Meghan Holtan

A community planner, researcher, artist and mother.

Meghan Holtan.

Meghan comes to the UB PhD program in Urban and Regional Planning after ten years as a planner and analyst for Agnew::Beck Consulting, a community development and planning firm based in Anchorage, Alaska. Her project work spanned neighborhood planning, housing, aging in place, public health, the arts and creative placemaking, environmental planning and grant writing. Her methods expertise includes geospatial analysis, survey design, secondary data analysis, interviewing and financial modeling. She has worked for a variety of clients including Alaska Native tribal organizations, public agencies, nonprofits and private industry. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Meghan was embedded in the Anchorage Health Department where she analyzed case and vaccination trends and supported vaccine allocation and distribution.

Prior to her career as a planner, Meghan performed and taught circus arts around Alaska, the United States and Italy. She continues to weave arts and culture strategies into planning processes and stakeholder engagement.

The University at Buffalo offers a model for how I want to do academic work in the world. UB is among the top five planning programs in the country for earned research dollars and faculty work with community organizations to guide research and support student learning. I also like how the Planning and Architecture School is a leader in interdisciplinary work across the university, such as with the WHO Collaborating Center for Health and Housing and that faculty specialties align with almost all aspects of my research interests.

Research Interests

Meghan focuses her research on the relationship between the built environment, nature and community health. In particular, she is interested in the social aspects of these relationships and aging in place. During her doctoral research, she hopes to better understand how housing and community development organizations are leading this work and what data indicators are most relevant for professionals interested in improving community health. Meghan intends to work with community development organizations to co-design research questions and communicate evidence for policy change.

During her doctoral studies at UB, Meghan will learn tools of epidemiology, statistics and public health, and further develop her knowledge of planning, housing policy and geographic analysis to better understand her research questions and their applications. 

As a UB Presidential Fellow, she is excited for interdisciplinary research collaborations with other PhD students across UB. Meghan hopes to return to Alaska to teach, research and contribute to the sustainability of urban communities in the peri-Arctic region.


  • MS Environmental Science
    Concentration in Environmental and Community Land Planning
    State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry
  • BA Latin American Studies
    University of Chicago

Selected Publication

Holtan, M. T., Dieterlen, S. L., & Sullivan, W. C. (2015). Social Life Under Cover: Tree Canopy and Social Capital in Baltimore, Maryland. Environment and Behavior, 47(5), 502–525.