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Who is DrUrbanPolicy? (bio)

Rodney Harrell, PhD is the Director of Livable Communities in AARP’s Public Policy Institute. He leads a group that works on innovative livable communities research, policy analysis and solutions.  According to AARP, livable communities are safe and secure, have affordable and appropriate housing and transportation options, and supportive community features and services. Once in place, those resources enhance personal independence; allow residents to age in place; and foster residents’ engagement in the community’s civic, economic, and social life. Dr. Harrell’s research on housing preferences, neighborhood choice and community livability are integral to the Livability Index project that will measure the livability of every community in the United States. He also leads @AARPpolicy social media efforts.

He has served a member of several key boards and committees including the Policy Committee and TOD Working Group for Living Cities, a philanthropic collaborative of 22 foundations and financial institutions working to improve the lives of low-income people and the urban areas where they live. Dr. Harrell is also the former Vice Chair - Policy for the Planning and the Black Community Division of the American Planning Association, and served as president of a condominium association in Prince George’s County, MD.

Dr. Harrell has made numerous public appearances to discuss issues of housing, aging, community development, neighborhood development and livable communities, and has been a featured speaker for audiences across the United States and across the world (see the list here).  He has appeared on several media outlets, including the New York Times, LA Times, ABC and MSNBC (see the list here).

Dr. Harrell is an author of several publications which can be seen here. Prior to working at AARP, he worked as a research and evaluation consultant, a researcher and instructor in Urban Planning and Historic Preservation at the University of Maryland, a research fellow at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, and a Maryland Governor’s Fellow on revitalization, housing and preservation issues in the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development.

Dr. Harrell was graduated summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from the honors program at Howard University with a B.A. in Political Science, earned dual master’s degrees in Public Affairs and in Urban and Regional Planning from the Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University, and received a Ph.D. in Urban Planning and Design from the University of Maryland, College Park, where he was a Wylie Fellow and a member of the Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society.

Dr. Harrell was born and raised in Washington D.C. and neighboring Prince George's County, Md.  He was born with Natitude as a charter fan of the Washington Nationals, supports all D.C. sports teams, and is a “recovering track athlete” after being a collegiate triple and long jumper once upon a time.

You can find Dr. Harrell at and, or email him at  

LinkedIn below, but please, no connection requests unless you have made contact some other way first.

(Last Updated 6/6/2014)

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