Dean Nan Ellin headshot

Nan Ellin PhD

Professor of Urban Design


Nan Ellin is Professor of Urban Design and holds a PhD from Columbia University in Planning with a concentration in Urban Design. Ellin’s research, creative work, teaching, community engagement, and administrative activities transform contemporary challenges into opportunities for promoting urban, environmental, community, and institutional health and well-being. Her six books and numerous articles and essays are widely cited and translated into thirteen languages, and she has been recognized for her research and creative work through awards and speaking engagements worldwide. Ellin’s work bridges disciplines and professions, theory and practice, the classroom and community, and academic and general audiences.

As Dean of the College of Architecture and Planning (CAP) for six years, Ellin has contributed to advance the college through hiring 13 new faculty and 12 new staff members; reinvigorating the Urban Design and Historic Preservation Programs; introducing a new Interior Design Program; building a strong diverse Advisory Board of 24 prominent community members; introducing the highly successful Building Denver Leadership Seminar for professionals; and raising $17 million in gifts toward the CAP Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI) Fund, a new undergraduate Design Build Program, the naming of the Dana Crawford Preservation Program, and more. Ellin also oversaw development and implementation of the college strategic plan as well as a specific JEDI strategic plan; renovation of studio, research, and gallery/lecture spaces; extension of alumni, industry, and community relations; strengthening of recruitment and K-12 programs offered by the college; and more.

Before joining the University of Colorado Denver, Ellin served as Founding Dean of the College of Architecture, Planning & Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Arlington where she oversaw the unification of two schools into one college by engaging faculty and students to craft a mission, vision, academic structure, strategic plan, and sixteen initiatives to achieve the goals. Within two years, eighty percent of the initiatives were implemented including a $1.5 million building renovation, the official launch of the new college in October 2015, a new Design Build program called Parallel Construction, growth in enrollments and graduation rates, creation of an alumni chapter, a new website along with the new brand, a significant increase in philanthropic giving, and exponential growth in sponsored research.

Ellin previously served as Chair of the Department of Planning at the University of Utah, Planning Program Director at Arizona State University (ASU), Director of the Urban and Metropolitan Studies Program at ASU, and Director of the PhD Program in Environmental Design and Planning in the College of Architecture and Environmental Design at ASU. She has held faculty positions at New York University, University of Southern California, Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc), University of Cincinnati, ASU, and University of Utah. 


  • Dean, College of Architecture and Planning, University of Colorado Denver, July 2017 – July 2023.
  • Founding Dean, College of Architecture, Planning & Public Affairs (CAPPA), The University of Texas at Arlington, January 2015 – June 2017.
  • Executive Director, Institute of Urban Studies (IUS), CAPPA, The University of Texas at Arlington, January 2015 – June 2017.
  • Professor of Urban Design, CAPPA, The University of Texas at Arlington, January 2015 – June 2017.
  • Nan Ellin Professor and Chair, Department of Planning, College of Architecture + Planning, University of Utah, July 2010 – December 2014.
  • Leadership Fellow, University Strategic Planning, Office of the Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs, June – December 2014.
  • Planning Program Director, School of Geographical Sciences & Urban Planning, ASU, 2009 - 10.
  • Associate Professor of Planning and Urban Design, ASU, 2009 - 10.
  • Co-Director, Center for Urbanism, ASU, January - July 2010.
  • Faculty Affiliate, School of Sustainability, ASU, 2005 - 10.
  • Director, Urban & Metropolitan Studies Program, School of Public Affairs, College of Public Programs, ASU, August 2006 - June 2009.
  • Associate Professor, School of Public Affairs, ASU, August 2006 - June 2009.
  • Director, PhD Program in Environmental Design & Planning, College of Design, ASU, 2005 - 6.
  • Associate Professor, School of Architecture and Landscape Architecture, ASU, 2000 - 6.
  • Assistant Professor, School of Architecture, College of Design, ASU, January 1998 - March 2000.
  • Assistant Professor of Urban Design and Planning, University of Cincinnati, College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning, January 1996 - December 1997.
  • Faculty Member, Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc), 1993 - 95.
  • Visiting Assistant Professor, University of Southern California, School of Urban and Regional Planning, 1991 - 92.
  • Associate, Committee on Theory and Culture, New York University, 1987 - 91.
  • Instructor, New York University, Metropolitan Studies Program, 1987 - 91.
  • Affiliated Scholar, Centre de Recherche sur L’Habitat, Centre National de Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), Paris, France, 1986 - 87.

Education, Licensure & Certifications


PhD, Planning with concentration in Urban Design, Columbia University, 1994. Dissertation: “In Search of a Usable Past: Urban Design in a French New Town.”

MPhil, Planning, Columbia University, 1985. Thesis: “Ricardo Bofill’s Neo-Classical Public Housing in France.”

MA, Anthropology, Columbia University, 1983.

BA, Anthropology and Hispanic Studies, Bryn Mawr College, 1981.



  • Delegate, Meeting of the Minds, September 30 – October 2, 2014, Detroit: Convening 375 leaders from 15 countries to discuss urban sustainability and connecting technologies.
  • LDSSA (Latter Day Saints Student Association) Excellence in Education Recognition, May 22, 2014.
  • Honors Professorship, University of Utah, 2011 - 12.
  • President’s Award for Sustainability, “The Future of Phoenix – Crafting Sustainable Development Strategies,” ASU, March 2011.
  • APA – Arizona Honorable Mention, Canalscape Workshop, November 2010.
  • Official Arizona Centennial Legacy Project Designation and Award for Canalscape, Governor’s Centennial Commission, November 2009.
  • Green Phoenix Designation for Canalscape, Phoenix Mayor Gordon, 2009.
  • Contemporary Catalyst Award Nominee, Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, 2009.
  • Valley Forward Environmental Excellence Award of Merit - Environmental education category for Making Sustainable Communities Happen, 2008.
  • Contemporary Catalyst Award Nominee, Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, 2008.
  • Power Player Award, from the Phoenix Business Journal to “the Valley's most influential Power Players for their leadership, professionalism and dedication to our community,” 2007.
  • Distinguished Research Award, School of Public Affairs, ASU, 2007.
  • President’s Medal for Social Embeddedness, New American City Exhibition, ASU, 2007.
  • Contemporary Catalyst Award Nominee, Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, 2006.
  • Arizona Governor’s Arts Award Nominee, Individual Category, 2006.
  • Outstanding Service Award, Shade Projects, Phoenix, AZ, 2004.
  • ASU University Service Award, 2003.
  • Contribution to Town Planning Award, Republics of former Yugoslavia (Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, and Macedonia) for Postmoderni Urbanizam (Postmodern Urbanism), 2002.
  • Faculty Achievement Award, University of Cincinnati, 1997.
  • Meritorious Performance in Research Award, University of Cincinnati, 1997.



Consultant (Selected)
  • Department of Community Planning and Development, City and County of Denver, Shared and Open Streets, April – December 2020 (with Research Assistants Eric DeNardo and Mallory Luebke). Strategic Planning, Dallas Architecture Forum, April-July 2016.
  • Team member, “Reinvent PHX,” led by Duany Plater-Zyberk, October 2012 – 14.
  • Team member, “City as Living Laboratory: Phoenix Framework,” with Mary Miss, Marda Kirn, and Michael Wilson Kelly, Finalist for Phoenix Public Art Program, Bioscience Campus Project, 2009 - 10.
  • Scottsdale Cultural Council, Plans for Growth, 2010. Canalscape Competition and Exhibition, American Institute of Architects, 2009. Scottsdale Cultural Council, Plans for Growth, 2008.
  • Flip-a-Strip Competition and Exhibition, on revitalizing strip malls throughout the Phoenix region, Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, 2007 - 08.
  • Department of Planning, City of Phoenix, Downtown Urban Form Project, August 2006-8, Executive Summary, Co-Author, “Connected Oasis: Downtown Urban Form Project.”
  • Arizona Accomplishments in Affordable Housing Exhibition, Bentley Projects and Stardust Center for Affordable Homes and the Family, 2006.
  • New American City Exhibition, ASU Art Museum, 2005 - 06.
  • Public Realm Council, Downtown Denver Partnership, 2020 –2.
  • Larimer Square Advisory Committee (LSAC), 2017-8.
  • Urban Design Advisory Group, City of Dallas, 2016 –7.
  • Sunbelt Steering Committee, The Rice Kinder Institute, William Fulton (Director), 2016 –7.
  • Greater Dallas Planning Council Board, 2015 –7.
  • Community Design Team Steering Committee, AIA Dallas, 2015 –7.
  • Dallas Innovates Editorial Advisory Panel (D Magazine Partners and the Dallas Regional Chamber), 2015 –7.
  • Architecture Advisory Council, Tarrant Community College, 2015 –7.
  • Dallas Architecture Forum Advisory Board, 2015 –7.
  • AIA Dallas Advisory Board, 2015 –7.
  • AIA Fort Worth Advisory Board, 2015 –7.
  • Salt Lake Civil Network, Mentors Council (Board), 2014 - 15.
  • International Cittaslow Advisory Board, based in Rome, Board Member, 2013 –.
  • Cultural Core Commission, Chair, Appointed by the Mayors of Salt Lake City and Salt Lake County, Salt Lake City, November 2011 - 14.
  • AIA Utah Urban Design Committee, 2011 -14. Nan Ellin 15
  • Community Arts Advisory Council (CAAG) member, Salt Lake City. The CAAG served as an advisory group to the New Performing Arts Center design team, 2012-13.
  • Granary District Coordinating Committee, City of Salt Lake, 2011 – 12.
  • Board of Directors, Utah Center for Architecture, 2011- 14.
  • Stakeholders Advisory Committee for Salt Lake City and County: “Activating the Cultural Core,”
  • Invited by Mayors Becker and Coroon, 2011.
  • Imagination Conversation Utah, Lincoln Center, 2011 - 12.
  • Westside Coordinating Committee, City of Salt Lake, January 2011 – November 2011.
  • AZ - APA (Arizona American Planning Association) Board, September 2009 – 10. Community Advisory Committee, Flip-a-Strip Exhibition and Competition, Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, 2007.
  • Building Regional Distinction Work Group, Maricopa Partnership for Arts & Culture, 2004 - 9.
  • Phoenix Community Alliance, Board of Directors, 2002 -10.
  • Arizona Partnership for Innovation, December 2006 - 07.
  • Public Art Focus Group, Strategic planning process to develop a cultural plan for the City of Phoenix, Phoenix Office of Arts and Culture and the Phoenix Arts and  Culture Commission, 2005.
  • Neighborhood Revitalization and Housing Subcommittee, 2006 Phoenix Bond Committee, August - September 2005.
  • Metropolitan Arts Institute, Board of Directors, Phoenix, December 2004 - 07.

College of Architecture and Planning

CU Denver

CU Denver Building

1250 14th Street


Denver, CO 80202


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