Skip to main content

Nina Roberts

PhD Candidate
George Beatty Predoctoral Fellow
Graduate Teaching Assistant


I am a doctoral candidate and graduate teaching assistant in the Department of Geography and Geographic Information Science at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.  My current research centers on problems of gentrification, displacement, socioeconomic inequality, and the impacts of climate change and associated redevelopment on urban populations in the American Southwest.  I focus on the contradictions within this decade's urban responses to climate change:  a crisis often framed as a "climate emergency" but whose proposed solutions may be anything but sustainable.

Before coming to the University of Illinois, I earned my BA in Geography and MA in Geography and Environmental Studies from Chicago's Northeastern Illinois University.  My master's thesis at Northeastern engaged historical and urban geography to examine the early twentieth-century intersection of gentrification and tourism in Santa Fe, New Mexico.  The city’s pursuit of economic growth, based on appropriated regional Indigenous culture, led to Santa Fe’s carefully choreographed reinvention as an elite tourist destination.

I continue to interrogate urban growth discourses and their reification in Southwestern cities, where addressing climate change is of immediate urgency, as is the potential inequity of climate-driven redevelopment on marginalized urban communities.  This exploration also addresses climate justice for these communities, whose precarious circumstances are exacerbated by the region's colonial past and present.


Research Interests

Areas of interest include political economy, urban geography, and climate change, with a focus on cities of the American Southwest.  I am especially interested in critical theories of urban growth--e.g., the "real estate state" and the growth machine--and the responses of these structures to the crisis of climate change and the problem of climate justice for underserved communities.

Research Description

My research explores problems in urban geography, drawing attention to the impacts of climate change on US cities and their inhabitants in the American Southwest.  I am currently exploring the connection between the deteriorating climate and Samuel Stein's (2019) "real estate state," examining the contradictions arising at that juncture. My study examines the means by which urban real estate capital discursively deploys the crisis of climate change as an opportunity for growth in the municipal built environment.  This process too often exacerbates gentrification on one hand and homelessness on the other--while simultaneously increasing the impacts of climate change and environmental destruction.  A critical perspective interrogates the incongruity of this century’s urban responses to the climate crisis, heralding the potential collision of the incessant drive for profit from real estate and oncoming climate catastrophe.


  • ABD Geography, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign (2021)
  • MA Geography and Environmental Studies, Northeastern Illinois University (2016)
  • BA (Honors) Geography, Northeastern Illinois University (2006)
  • Graduate Certificate in Geographic Information Systems, Northeastern Illinois University (2010)
  • Certificate in the Liberal Arts, University of Chicago (2000)

Awards and Honors

  • George Beatty Predoctoral Fellowship (Spring 2021, Spring 2024)
  • Charles A. Alexander Fellowship (Fall 2021)
  • Teachers Ranked as Excellent by their Students (Fall 2018, Fall 2019, Summer 2020)
  • Phi Kappa Phi Honors Society (Elected Spring 2020)

Courses Taught

  • GEOG 101 - Global Development and Environment (TA, Spring 2020, Fall 2020, Fall 2022, Spring 2023, Fall 2023)
  • GEOG 104 - Social and Cultural Geography (TA, Fall 2018, Fall 2019)
  • GEOG 106 - Geographies of Globalization (TA, Spring 2019)
  • GEOG 204 - Cities of the World (Instructor, Summer 2019, Summer 2020, Spring 2022)

Additional Campus Affiliations

  • Affiliated Student, Unit for Criticism and Interpretive Theory