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HI, I’M MAI NGUYEN

My research is inspired by the goal of creating equitable and resilient communities.  I am an urban planner who seeks to improve the lives of vulnerable and under served populations.  I am passionate about how we can harness urban planning and public policy to create a better future for the next generation.

I have been fascinated by the idea of geography as destiny – the idea that the neighborhood you were born into is predictive of so many outcomes – including your income, wealth, education level, health, who you marry, life expectancy, and so much more.  How do people decide what neighborhood to live in? This question of how human settlements evolve led to me to a realization that many people don’t have choices of where to locate and that there are tremendous social, cultural, economic, political, and legal barriers to residential attainment.

I became fascinated with how powerful actors and institutions work within a racialized housing market to create segregated residential patterns and perpetuate inequality.

As I dug deeper into this topic, I learned that throughout history, housing and urban policy have worked to create and reinforce our current hyper-segregated communities and that planners have played a key role in this.  Once I understood how racist housing and urban policies have set up a system that is unfair and unjust, my work to dismantle this system began.


I am an Associate Professor of City & Regional Planning at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the Board Chair of the Urban Affairs Association.  I am also the director of the New Faculty Program for the College of Arts & Sciences and the director of the Moore Undergraduate Research Apprenticeship Program, a program to train promising young scholars from underrepresented backgrounds to become successful academics.

In my free time, I try to spend as much time outdoors as possible: in my vegetable garden, at the beach, on the mountain chasing fresh powder, and anywhere there is sunshine.

View my CV