Neely’s Urban Adventure: Exploring Female-Focused Urban Planning in Athens
As she was planning her Semester abroad in Greece, Fall ‘23 CYA Student Neely McKee reached out to the CYA Student Affairs department to see if they could find any extra-curricular opportunities regarding her academic interest: Urbanism. The response was positive and since September, alongside her studies, Neely has embarked on an internship experience with Urbana Lab. Urbana Lab’s is a women-led Civil Non-Profit Partnership, consisting of architects, social scientists, political scientists, and educators, with a mission to guarantee the right to the city for all, focusing on the social groups that were traditionally participating less in urban planning and decision-making, such as women, children, and the elderly.
Neely comes from a background in urban planning in the United States, studying urban history and taking on opportunities of exposure to the field. Last year she worked at the i worked at the New York State Department of City Planning. Speaking to us about her current experience at Urbana, she expressed her excitement about discovering an organization that focuses on female-centric planning methods, non-profits, and research institutes.
“I do urban planning work in the US, but I haven’t seen a lot of female-focused planning methods, non-profits or research institutes, so it’s really cool to see what they do here at Urbana, to see their work,”
Urbana Lab’s work primarily revolves around addressing female visibility and vulnerability, as well as the unique needs of mothers in urban settings. Neely explains that their projects often receive funding from the European Union, as Greece faces challenges in securing dedicated funding for such initiatives compared to other countries.
Currently a History Major student, Neely was happy to discover that her position in Urbana Lab could help her delve into a perspective of urban planning that also aligns with her interest in history.
“They assigned me a small research project about different statues in the Syntagma Plaka center area, to look at how they conceptualize Greek history and specifically how women are (or are not) represented in that,” Neely explained. The project involves examining the representation of women in statues and understanding the identities celebrated by these monuments.
Her small-scale research project involves mapping and analyzing 5-10 statues in the area, questioning the narratives they convey about Greek history and the role of women in shaping that history. Neely reflects on the emphasis on the ancient Greek past in Athens and is intrigued by how the general Greek population perceives this focus.
In addition to her academic endeavors, Neely highlights the impact of her internship on her overall study-abroad experience. The opportunity to work with Urbana Lab has allowed her to connect with Greek professionals in her field, explore diverse neighborhoods in Athens, and engage in conversations with locals who share her interests.
“It’s been really nice to have something outside of CYA life, because it’s really easy to just hang out with your friends at CYA – unfortunately, I mainly interact with Americans. So, it’s a great opportunity to meet Greek people, especially ones that have my interests, get recommendations on what to do, and it’s a nice opportunity to get into another neighborhood, see other parts of Athens! It’s also been interesting talking about school, and their paths towards where they are now”
Neely values the cross-cultural understanding and connections formed as a result of her work at Urbana and hopes to keep in touch with them in the future.
CYA, through facilitating such internships, aims to provide students with experiences that go beyond the classroom, creating a bridge between academic curiosity and real-world application.