2021-2022 Luce Scholar

Elena Castellanos is a senior at Claremont McKenna College, dual-majoring in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics, and Public Policy. First becoming attuned to the value of public spaces while working at her local library, Elena is invested in understanding how communities navigate public life in their neighborhoods. At Claremont McKenna, she is a Mellon Mays Undergraduate Research Fellow studying how feminist epistemology can serve as a tool for evaluating unjust spatial arrangements and aid urban planners in adopting participatory planning. Her research on space and equity has led her to study the impacts of the 2008 recession on rural community development in Ottumwa, Iowa, and the uses of design as a tool for social exclusion during apartheid in Cape Town, South Africa. In 2019, Elena studied Urban Planning and Design at the University of California-Berkeley’s Design and Innovation for Sustainable Cities summer program. She was a 2020 Carnegie Mellon University Public Policy and International Affairs Fellow and studied Public Policy and Data Science there. At Claremont McKenna, Elena leads a group called College Knowledge that supports schoolwide college-readiness programs at Chaffey High School. She also manages the Kravis Lab for Social Impact Fellowship, a human-centered product design fellowship for nontechnical student social entrepreneurs. Elena is committed to a career at the intersection of community capacity building and inclusive urban planning, creating opportunities for neighborhoods to learn, collaborate, and design together. A Los Angeles native, she never misses the opportunity to watch a sunset at the beach, take an ocean view hike, and enjoy the city’s culturally rich food scene.