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Who is DrUrbanPolicy? (bio)

Rodney Harrell, PhD is a leader in understanding issues facing people and communities, using a holistic approach that involves innovation and collaboration across sectors to address persistent social issues. His experience as a local, national and international issue expert, program manager, author, speaker, blogger, consultant, instructor and mentor spans government, academia, and the private sectors.

Dr. Harrell is currently the Vice President of Family, Home and Community for AARP. In that position, he leads a group in AARP’s Public Policy Institute that creates innovative research, policy analysis and solutions on Livable Communities, Family Caregiving and Long Term Services and Supports (LTSS) issues. He has held several other positions at AARP, including Vice President of Livable Communities and LTSS, Director of Livability Thought Leadership, Director of Livable Communities, and Senior Strategic Policy Advisor for Housing and Livable Communities. Dr. Harrell is also the Housing Strategy Enterprise Lead for AARP, leading efforts to improve housing options for people of all ages and building from AARP's Future of Housing initiative, which was developed under his direction.  Dr. Harrell’s research on housing preferences, neighborhood choice and community livability are integral to the creation of the Livability Index.  The Index is the world's first neighborhood-based, nationwide livability index and measures the livability of every neighborhood and community in the United States.  The Index was created in 2015 and Dr. Harrell and his team lead its future development.  

Dr. Harrell has a strong commitment to public service, and volunteers with several organizations. He is currently a member of the Board of Visitors for the University of Maryland School of Architecture Planning and Preservation, is a member of the Champions Council of the Coalition for Smarter Growth, and is an appointed member of the Largo (MD) Town Center Development Board.  He is also an advisor on the City Health initiative of the de Beaumont Foundation and Kaiser Permanente, and several other efforts related to livable communities. He has served a member of several other key boards and committees, including the Policy Committee and TOD Working Group for Living Cities, a philanthropic collaborative of 22 foundations and financial institutions working to improve the lives of low-income people and the urban areas where they live. Dr. Harrell is also the former Vice Chair - Policy for the Planning and the Black Community Division of the American Planning Association, and served as president of a condominium association in Prince George’s County, MD.  He was named as one of the initial class of Top Influencers in Aging by Next Avenue for his innovation in aging issues.

Dr. Harrell has made numerous speeches and public appearances to discuss issues of livable communities, housing, aging, equity, community development, and neighborhood development, and has been a featured speaker for audiences across the United States and across the world (see the list here).  He has appeared on dozens of dozens of media outlets, including the New York Times, LA Times, ABC, Fox News and MSNBC (see the list here). (Lists last updated in 2012)

Dr. Harrell is an author of several publications, many of which which can be seen here. Prior to working at AARP, he worked as a research and evaluation consultant, a researcher and instructor in Urban Planning and Historic Preservation at the University of Maryland, a research fellow at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, and a Maryland Governor’s Fellow on revitalization, housing and preservation issues in the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development.  He has also worked as an advisor and strategic consultant to small businesses in the Washington, DC region. 

Dr. Harrell was graduated summa cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from the honors program at Howard University with a B.A. in Political Science, earned dual master’s degrees in Public Affairs and in Urban and Regional Planning from Princeton University's School of Public and International Affairs, and received a Ph.D. in Urban Planning and Design from the University of Maryland, College Park, where he was a Wylie Fellow and a member of the Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society.

Dr. Harrell was born and raised in Washington D.C. and neighboring Prince George's County, Md.  He is a charter fan and season ticket holder of the 2019 World Series Champion Washington Nationals, a proud supporter of the Washington Football Team and all D.C. sports teams, and is a “recovering" track athlete after being a collegiate triple and long jumper once upon a time.

You can find Dr. Harrell at and, or email him at  

(Text last Updated 11/28/2020 - Lists last updated 2012)

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