Photo: Angela Burnett Penn MCRP ’14 (left) and Interim Dean Stuart Shapiro
2022 Bloustein School Rising Star honoree Angela Burnett Penn MCRP ’14 knows that being a good planner is all about being able to successfully navigate spaces, places, and communities through change–whether climate change, changes in population, or socioeconomic dynamics.
Having served as Climate Change Officer for The Virgin Islands since 2008, Angela helped build and implement the Territory’s climate change program from scratch into a small-island, best-practice model with support from regional institutional partners. The Rising Star honor reflects Ms. Burnett Penn’s professional accomplishments in environmental management and climate change adaptation in the Caribbean, and her global climate advocacy work as author of The Irma Diaries, among other things.
And on September 6, 2017, when Hurricane Irma—a Category 5 hurricane—struck the island in the early daylight hours, Angela was there. She saw firsthand the extensive, long-lasting damage to buildings, infrastructure, beaches, and residential life. As a former city and regional planning student, she found greater purpose in her work focusing on the island’s ability to prepare for such catastrophic events.
“Planners get the exciting job of figuring out how to strategically use land and connected resources to support wide-ranging community and national goals in an ever-evolving landscape,” she said at the 2022 Bloustein School Alumni Achievement Awards Celebration. “I strongly believe that we can significantly leverage our power and impact as planners when we invest time and resources in educating the public about smart and sustainable development principles.”
Angela has designed and implemented creative climate change public education campaigns, conducted a climate change vulnerability and capacity assessment of the tourism sector, and managed the implementation of local physical adaptation projects. All of these projects were critical to protecting flood-prone, coastal communities as Hurricane Irma arrived. They were also instrumental in establishing BVI as an innovative community of sustainability and defenders against the effects of climate change.
“The broad analytical and design skills I learned at the Bloustein School have served me well along my journey. In the last few months alone, I’ve directly applied tangible skills from no less than four of my planning courses, and have referenced at least one of my old textbooks,” she said.
“As climate changes, and the world goes through other major changes, the planning profession will become more and more important to ensure communities can continue to thrive. Institutions like the Bloustein School will be critical to producing the next generation of leading planners.”
Angela was especially thankful to her family and friends, acknowledging their continued support of her career as well as thanking many for making the journey to see her accept the Rising Star award. “I’m flattered, humbled, and sincerely grateful for the recognition and the mandate to keep reaching for the stars.”