The University of Utah
College of Architecture + Planning

CMP 4280/6280 Puerto Rico Resiliency Lab: The Puerto Rico Resiliency LAB is a City and Metropolitan Planning Studio Course running from May 16 to June 22 and is open to undergraduate and graduate students who would like to register for the Ecological Planning Workshop (CMP 4280) or the Graduate Workshop (CMP 6280).

If you are traveling with us, the program fee ($900) includes hotel stays, daily breakfasts, and local transportation to get around the Island. It does not include individual meals or rides, entertainment, tuition, or airfare. We will be traveling from May 28 to June 11. You can also take the class and not travel. You might choose to participate and make your own accommodations for lodging and transportation.

The mission of the Puerto Rico Resiliency LAB is to develop—with students, faculty, and community organizations—planning solutions that promote sustainability, resiliency, and equity in a recovery scenario. The summer program, offers students with practical experience working alongside practitioners, while providing the community partners with research, ideas, and plans that they might develop further.

Do not miss this great opportunity! We invite you to explore this website where you can find all of the information you will need to join the Puerto Rico Resilience LAB this summer.

Looking forward to working with you,

Divya Chandrasekhar and Ivis Garcia Zambrana

Assistant Professors City & Metropolitan Planning

We Thank Our Sponsors!


The Puerto Rico Resiliency Lab is an intensive summer planning studio. Students will prepare in SLC prior to leaving for the 2-week Puerto Rico experience where they will work on topics related to ongoing recovery efforts in Puerto Rico. Students will work with a local community affected by the 2017 Hurricanes Irma and Maria. ​​Students then will travel to Puerto Rico from May 28 to June 11 to work with various organizations. The class will come back to SLC to analyze the data collected and prepare a final report. Events engage students directly with practitioners, city officials, and community groups.

  • 6-week studio focused on resiliency projects that matter to communities
  • Work under the direction of planners and emergency managers
  • Engage with a spectrum of leaders: mayor’s office to activists to residents

This partly-funded by Reaveley Engineers and the Global Change Sustainability Center studio course provides students with conceptual knowledge and hands-on experience with community-based disaster planning.  Students will present their work at the Utah Disaster Resilience Symposium to be held in Salt Lake City in Fall 2022. Students must apply to travel to Puerto Rico but they do not need to travel to be enrolled in the course.

2022 Project

​Devastated by Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico has embarked on what could be the largest community relocation effort in U.S. history. The 2019 Repair, Reconstruction, or Relocation Program (R3) program, title notwithstanding, disallows in-situ elevation of structures affected in the disaster, which de facto promotes relocation over reconstruction. But the program is operating in a context of high uncertainty, higher than what is typical for disaster recovery.

The goal of this study is to provide a deeper and more complete understanding of community relocation decisions made under high uncertainty. Disaster studies typically focus on one dimension of community relocation at a time—housing reconstruction and settlement planning, livelihood and economics and policy or program design. But this siloed approach fails to capture how these different relocation dimensions are traded off against each other. The proposed study fills this gap by applying a stakeholder-level lens to factors, interdependencies and tradeoffs behind relocation decision-making. Findings of this study will be used to inform just and equitable policy practices for community relocation in high hazard risk and climate change-affected areas.

The course will spend one week working in Loiza and Comerio to survey business owners that qualify for the Home Repair, Reconstruction, or Relocation Program financed with funds assigned by the Department of Housing and Urban Development of the United States (HUD), which will provide assistance for the repair or reconstruction of business damaged by hurricanes Irma and/or Maria.

Case Study #1:

Comerío, PR. Comerío is a small town in the center of the Island, about 45 minutes from San Juan, with 18,598 residents, according to the 2018 American Community Survey (ACS). About 61% are below the poverty level, making Comerío (4 out of 78) of the poorest towns in Puerto Rico (ACS). There wasn’t electricity in the town for over six months. The town flooded because Río La Plata raised by 79.95-foot flood level, which is 50 feet more than has been ever been reported [61]. In Comerío, a total of 4,920 homes located in floodplains applied for FEMA assistance. A total of 4,342 homes were impacted by flooding of the La Plata River, a total of 1,537 were declared total loss and 111 were considered unsafe. Our study focuses on the relocation within Pueblo, a neighborhood with 250 families that forms the downtown of the municipality. According to Municipal staff, 40% of the homes and businesses in this area were severely affected during the hurricane events. Municipal engineers and project managers also report that the identified site for future development would house only 150 families whereas about 300 families meet the criteria for relocation.

Case Study #2:

Loíza. PR. Loíza is a small town of 27,857 people (ACS), located in on the north eastern coast of Puerto Rico and about 45 minutes from San Juan (Figure 3). According to the 2016 ACS, the median income was $18,154 and 46% lived below poverty. The municipality height is only 100 m (328 ft) above sea-level and for decades the municipality has been susceptible to flooding due to sea-level rising and shoreline erosion without protection from levees or floodwalls. The municipality is also surrounded by two rivers (Loíza and Herrera) and most of the developed area lays in the FEMA 100-year floodplain. About 60% of the housing stock in the municipality were significantly affected and require major reconstruction—including irreparable housing units and cases of roof and foundation damage. Our study focuses on relocation experiences with Villa Santos, a neighborhood within Loíza. This community was entirely relocated after Hurricane Hugo (1989), but because the homes were not demolished people came back. The community has about 250 households. Loíza is currently the site of a graduate workshop course offered at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign conducted in collaboration with the Mayor. For this study we also expect to collaborate with Taller Salud, a grassroot health organization active in this community.


Building Resilience in Vulnerable Older Adult Communities Facing Increased Exposure Risks to Wastewater Contamination from Flooding in Puerto Rico

Objective: The objective of this study is to gather data that will aid in building resilience in vulnerable populations against contamination risks posed by flooding. The underlying hypothesis is that even in vulnerable older adult communities exposed to natural disasters and resulting contamination, community-based risk reduction efforts can significantly decrease risk and increase the resilience of such populations especially when factors such as psychosocial vulnerabilities and the built environment are taken into consideration. Specifically, researchers are interested in improving the scientific understanding of how flooding results in elevated exposure risks to wastewater-related contaminants among older adults (Objective 1), determining what secondary/modifying psychosocial variables affect the vulnerability of older adults to risk posed by contaminant exposure (Objective 2), and learning how to build resilience in vulnerable communities with older adults by connecting the information gathered in the previous objectives (Objective 3).

Approach: The objectives will be met through a combination of (1) research about flooding, vulnerable communities in the disaster scenario, (2) surveys and interviews to identify the socioeconomic vulnerabilities, social capital, and disaster housing risk and exposure in the impacted community, and (3) community-based risk reduction to build resilience in the vulnerable, older adult population within the impacted community. Specifically, the municipality of Loíza in Puerto Rico is chosen as the testbed for this project because of its susceptibility to flooding and its large population of older adults.

Expected Results: The outputs of this project will provide spatial information on contamination, psychosocial, and infrastructure vulnerabilities to risks associated with flooding within the Loíza community, which will then be used to plan interventions for increasing resilience in the vulnerable, older adult populations. One key outcome of this work is an enhanced understanding of the connections between physical exposure to contamination from natural disasters, risks posed by psychosocial systems and the built environment, and effective methods for improving resilience in vulnerable communities.

Qualitative Report

Quantitative Report



Students at the University of Utah from College of Architecture + Planning, Environmental Studies and Engineering spent the 2019 Spring Break learning about disaster recovery and resilience in Puerto Rico after the 2017 Hurricane Maria. During the trip, we introduced students to different dimensions of disaster recovery as well how disaster resilience intersects with community revitalization, sustainability, and environmental justice.

 First, the students visited Comerío, a low-income mountain community that suffered significant flood, wind and landslide damage. Students heard stories of municipal workers who worked tirelessly to help others despite having lost homes themselves. They met an elderly widow who had lost her roof to the hurricane and lived under a tarp. They also saw the new disaster-resilient home that the Chicago-based Puerto Rico Agenda and the municipality built for her. The students then visited an Agenda-funded “resilience center”, which is designed to act as a hyper-local relief and aid center in times of disaster. Here the students led a participatory disaster impact and recovery asset mapping exercise with local residents. Our students are now transferring these insights into a report for the community to use during recovery planning. Students also heard about the community’s aspirations to restore a defunct hydroelectric plant, pursue ecotourism and other sustainability measures while recovering.

Next, students visited the unique El Yunque National Forest to experience post-disaster natural resource recovery. Students visited the make-shift visitor center that has had to operate outside the park since the disaster and learned about the impact on park facilities, trails and the many scientific experiments in-progress. They took a tour of the forest to see how the disaster has limited visitor experience, and to understand how long the road to recovery is.

Next, the students met students and faculty of the University of Puerto Rico at Rio Piedras in San Juan to hear about recovery from an institutional perspective. They followed this up with a visit to Urban, Community and Business Action Center of Río Piedras (CAUCE) which works to revitalize the economically depressed Rio Piedras neighborhood and which played a central role in coordinating local post-disaster relief and response. Finally, the students visited the World Habitat Award-winning Corporación ENLACE del Caño Martin Peña. ENLACE represents a low-income canal community that has self-organized to restore its socioeconomic and natural environments. The community has combined disaster resilience and sustainability by undertaking a community-engaged relocation project that will move residents out of the floodplain and into the same community, while also enabling ecological restoration of the canal. The visit provided students with a community-based, socially just model for sustainability and resilience planning.

Over the course of a week, the students met with many stakeholders taking many diverse recovery actions and in diverse contexts. Through stories, first-hand observation and discussions, our students learned about how dynamic, complex, multi-dimensional, and emotional disaster recovery is. They also learned about the human capacity to rise above challenges, take collective action and build community resilience in the face of disasters.

Student Report


Accommodations: Mango Mansion in San Juan

You might choose to participate and make your own accommodations for lodging and transportation. But to make your life easier, the $900 fee includes stay from May 28 to June 11. You’ll have 14-nights next to the beach in a very touristy area of Condado. This will be a shared room (with other students) that includes bed linen, towels, and doors with locks. Coffee, tea, and ingredients to make your own tropical breakfast are provided every day. Free High-Speed Internet (WiFi). For more info:

Fees & Funding

The program fee is $900 for students. The program fee ($900) includes hostel stays, breakfasts, and local transportation to get around the Island. It does not include individual meals or rides, entertainment, tuition or airfare. You might choose to participate and make your own accommodations for lodging and transportation.

We estimate the airfare to be between $500-$600. We estimate that lunches and dinners for two weeks would be about $350-$400 and you would need to pay for this on your own. Local individual travel such as Uber and Lift might be about $100 (for your own trips). Add a personal budget for entrances to museums and other destinations of your choice to maybe $30-$50. This means that you would need an estimated budget of about $1,000 for airfare, individual meals, personal rides, and entertainment. This is in addition of the $900.

You will also need to pay for the course itself. To estimate summer tuition please visit:

All traveling students will also be required to provide their insurance information or register with the University’s Global U program and obtain travel insurance (around $10-$20). It is also recommended that you visit the U.S. State Department’s student travel abroad website and the Center for Disease Control’s pre-travel immunization website to make sure you are up-to-date on health and safety matters.

Summer Program for Undergraduate Research 

The purpose of SPUR is to provide undergraduate students with an intensive 10-week research experience under the mentorship of a University of Utah faculty member. The program provides opportunities to gain research experience in a variety of disciplines. SPUR 2022 will begin on May 25, 2022 and end on August 4, 2022. Students are expected to spend 35-40 hours per week on research and program-related activities for the entire duration of the program. Students participating in SPUR will receive a stipend of $5,000 (less applicable taxes) over the course of the program. Participants will be hired as short-term, temporary employees. This will allow them to receive University of Utah ID cards, providing for the ability to check out books from University Libraries, use computers on campus, receive discounts, utilize public transit for free, etc. Apply by January 20, 2022.

SPUR Application

Diversity Scholarship 

Thanks to our sponsors, applications are being accepted for diversity scholarships of $500 for 3 students to offset expenses related to the course fee ($900)  for the Puerto Rico Resiliency Lab for summer 2021. Diversity is broadly defined (e.g. students from a racial or ethnic underrepresented background in academia, first-generation college students, students who grew up in a low-income family, etc.). Please fill out the general application and attach a brief statement that addresses: 1) your values related to diversity, 2) your experiences working with diverse populations, and 3) your future plans related to inclusivity (250 word max).

Diversity Scholarship

CLAS Graduate Student Research Award Application Instructions and Checklist

CLAS Field Research Grants provide funding to UU graduate students for travel and field-related expenses for brief periods of field research in Latin America. Recipients may be graduate students at the masters or early stages of their doctoral-level studies, including those pursuing professional degrees. The Field Research Grants are not to be used for advanced dissertation research; they are intended to provide graduate students with early experience conducting hands-on field research in Latin America, to acquire deeper knowledge and understanding of language and culture, to establish professional and institutional contacts, assess potential research sites, and to develop and refine independent research projects. Field research trips should range from 2 weeks to 4 months of duration. This program is supported by the Tinker Foundation and through generous donations to the Ed Espetin Endowed fund. Award Amounts: Range on average from $1500-3000 | Application Deadline: Last Friday in February.

CLAS Award

Apply for an Ivory Homes Capstone Initiative Fund Form

The Ivory Homes Capstone Initiative Fund offers University of Utah undergraduate students enrolled in a Capstone course the opportunity to apply for up to $1,000 of support for their Capstone project. Funds can be used for tools, materials, travel expenses, and other expenses* needed to support their projects.

* Funds cannot be used as a stipend for students participating in Capstone courses.

To apply for an Ivory Homes Capstone Grant, please fill out this form and submit online. Although applications are accepted on a rolling basis and can be submitted at anytime, we encourage you to submit an application by: March 22, 2020.

Capstone Funding

Travel and Small Grants

The Office of Undergraduate Research provides funding opportunities for students whose research requires travel or other support. Funding from the travel grant program (max $500) might cover expenses for future: airfare, lodging, conference registration, mileage (funding may not be used for gas).

Travel and Small Grants

The Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP)

The Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) provides undergraduate students and faculty members the opportunity to work together on research or creative projects.

UROP provides assistantships up to $1,200 for any first-time student who assists with a faculty member’s research or creative project, or who carries out a project of his or her own under the supervision of a faculty member. Students may apply for an assistantship any semester (summer included), and may be eligible for a one-semester renewal. UROP recipients are hired by the Office of Undergraduate Research and are paid $10/hour for up to 120 hours of work during the semester. Apply by Friday, March 11, 11:59 pm.

UROP Instructions

Global Change and Sustainability Office Graduate Student Research and Travel Funding

The Global Change and Sustainability Center offers small grants to eligible graduate students whose academic or research mentors are active faculty affiliates of the GCSC. Funds from $1,000-$3,000.

Research funding reinforces the importance of expanding research beyond a single discipline. Graduate students who conduct interdisciplinary projects benefit from exposure to other fields of study, gaining a broader perspective on approaches to research questions.

Travel funding supports student participation in professional meetings, opening the door to a number of important benefits. Students have the opportunity to present their research to peers and professionals in the field. Networking at professional meetings can not only lead to potential collaborations and other professional opportunities, but students are also likely to gain an expanded view of the discipline, its culture, and how their research interests fit into the broader landscape.

GCSC Applications

Go Fund Me
Some students in the past have used Go Fund Me to raise funds. We are providing here a sample message you can use, but that is important to add your own personality to it. Maybe you want to offer people things for their support: a picture, a postcard, a Puerto Rico t-shirt, weekly updates, etc. Do not feel self-conscious about asking for money. GET OVER IT. Family and friends will help you and this is a totally worth it reason: your education, your personal growth, etc. Post the link on your friends’ walls. This is how you get the $3,000: VISIBILITY! Posting it only on your own wall doesn’t have the same effect.

Are you thinking is too late? It is not! You can ask for support before, during, and after the visit to Puerto Rico, until you reach your goal. What if my goal is $4,000, but I only get $2,000? No problem! You can withdraw your donations from GoFundMe even if you only get $5.

How I get my money? The contributions that you get go to your bank account directly (which you provide when you open your account).  More info about withdrawing here. GoFundMe will deduct about 7.9% from each donation you receive.

Do you have to pay taxes? No, these are a personal gift.

Here’s a video of how a past student did set-up their GoFundMe and an account example.

Start a GoFundMe


Submit an online application by March 18, 2022 midnight. Selections will be announced on April 1. For more info call 801.833.4073.

Online Application


Divya Chandrasekhar

Divya Chandrasekhar is an Assistant Professor in the Department of City & Metropolitan Planning at the University of Utah with expertise in community recovery from disasters. Her research has examined post-disaster community participation and capacity building, networking and coordination among recovery institutions, and disaster recovery policy in Asia, the Carribean and the U.S. Divya specializes in qualitative inquiry and mixed method studies. Since 2015, she has been a member of the Utah State Hazard Mitigation Team, the Utah State Hazard Mitigation Plan Advisory Committee, and an affiliate of the Global Change and Sustainability Center at the University of Utah. Divya’s research has been funded by National Science Foundation, the Department of the Interior, and the Natural Hazards Center at Boulder. Her work has been published in prominent national and international journals in the fields of disaster management and urban planning.

Ivis Garcia Zambrana

Ivis García, AICP, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor in the City and Metropolitan Planning department at the University of Utah. Dr. Garcia also chairs Planners for Puerto Rico—a group of academic and practitioner planners from ACSP, APA, FEMA, CENTRO, UPR, and Society for Puerto Rican planners—among others that are collaborating in recovery efforts in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria. She also involved with the National Puerto Rican Agenda, the Puerto Rican Agenda of Chicago, the Disaster Housing Recovery Coalition, and Centro’s IDEAComún all of which promote Puerto Rico’s recovery. Dr. García earned her PhD in urban planning and policy from the University of Illinois at Chicago. She holds dual Master’s degrees from the University of New Mexico in community and regional planning and Latin American Studies and a Bachelor’s Degree in Environmental Sciences from Inter-American University in Puerto Rico.

For more information please contact Dr. Divya Chandrasekhar (

or Dr. Ivis Garcia (