Dr. Rodney Harrell, a 2008 Ph.D. graduate from the University of Maryland and Vice President, Family, Home and Community at AARP, has been named the next chair of the School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation Board of Visitors (BOV). Harrell will replace Bill Bonstra, who served as chair for two years, on July 1.
“Dr. Harrell's leadership on the Board of Visitors will be transformative," said Dr. Dawn Jourdan, dean of the School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation. “As a former student of the school’s doctoral program, Rodney [CCH1] appreciates the school’s dedication to both practice and research. He is a highly respected thought leader and will bring his ideas and professional networks to our school.”
A national voice in housing equity, community development, livability and urban planning, Harrell brings a wealth of leadership experience in both the private and public sector to his new board position. A native of Prince George’s County with degrees from Howard and Princeton Universities, Harrell chose to pursue his doctorate at Maryland—and MAPP, in particular—because of its interdisciplinary approach to tackling challenges within the built environment. For Harrell, that challenge was housing choice, a mantle he has taken up for the past 14 years at AARP. His research and policy work has fortified ongoing efforts to improve access to affordable, dignified housing options for seniors across the country, one of the many issues laid bare by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“There’s an urgency to these [social justice and equity] issues, but also a timelessness to them,” he said. “And that interdisciplinary, broad approach is so important and something I think MAPP does really well; we’re one school bringing together all of these different lenses.”
Harrell has been a member of the BOV since 2018 and served as vice chair under Bonstra; together with the board they advised then Interim Dean Donald Linebaugh on building capacity for a growing school and student body and developing an integrated identity that encompasses MAPP’s diverse work. As BOV president, Harrell says he’ll work with vice chair Tom Gallas and the board to support the strategic goals and vision of MAPP’s new dean.
“We have come a long way in establishing ourselves as an interdisciplinary school of the built environment and that’s something that will continue,” he said. “I am excited to be working with Dean Jourdan and happy to be part of that process.”