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Santina Contreras, PhD

  • Assistant Professor, City and Regional Planning Section
291 Knowlton Hall

Santina Contreras is an Assistant Professor in the City and Regional Planning Section of the Knowlton School of Architecture at The Ohio State University. Her research and teaching focus on the intersection of natural hazards, urban planning, and international development. In her work, she explores how participatory processes unfold in complex settings, such as areas exposed to environmental hazards and in developing countries. She has extensive experience in the private and nonprofit sectors working on the design and implementation of housing and post-disaster projects. This has included engaging with diverse communities vulnerable to natural hazards in the United States, Mexico, Haiti, and Indonesia. Prior to joining the faculty at OSU, Contreras worked as a postdoctoral research associate in the Environmental Design Program at the University of Colorado, Boulder. In that capacity, she worked on a National Science Foundation funded project examining institutional cultures of ethical practice in university based engineering for development programs. During her time in Colorado, she also served as a Researcher-in-Residence at the Natural Hazards Center. Contreras holds a BS (University of California, San Diego) and a MS (University of California, Berkeley) in Structural Engineering. She received her PhD in Planning, Policy, and Design from the University of California, Irvine.


CRPLAN 2110: Creating Innovative Cities and Regions 
CRPLAN 4780H: Undergraduate Research Methods 
CRPLAN 6970: International Development Studio 
CRPLAN 7509: Disasters: Preparedness and Response 

Recent Work

Social Vulnerability and the Role of Puerto Rico’s Healthcare Workers after Hurricane Maria

Social Vulnerability and the Role of Puerto Rico’s Healthcare Workers after Hurricane Maria Hurricane Maria was one of the most devastating storms in United States history. The tremendous force of the hurricane, along with the associated wind, rain, flooding, and critical infrastructure damage, caused incredible disruption to lives and livelihoods. Our study uses interview and observation data with healthcare organizations across Puerto Rico to better understand how healthcare workers responded to the crisis in order to reach communities in need. Our study highlights how and why people with chronic health conditions, those who were economically disadvantaged, rural populations, and older populations were particularly vulnerable to the health impacts of the storm and massive, extended disruptions to key infrastructure. We find that flexibility in roles and local knowledge of communities were key for being able to conduct medical outreach and to know what kinds of services to provide.

Selected Publications

Niles, S.* & Contreras, S. (2018). Social Vulnerability and Health Care Workers’ Response after Hurricane Maria. Natural Hazards Center Quick Response Research Report.

Houston, D., Cheung, W., Basolo, V., Feldman, D., Matthew, R., Sanders, B., Karlin, B., Schubert, J., Goodrich, K., Contreras, S., & Luke, A. (2017). The Influence of Hazard Maps and Trust of Flood Controls on Coastal Flood Spatial Awareness and Risk Perception. Environment and Behavior, 1-29.


Feldman, D., Contreras, S., Karlin, B., Basolo, V., Matthew, R., Sanders, B., Houston, D., Cheung, W., Goodrich, K., Reyes, A., Serrano, K., Schubert, J., & Luke, A. (2016). Communicating Flood Risk: Looking Back and Forward at Traditional and Social Media Outlets. International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction 15, 43-51.

Cheung, W., Houston, D., Schubert, J., Basolo, V., Feldman, D., Matthew, R., Sanders, B., Karlin, B., Goodrich, K., Contreras, S., & Luke, A. (2016). Integrating Resident Digital Sketch Maps with Expert Knowledge to Assess Spatial Knowledge of Flood Risk: A Case Study of Participatory Mapping in Newport Beach, California. Applied Geography 74, 56-64.