Dr. Maxinne Rhea Leighton: Dedicated to Fostering Human Rights and Ecological Sustainability Within the Built Environment

PhD in Leadership and Change alumna Dr. Maxinne Rhea Leighton, has held leadership roles in design firms (architectural, engineering and planning) for the past two decades, bridging professional practice and thought leadership with marketing/communications and business development. That experience contributed to the research and publication of her dissertation entitled, Arising: Hurricane (Superstorm) Sandy’s Impact on Design/Planning Professionals, which focuses specifically on what one massive storm – Hurricane Sandy (Superstorm Sandy) – left behind and the ways in which experiences impacted design/ planning professionals approaches to future climate-related events, as well as the impacts upon them personally, professionally, and societally.

Post-9/11, Ms. Leighton, a native New Yorker, became committed to the “Advancement of Peace and Security Within the Built Environment.” As a member of the initial Ground Zero planning team, she served as a liaison between design/planning professionals and the families of victims. Post-Katrina, while engaged with a study focused on affordable housing, she experienced the nexus between race and socio-economics in post-disaster recovery. This revealed inequities not just in communities but the design profession itself. During post-Sandy recovery efforts, Dr. Leighton—who was raised in Coney Island, Brooklyn—utilized her skills in marketing/communications and community advocacy on the Rebuild by Design Hurricane Sandy Design competition; the NYC Special Initiative for Rebuilding and Resiliency; and the American Institute of Architects New York Chapter (AIA-NY) and the AIA-NY’s Design for Risk and Reconstruction Committee Post-Sandy Initiative report.

An Honorary Council Member for the Consortium for Sustainable Urbanization Global, she is also Vice President of WIIS-NY (Women in International Security), a member of the New York AIA’s Design for Risk and Reconstruction Committee, Advisory Council Member for Save Ellis Island, and an advisory board member for A Movement in Water,™ an interactive multimedia public art installation. In 2018 she was recognized with an Outstanding Women in the Building Industry award from the Women Builders’ Council as well as being honored as one of New York’s Power Women.

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