Colleen McHugh

Senior Planner

Colleen McHugh has ten years of experience in resilience planning. At the Institute, McHugh uses her background in city planning and urban design to explore the interrelationships among infrastructure, social, and natural systems with a focus on helping cities and regions develop visions and actionable strategies for adapting to thrive in the face of a changing environment and climate. McHugh works closely with public-sector partners and clients such as the City of Houston, the City of Charleston, the State of Louisiana, FEMA, and USACE to translate science for decision making, facilitate interdisciplinary workshops, craft visions and actions for advancing resilience and adapting to environmental change, design nature-based solutions to reduce flood risk, provide technical and programmatic support, and develop long-term strategic plans for future investments.

Prior to joining the Institute, McHugh spent five years working in the public sector in New Orleans, advancing resilience and sustainability projects and programs that have become national best practices. She was instrumental in the development of New Orleans’ award-winning Resilient New Orleans strategy, the city’s first-ever Climate Action Plan, the city’s $141M award-winning proposal for the National Disaster Resilience Competition, the design and implementation of neighborhood-scale green infrastructure and nature-based solutions, and the customization of climate adaptation decision support tools. She focused on long-term visioning, strategy, and integrated planning, and successfully translated those efforts into proven implementation and cross-departmental collaboration. Her work engaging engineering and design technicians, and forming partnerships with community organizations, has produced positive, lasting impacts on the city’s resilience and associated projects.

McHugh began her career working on urban planning and policy issues in the San Francisco Bay Area. She has a B.A. in Global Studies with a minor in Geography from UCLA and a master’s in City Planning with a Certificate in Urban Design from MIT. McHugh was awarded an Excellence in Public Service Award by MIT’s Department of Urban Studies and Planning in 2016 for her leadership in advancing resilience planning and projects in New Orleans.

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