Aditi Mehta

Assistant Professor - Urban Studies


Fields of Study


I am currently an Assistant Professor of Urban Studies at the University of Toronto in Innis College.

I received my Ph.D. from the Department of Urban Studies and Planning at MIT in November 2017. As a doctoral student, I was the SAGE/Marilyn Jacobs Gittell Activist Ph.D. Scholar with the Community Innovators Lab. My work and research fuse the rigorous methods of social science with community organizing and on-the-ground activism in order to contribute to the democratic production of knowledge and social change. I am committed to elevating the role, position, and influence of underrepresented and marginalized communities within academic and public policy discourses.

In May 2017, I was awarded MIT’s Priscilla King Gray Award for Public Service, which recognizes “outstanding personal dedication to social change, long-term and in-depth involvement in public service, and leadership in community initiatives.” One of my most meaningful public service experiences in graduate school was helping to design and teach an urban sociology course about inequality inside prison where half the students were incarcerated and the other half were visiting from MIT.

My thesis, which won the Departmental Outstanding Ph.D. dissertation award, explored how and why low-income residents create community-based media in post-Sandy New York City and post-Katrina New Orleans. I partnered with grassroots organizations in both cities to understand how different groups use tech tools to amplify their voice both immediately and years after these disasters. My research focuses on a crucial aspect of the architecture of inequality that characterizes U.S. cities, unequal access to the production of knowledge through media, and identifies promising new social and technological infrastructure that can help address these significant disparities.

I graduated from Cornell University in 2006 and received my Master in City Planning (MCP) from MIT in 2010.  As an MCP student, I worked on neighborhood revitalization projects in New Orleans, consulted for China’s largest residential real estate firm in Shenzhen, and studied affordable housing policy programs in the U.S. and abroad. My MCP thesis documented a hundred year history of activism dedicated to securing a public library branch in Boston’s Chinatown. This work earned me an invitation to join the Chinatown Library Executive Committee to continue the neighborhood’s efforts.

Previously, I was a Research and Communications Associate at the Boston Foundation helping to develop data democratization projects and impact measures for grant-making. I conducted research in Mumbai about non-profit capacity in slums and was an Assistant Project Manager at Telesis Corporation, a mission-driven affordable housing developer.

Throughout my academic and professional career, I have been inspired by synergies between the visual arts and social science research.  Thus, I have developed projects to promote and share the arts within communities that artistic enterprises tend to overlook. For example, as a media instructor with UNICEF, I taught middle-school students in East Harlem, New York City how to create videos, podcasts, and blogs about gentrification in their neighborhood. I also led photography training workshops and curated exhibitions with underserved youth in Baltimore, Maryland and Washington, D.C., as well as with small-business owners recovering from Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Photography exhibits, noodles, street musicians, autumn, absurd coincidences, and abandoned street chairs are a few of my favorite things. I once accidentally exploded eggs on my kitchen ceiling and was featured on NPR’s How to Do Everything podcast about it.

Research Areas

Urban sociology, media and cities, disasters, housing, prisons and planning.