BOONE, N.C. — Rhiannon Reed-Kelly ’20 dreams of designing a world of happy, healthy cities — inspired by a book she read as a geography student at Appalachian State University.
“Happy City” — a book by Charles Montgomery about the intersection between urban design and happiness — introduced Reed-Kelly to the concept of incorporating physical, mental and environmental health into city planning.
She now resides in Dublin, where she is establishing residence with plans to pursue her master’s degree in urban design.
Exploring places — and conditions of people connected to those places — was central to her education at App State, Reed-Kelly said. She was involved in several research projects as an undergraduate:
- She surveyed various U.S. universities and colleges to examine the connections between their social work and community planning programs, seeking to learn about cross-discipline training in community development with an eye on social issues. Dr. Elizabeth Shay, associate professor in the Department of Geography and Planning, supervised this project.
- She was part of a student team that helped research the readiness of cities to accommodate automated vehicles — a Transportation Safety and Policy project funded by the North Carolina Department of Transportation.
- She evaluated student poverty, food insecurity and homelessness on the App State campus — with the goal of aiding students in need. Dr. Jeffery Bortz, professor in App State’s Department of History, led this study.
An international education
Reed-Kelly took advantage of one of App State’s many study abroad programs to spend a semester abroad at Masaryk University in the Czech Republic, researching the country's political climate, as well as that of Hungary and Poland. After graduating, she returned to the Czech Republic and taught English as a second language for a year.
Reed-Kelly grew up in Boone and often traveled to her father’s home country of Ireland during summers and holidays. Her mother, Dr. Susan Reed ’89 ’15, is an adjunct instructor at App State, and her father teaches at a community college.
She graduated summa cum laude with a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in community and regional planning, a B.S. in geography with a certificate in geographic information systems (GIS) and a minor in sustainable development.
She was the recipient of:
- The Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship, enabling her to study abroad in the Czech Republic.
- The T. Marvin Williamsen Study Abroad Scholarship.
- A Planning Scholarship from App State’s Local Government Alumni Association — comprising city and county managers and department heads in local governments.
- The Marvin Collins Outstanding Planning Award from the North Carolina Chapter of the American Planning Association.
- App State’s Department of Geography and Planning outstanding senior award.
Dr. Saskia van de Gevel, geography professor in and chair of the Department of Geography and Planning, said she uses Reed-Kelly’s digital portfolio — showcasing her GIS and planning projects created while at App State — as a template in her professional development course.
After earning her master’s degree, Reed-Kelly said she plans to incorporate her interests in sustainable development and urban planning to understand and solve geospatial issues and make positive changes for people and the natural environment.
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About the Department of Geography and Planning
The Department of Geography and Planning promotes the understanding of the spatial dimensions of human behavior within the physical and cultural systems of the earth, and the role of planning in achieving improvement in those systems. The department offers degrees in geography and in community and regional planning. Learn more at https://geo.appstate.edu.
About the College of Arts and Sciences
The College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) at Appalachian State University is home to 17 academic departments, two centers and one residential college. These units span the humanities and the social, mathematical and natural sciences. CAS aims to develop a distinctive identity built upon our university's strengths, traditions and unique location. The college’s values lie not only in service to the university and local community, but through inspiring, training, educating and sustaining the development of its students as global citizens. More than 6,400 student majors are enrolled in the college. As the college is also largely responsible for implementing App State’s general education curriculum, it is heavily involved in the education of all students at the university, including those pursuing majors in other colleges. Learn more at https://cas.appstate.edu.
About Appalachian State University
As a premier public institution, Appalachian State University prepares students to lead purposeful lives. App State is one of 17 campuses in the University of North Carolina System, with a national reputation for innovative teaching and opening access to a high-quality, affordable education for all. The university enrolls more than 21,000 students, has a low student-to-faculty ratio and offers more than 150 undergraduate and 80 graduate majors at its Boone and Hickory campuses and through App State Online. Learn more at https://www.appstate.edu.