Rachel Belanger, 2017
Fellowship: Jewish Community Housing for the Elderly
Graduate School: MIT
Post Fellowship: Rachel remained at 2Life (formerly JCHE) post-Fellowship.
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Fellow Profile

Please tell us a little about your background and what drove you to apply to be a Kuehn Fellow.

I earned my BA in Environmental Studies in Chicago and spent several years working in corporate sustainability communications and then in public relations for an urban design and planning practice. Heading into my Masters program, I knew that I wanted to work on transformative projects in my own region and that I wanted to have a role in implementation As a Master of City Planning student, I took several real estate courses and became very excited about the potential for a real estate developer to advance sustainability and quality of life. Affordable housing development emerged as an interest where I felt that I could have a tangible impact on my city and help address one of our region’s most pressing challenges.

Now at your host organization, what are you working on?

I am managing an expansion of one of JCHE’s locations in Newton, which currently has 199 apartments for seniors and a rich array of programs and services. I am also involved in several projects on our Brighton campus such as campus master planning, and the design and construction of a courtyard as part of a larger renovation project.

What has been a favorite project, accomplishment or learning so far?

I recently worked with several colleagues on an initiative to study what makes JCHE a special place to live, which will help us refine our operating model. As part of this, I had the opportunity to read hundreds of incredibly thoughtful and personal stories from staff and residents. I understood in a new way the impact that my coworkers, especially property leadership, resident service coordinators, and maintenance staff, have on the lives of our residents.

What’s something people don’t know about the community (or communities) you work in?

Our residents come from 25 countries and speak 21 languages. On any given day, our common spaces are full of music, yoga, ping pong, tai chi, card games, and discussion groups – both led by my incredible coworkers and by residents themselves, who have the independence to use our space as their own home.

Belanger, Rachel