Clara Irazábal-Zurita is professor of urban studies and planning and new director of the Urban Studies and Planning Program. Irazábal-Zurita comes to UMD from the University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC), where she was director of the Latinx and Latin American Studies Program and a professor of urban planning. Prior to UMKC, she directed the Latin Lab and was an associate professor of urban planning at Columbia University in New York City and held appointments at both University of Southern California, Los Angeles, and the Pratt Institute, NYC.
Irazábal-Zurita has spent over two decades exploring social and spatial justice through the lens of urban planning and design. She examines the complex paradox of planning’s emancipatory promise – leveraging the constructs of the built environment to create social equity, opportunity and vibrant, just communities – and its systemic failure to deliver. Her research, which straddles continents, sits at the intersection of culture, politics and the politics of place, with case studies ranging from the informal settlements of Venezuela to the immigrant communities of the United States. She is the author of City Making and Urban Governance in the Americas: Curitiba and Portland, which illustrates the government-community synergy in two cities successfully navigating rapid growth, and has written and spoken extensively on the cultural, economic, political and racial issues that shape urban enclaves.