Danielle Zoé Rivera

assistant professor of environmental design


Danielle Zoé Rivera is an Assistant Professor of Environmental Design at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Her research interests include: urban planning, public interest design, environmental justice, and community organizing. Her current research comparatively examines community organizing practice for social and environmental justice in Puerto Rico and the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. Rivera also teaches design theory, planning studios, and seminars on environmental justice and community organizing.

Rivera holds a PhD in Urban Planning from the University of Michigan, a Master of Architecture from the University of Pennsylvania, and a Bachelor of Architecture from The Pennsylvania State University. She enjoys working across the traditional design disciplines and has over six years of experience on numerous research projects in architecture, landscape architecture, and urban planning. Outside of academia, she enjoys endless shots of coffee, watercolor painting, and taking care of her Rex Rabbit Mr.B.

See my academic page here.

Research Portfolio

For more information on these projects, please see this page.

Curriculum Vitae


2017: Ph.D. in Urban Planning, University of Michigan -- Primary Specialization in Community Development and Organizing, Secondary Specialization in Border Studies, Primary Method in Qualitative Case Studies

"Questioning as We Walk": Case Analysis of Community Organizing in Rio Grande Valley Colonias -- Why are United States (U.S.)/Mexico colonias assumed to lack the capacity to organize? Are they, in fact, capable of community organizing? This dissertation sought to resolve a major discrepancy between evidence of colonia organizing on the ground and theories of community organizing that obscure colonia-based practices.

2010: M.Arch. II, University of Pennsylvania

MERGE: Uniting the Char-Lands -- Understanding the Bangladeshi charlands to be transient landforms, the research sought to uncover a method for improving life for char-dwellers. Emphasis was placed on the roles that NGOs could play in this improvement. The final design proposal focuses on the need to improve connectivity between char-land and shabek-land, proposing a multifunctional facility that challenges vernacular construction methods.

2009: B.Arch., The Pennsylvania State University, with High Distinction

[CON]CURRENT: Negotiating a Dynamic Landscape -- Located upon the sand dunes of Hook of Holland, the thesis negotiates the contentious relationship between a physically transient sand dune that must flex and push against the often violent North Sea, and sprawl that does not seem to recognize the sand dune as distinctly different from the region it protects. The thesis sought to identify the sand dune as a physical system distinct from the regions it is politically and economically coupled with, while acknowledging the confluence of the sprawl and the sea -- regional tourism.



2017-Present: Assistant Professor of Environmental Design, University of Colorado-Boulder, Department of Environmental Design

ENVD 3134: History and Theory of ENVD: Precincts (Spring 2017)

ENVD 4100: Global Cities Seminar (Fall 2017)

ENVD 3100: Urban Planning Studio (Fall 2017)

2013 (Winter): Graduate Student Instructor (GSI), University of Michigan, Taubman College -- UP 505, Planning Fundamentals

2011-2012: Instructor of Architecture, The Pennsylvania State University, Stuckeman School -- ARCH 131s/132, First-Year Architecture Studios

2010 (Fall): Teaching Assistant, The Pennsylvania State University, Stuckeman School -- ARCH 332, Third-Year Architecture Studios



Rivera, D. Z. (2014). The Forgotten Americans: A Visual Exploration of Lower Rio Grande Valley Colonias. Michigan Journal of Sustainability, 2, online here.

Haider, J., Aeschbacher, P., Bose, M., & Rivera, D. (2013). Active Living in Small Town America: An Approach to Parks and Recreation Planning and Design. Studies in the History of Gardens & Designed Landscapes: An International Quarterly, 33(4), 345-359.



"Questioning as We Walk": Everyday Organizing in U.S./Mexico Border Colonias, drafted for the 2017 AAG Conference, Boston, MA. (Ready for Review)

Reclaiming 'Self-Help' within Rio Grande Valley Colonia Organizing, drafted for the Housing Across Borders conference, San Diego, CA. (Ready for Review)



Haider, J., Aeschbacher, P., Bose, M., Parr, C., Rivera, D., Shamalla, M., & Tjoa, P. (2010). Planning and Design Strategies for Healthy Living, Parks and Recreation in the Pottstown Area. Preparing for Implementation: Strategies and Guidelines Report Phase II to the Pottstown Area Health and Wellness Foundation, University Park, PA: The Pennsylvania State University.

Haider, J., Aeschbacher, P., Bose, M., Parr, C., Rivera, D., Shamalla, M., & Tjoa, P. (2009). Planning and Design Strategies for Healthy Living, Parks and Recreation in the Pottstown Area. Community Built Environment and Parks Assessment Report: Phase I to the Pottstown Area Health and Wellness Foundation, University Park, PA: The Pennsylvania State University.



2017-2018: CU Boulder Innovative Seed Grant ($50,000, in progress, with Amy Javernick-Will and Abbie Liel)

2016: Rackham One-Term Fellowship (Completed)

2015: Rackham Graduate Student Research Grant, Candidate (Completed)

2014: Ford School Center for Public Policy in Diverse Societies Grant (Completed)

2014: Rackham Conference Grant (Completed)

2013: Rackham Conference Grant (Completed)

2013: Rackham Graduate Student Research Grant (Completed)

2013: Tinker Field Research Grant (Awarded, but declined)

2008: Penn State Discovery Summer Undergraduate Grant (Completed)



2017: Housing Across Borders Conference, "Reclaiming 'Self-Help' within Rio Grande Valley Colonia Organizing" [Paper Presentation]. San Diego, CA, May 26.

2017: Association of American Geographers (AAG) Conference, "LUCHA: Everyday Organizing and U.S./Mexico Border Colonias" [Roundtable]. Boston, MA, April 7.

2016: Spaces of Struggle Mini-Conference, "The Nepantleras: Colonia Organizing in a Liminal Space between the Global North and South." Portland, OR, November 2. 

2016: Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning (ACSP) 56th Annual Conference, "Towards a Relational Understanding of Urban Informality and Planning" [Roundtable]. Portland, OR, November 3-6. With Susmita Rishi. 

2016:  Urban Affairs Association (UAA) Conference, "Theorizing Community Organizing in a Diverse Society: Case Study in Rio Grande Valley Colonias." San Diego, CA, March 16-19.

2015: Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning (ACSP) 55th Annual Conference, "People or Place in Nonprofit Anti-Poverty Programs? Comparative Case Analysis in Rio Grande Valley Colonias." Houston, TX, October 22-25.

2014: Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning (ACSP) 54th Annual Conference, "Nonprofit and CDC Organization in Southern Texas Colonias" [Poster]. Philadelphia, PA, November 1-2. 

2014: Association of Borderland Studies (ABS) Annual Meeting, "Informal/Formal Divide: Municipal Borders and Annexation Policies in Borderland Colonias." Albuquerque, NM, April 5.

2012: National Conference on the Beginning Design Student (NCBDS), Invited Panel Moderator and Discussant. University Park, PA, March 30.

2011: Penn State Faculty Friday Lecture Series, "The Temporal Region: Urban-Scale Impacts of Time and Transience." University Park, PA, November 11.

2011: Mentoring Conference: Learning Across Disciplines, "PORO[US BORDER]S: Mentoring where Real Problems Meet." University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM, October 27. With Darla Lindberg.

2011: ICARUS II, "Panel Theme 6: Mapping, Analyzing, and Modeling Institutional Actors and Policy Formation Network Dynamics." Panel Discussant and Presenter, School of Natural Resources and the Environment, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, May 6. With Adam Longenbach and Darla Lindberg.



2015: Wait-listed: Ford Foundation Dissertation Fellowship

2014: Winner: ACSP Jury Award for Conference Poster, Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning

2013: Honorable Mention: Saarinen Swanson Annual Essay Competition, Taubman College, University of Michigan

2013: Honorable Mention: Ford Foundation Pre-Doctoral Fellowship

2011: Winner: ACSA Archive Competition Two, I am a Second Responder, with Darla Lindberg, David Mosemann, Adam Longenbach, and Zach Jones

2009: First-Place: Paul Kossman Thesis Award, Penn State Architecture

2009: Departmental Five-Year Design Merit Award, Penn State Architecture



2017: ENVD Scholarship Committee

2017: ENVD Search Committee

2017: ENVD Diversity Committee

2013-2015: Urban Planning Steward, Graduate Employees' Organization (GEO), University of Michigan

2013-2015: Urban Planning Member, Emerging Voices Lecture Committee, Taubman College, University of Michigan

2013-2014: Vice President, Planning and Architecture Research Group (P+ARG), Taubman College, University of Michigan

2011-2012: Communications Committee, Stuckeman School, Penn State



American Association of Geographers (AAG)

Association of Borderland Studies (ABS)

Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning (ACSP)

Relational Poverty Network (RPN)

Spaces of Struggle (SoS)

Urban Affairs Association (UAA)



English (native, fluent); Spanish (intermediate); Italian (basic)