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Martha Isaacs

Class of 2017-2018

About Martha

(updated 6/2018) Martha graduated with honors and highest distinction in May 2017, with a bachelor’s degree in the Geography of Human Activity and minors in Philosophy and City and Regional Planning from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC). On a full merit scholarship, she spent her undergraduate studies analyzing the ways in which transportation accessibility affects urban citizens’ mobility, from the unequal distribution of light rail routes in her hometown, Baltimore, to the lack of walkability observed in her neighborhood in Chapel Hill. Particularly interested in participatory planning to increase social capital in neighborhoods, especially through accessible transportation, she has worked for the New York City Anti- Violence Project and The Glass-House Community Design in London. In the fall of 2015, she spent a semester abroad comparing city planning practices in New York, Buenos Aires, Dakar, and Hanoi. She received research funding to study resilience in Durban, South Africa, and co-authored an article for the UNC urban planning blog, “Angles,” about the Rockefeller Foundation’s 100 Resilient Cities initiative as implemented in Durban. Experienced in data analysis from her time as a consultant at Nelson/Nygaard, a transportation planning firm in San Francisco, she strives to apply her knowledge of public policy and transit coverage to increase transportation options for disabled, elderly, and low-income communities. Back at UNC, she volunteered as a family mentor for the Refugee Community Partnership and visited incarcerated youth with Criminal Justice Awareness and Action. Martha wrote an honors thesis focusing on barriers to cycling for the Burmese refugee community in Chapel Hill, and presented her work at a session at the Association of American Geographers conference in April 2017. She taught a seminar course on how the built environment affects place-based identity and concepts of home, incorporating her interests in photography, filmmaking, and music into experiential learning methods in urban planning. Building on this topic, she participated in the UNC TEDx student speaker competition, and was chosen to speak in the UNC TEDx conference about the privatization of residential neighborhoods in the U.S. In Singapore, Martha works for the Ministry of National Development’s Centre for Liveable Cities, a think tank that strives to communicate Singapore’s urban planning strategies to other cities as well as continually promote an equitable, sustainable, and efficient urban landscape within Singapore. Martha’s main projects have focused on Singapore’s quest to become more car-lite, creating redesigns for Singapore’s street network and changing street typologies to promote cycling and walking. Other research topics include pedestrianisation feasibility studies and optimizing land use in the face of autonomous bus services. The Centre for Liveable Cities publishes a bi-annual publication, ‘Urban Solutions,’ to which Martha has contributed visual communication and photographic work. In Singapore, Martha enjoys running mid-to-long distance races, playing basketball and badminton with her coworkers, exploring Singapore’s islands and green spaces, and attending Singapore’s many film festivals with her film club. In response to a commonly heard description of Singapore as ‘sterile,’ she has also created an instagram account called ‘not sterile Singapore’ to document the richness of Singapore’s diverse culture.

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