Natalie Bump Vena received her J.D. and Ph.D. from Northwestern University’s School of Law and Department of Anthropology in 2016. Her research and teaching interests concern environmental law- and policy-making in U.S. cities. She was admitted to the New York Bar in September 2017.
Vena is committed to publicly engaged research, and the urban political landscape has always fascinated her. In her dissertation, “The Nature of Bureaucracy in the Cook County Forest Preserves” (2016), she used archival and ethnographic methods to analyze the history of natural resources preservation in the county that encompasses Chicago, Illinois. Specifically, she explored the role of volunteerism, statutory language, and intergovernmental partnerships in creating the forest preserves over the past one hundred years. Expanding her dissertation research, Vena is currently analyzing the evolution of nature education in the Cook County forest preserves and the underlying goal of transforming local residents into responsible stewards.
Vena is particularly interested in the power of citizen scientists to influence elected officials and government agencies responsible for environmental protection. In a historical case study, she is writing about the Cook County Clean Streams Committee and their activism to end Chicago-area water pollution in the years just before and after WWII. She is also planning ethnographic research on the role of citizen science in New York City’s environmental justice movement.
Before joining the faculty of Queens College, Vena taught at Williams College, where she served as the Gaius Charles Bolin Fellow in Anthropology and Environmental Studies. She is a member of the New York City Bar Association’s Environmental Law Committee.