The first graduate of UB’s PhD in urban and regional planning is among the Class of 2017

Dean Shibley shakes hand of Molly Ranahan, UB's first PhD in urban and regional planning graduate.

Dean Robert Shibley congratulates Molly Ranahan after her successful dissertation defense. Ranahan is the first to complete UB's PhD program in urban and regional planning.

By Stephanie Bucalo

Published May 17, 2017 This content is archived.

A planning scholar investigating the experience of LGBT older adults in community and residential settings will walk the stage at the school’s Commencement Ceremony on Friday, May 19, as the first graduate of UB’s PhD program in urban and regional planning. 


Molly Ranahan successfully defended her dissertation, Planning for the Health, Social Inclusion, and Community Support of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Older Adults, earlier this month to a review board of faculty, staff and peers.

Her research focuses on planning for the unique needs of the aging LGBT community with respect to housing and community development. She reports in her recently published article, “Planning for the Residential Needs of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Older Adults” (Journal of Community Practice, 2017), that LGBT residents experience various levels of poor treatment, from discrimination, stigmatization and isolation based on their sexual orientation or gender.

Based on interviews with LGBT older adults in residential settings and the review of housing proposals from three different developers, Ranahan identified several areas in the housing development and programming process as opportunities to foster a safer and healthier environment for the residents.

Molly Ranahan defends her dissertation.

Molly Ranahan defends her dissertation and presents her research findings to an audience of faculty, students and members of the community.

Among her proposed solutions are the creation of safe spaces for LGBT residents and promoting community engagement and social support for this aging population. Ranahan also establishes that broader efforts in community outreach are essential to extend awareness of, and opportunities to address, inequity in care across the range of senior facilities, from independent to assisted living.

Ranahan's dissertation committee members are Professor of Urban and Regional Planning Robert Silverman (chair); Professor of Architecture Korydon Smith; and SUNY Distinguished Professor of Architecture Edward Steinfeld. Her research was supported by the following sources: Environmental Design Research Association Student Research Grant; Gender Institute Dissertation Fellowship, 2016-2017; Research Grant, embrace Western New York, 2014-2017; Eleanor Smith Scholarship in Inclusive Housing, 2014-2016; and an IDeA Center Fellowship in Inclusive Design, 2012-2016.

Ranahan is currently a research analyst for the Erie County Department of Senior Services and a member of the Board of Trustees at the Price Center of WNY. She is also a graduate of UB’s Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Design and Master of Urban Planning programs. Ranahan received a student research grant in 2015 from the Environmental Design Research Association.

The School of Architecture and Planning launched the PhD program in urban and regional planning in fall 2012 and already has 11 students enrolled. The program has attracted students from China, India, Indonesia, Jordan, South Korea, the U.S, and Vietnam, with research interests spanning food systems, transportation and environmental design.