver (2006), Johannesburg (2007-09), and Bhopal (2012).

Global Studio work was shown at the 2005 UN General Assembly in New York, at Custom House, Sydney (2008), in the International Architecture Biennale in Rotterdam (2009) and included in Diepsloot township work on sanitation in ‘Design with the other 90%’ in New York (Cooper Hewitt, 2011).

With CSUD and Global Studio colleagues Anna developed the traveling exhibition People Building Better Cities (PBBC), available online in six languages. Shown in 18 cities and 10 countries 2013-15, PBBC stimulated dialogue and debate on inclusive urbanization, in communities, universities, professional organizations and NGOs. In 2014 Anna partnered with UIA (Union of International Architects) Durban to present ‘Addressing Poverty and Informality through Design Education and Practice’.  She invited township residents to dialogue with professionals, at the UIA session and at events associated with the PBBC Durban exhibition. Publications are listed separately.

Since 2013 Global Studio has been an associate partner in UN Habitat’s World Urban Campaign, and showed PBBC at World Urban Forum 7 (WUF) in Medellin, Colombia. More recently she mounted events at WUF 9 (Kuala Lumpur, 2018) and Habitat III (Quito, 2016), also at previous WUFs in  2006, ’08, ’10 and 2012.

She is currently developing a project to develop awareness of, and engagement in, the SDGs and the NUA (New Urban Agenda). The Agenda 2030 Design, Planning and Policy Studio: LOCAL PROJECTS CHALLENGE is a two part knowledge sharing/knowledge building project. Stage 1 begins in December 2018 with a global survey directed to ‘city makers’ in education, the urban professions and civil society.  The question asked is: “How are the SDGs Traveling in Your World?”. Stage 2 will invite local communities to undertake local projects that improve people’s lives, and respond to the SDGs. The deadline for projects will be December 2019. The project will mount events and showcase outcomes at World Urban Forum 10 (Abu Dhabi, 2020),  and at  the Union of International Architects  Congress (Rio de Janeiro, 2020), with publications to follow.

A co-founder and editor (1996-2010) of the journal Architectural Theory Review, Anna has published widely on US architect, environmentalist and community builder Marion Mahony Griffin. In 2016 she developed the exhibition “Marion Mahony Griffin: In Her Own Right” for Elmhurst Historical Museum. She has written extensively on design education, most recently in the forthcoming Rethinking Architectural Production (Routledge 2019). She has written on development challenges, women and development in Colombia, and housing. She is co-author of Esclavitud y Libertad en el Valle del Rio Cauca (UniAndes 2011). Recognition includes the 2014 UIA Vassilis Sgoutas Prize mention for humanitarian work in education, the Australian national Neville Quarry Education Award (2011), the 2009 Skandalaris Award for Entrepreneurship in Design at the University of Washington, and the RAIA Marion Mahony Griffin Prize (2006).

Joyce Klein-Rosenthal, Adjunct Research Scientist


Joyce Klein-Rosenthal’s research evaluates the social equity and public health dimensions of urban planning and design for adapting to environmental change and reducing risk in urban settlements, and examines the shared strategies, goals, and histories of the disciplines of urban planning and public health in the creation of the healthy city. Her new research initiative, the Urban Brain Project, seeks to foster collaboration between planners, designers and public health practitioners and scholars to address solutions to the widespread lead poisoning in cities. Klein-Rosenthal received her PhD (2010) in Environmental Planning, MS in Urban Planning (2000) and MPH (2001) in Environmental Health Sciences from Columbia University.  She was visiting faculty of Urban Planning at Columbia’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation (GSAPP) in 2016, following five years as faculty at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design (GSD) in Cambridge, Massachusetts.  At Harvard University, Klein-Rosenthal created and co-directed a new masters’ degree track in Risk and Resilience in 2010, with Professor Christian Werthmann (Landscape Architecture, Leibniz University, Hannover, Germany) for the GSD’s Advanced Studies Program.  Prior to graduate study, she worked twenty years in environmental planning, research and management.  She is also a research scholar with the non-profit environmental organization BioCities in New York City, and member of the International Association of Urban Climate, the American Planning Association, the American Public Health Association and the American Geophysical Union.

 Kathy Zhang, Director “Mobility Futures” Initiative

Kathy Zhang is an affiliate at the Center for Sustainable Urban Development, where she founded “Mobility Futures,” an initiative which examined transportation technologies (including connected, automated, shared, and electric mobility options) and policies for a more sustainable and equitable transportation system. She also led operations and strategic growth as the Associate Director at the Tow Center for Digital Journalism, a research center at Columbia University focused on emerging technology in media. Previously, she managed communications and youth engagement at the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (SDSN), a policy advisory group to the United Nations. She was the founder of the Sustainability Media Lab, a Columbia initiative working to make sustainable development more accessible, relevant, and compelling across all media. Kathy holds a Master of International Affairs with a focus on Urban & Tech Policy and a Bachelor of Arts in Sustainable Development, both from Columbia University. She served as the co-president of the Technology and Innovation Student Association at the School of International and Public Affairs, and currently serves as the president of Columbia’s Undergraduate Sustainable Development Alumni Board.