Natalie Bump Vena is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Urban Studies. She received her J.D. and Ph.D. from Northwestern University’s School of Law and Department of Anthropology. Her research and teaching interests concern environmental policymaking in U.S. cities. She is admitted to the New York State Bar.
Vena’s longterm research examines the history of natural resources preservation in the Forest Preserve District of Cook County, which protects 69,000 acres of land encompassing Chicago. As the district’s land acknowledgment states, this property constitutes “the ancestral homelands of the Council of Three Fires—the Ojibwa, Ottawa and Potawatomi tribes—and a place of trade with many other tribes, including the Ho-Chunk, Miami, Menominee, Sauk and Meskwaki.”
In her work on the Cook County Forest Preserves, she has explored the role of volunteerism, statutory language, and urban development in creating this metropolitan wilderness over the past one hundred years. Vena is currently examining how settler colonialism has structured the forest preserves since its founding. She is also analyzing the evolution of nature education in the forest preserves and the district’s underlying goal of transforming metropolitan residents into responsible stewards.
Vena has an active research agenda in New York City. She is studying the implementation of New York’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (2019), particularly the process of identifying the “disadvantaged communities” who are slated to receive 35% to 40% of benefits derived from the state’s green transition. She has also undertaken fieldwork and advocacy concerning a South Ozone Park community’s protracted recovery from a sewage backup that occurred in 2019.
Vena is committed to a fully-funded CUNY and has written about how the institution’s historic policies of free tuition and open admissions changed her mother’s life. 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.
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