Boone – Rhiannon Reed-Kelly dreamed of designing a world of happy, healthy cities — inspired by a book she read as a geography student at Appalachian State University (class of 2020).
“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.
App State Grad
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 and sought 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.
Her 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.
She 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, and 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 to inspire positive change for people and the natural environment.