Weiss Urban Livability Program

20072008 Weiss Fellows

Shoshana Agus-Kleinman

So obviously I am entering my first year here at UNC. I grew up in Baltimore city and did my undergrad at the University of Maryland. After graduation I spent a year working for Senator Mikulski doing casework and projects, including HUD, Justice, and Education. That year confirmed my desire to work in the public sector and my interest in urban issues, that had first been formed while growing up in Baltimore City. I am in Chapel Hill pursuing my Ph.D in public policy, and what attracted me here was the interdisciplinary nature of the program with the ability to take classes in a range of fields. I am really excited about working with my fellow Weiss recipients.

Erin Barger

I am entering the Master's in Social Work program after living in China for two years as a Peace Corps Volunteer. My interest is concentrated toward issues related to children, especially those deemed “at risk.” Before leaving for China, I helped start a non-profit that offers arts opportunities to underserved youth, and also have experience working with individuals with disabilities, and refugees and immigrants. Relative to urban livability, I am most interested in social justice and making community a place for everyone to thrive, particularly those individuals who are often overlooked and underserved. It will be my honor to work with all of you.

Marc Alan Howlett

I was born in Arlington, Virginia and grew up in Northern Virginia within the historical boundaries of Washington, DC. I went to Northwestern University for my undergraduate education and majored in History. My primary interest was urban history and how cities and metropolitan areas developed and changed over time. After college I worked for several years at the United States Coast Guard in Arlington, Virginia where I helped to enforce federal shipping regulations. I went back to school in 2005 to study Urban and Regional Planning at the University of Virginia and obtained a Master's degree in May 2007.

I am a first year doctoral student in the Department of City and Regional Planning at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. My primary research interest is transportation and I am particularly fond of freight transportation and shipping. I am very fond of cities and urban areas and believe that urban areas full of life and vitality are essential for a successful metropolitan area. My favorite mode of travel is walking and I love to amble about on weekend afternoons.

Jessica Lewis

I will be entering my first year at the School of Public Health, studying Environmental Sciences and Engineering, with an Environmental Policy and Management focus. I've always been fascinated with the factors that lead to thriving, vibrant cities. However, it wasn't until I worked at environmental government and nonprofit agencies that I became seriously concerned about the often unequal impacts on different populations, through factors like pollution, unhealthy air quality, and contaiminated land. One factor I would use to define an ideal livable city is an area free from disproportionate burdens of this kind on any population. At UNC, I found a degree that combines the environmental and health perspectives with policy tools to help create better cities for us all.

Michael Schwartz (Senior Fellow)

I'm in my third year of a dual degree program between the Department of City and Regional Planning and the School of Public Health (department of Health Behavior, Health Education). I lived in Chicago for five years before coming back to school. For one summer of those six months, I rode my bicycle across the country, seeing a number of towns and cities along the way. This was how I became interested in city planning. When I saw how the built environment can affect people's health by encouraging or discouraging physical activity, I became interested in the dual degree, which was uniquely offered by UNC, which is how I ended up here. I am also a transit geek, and I research and plan to practice how alternative transportation modes can improve people's health, including: more biking and walking, access to health care for those who cannot drive, and evacuation planning for those without cars. All of these services lead to healthier and more livable urban environments for all.

Jessica Speed

I'm entering into the PhD program in Communication Studies, planning to play in community, space, place, and leadership development. I was attracted to UNC because it is one of the very few programs that encourages students to pursue a general topic or interest rather than a particular area of emphasis; I don't “fit” nicely into any of the traditional categories of communication studies. I lived in Indianapolis during college, and happened to fall into an arts community very dedicated to the revitalization efforts in the city. My work with them introduced me to arts programming, urban schools, community partnerships, urban gardening, rehabilitating historic neighborhoods, and (most notably) the importance of “old-fashioned” community as integral in the success of any of these endeavors. Revved up about city spaces, I seriously considered pursuing a degree in urban planning. I found, however, that communication studies allowed me to practice (and study) more of what I'm truly interested in: community building. For me, the fascinating interplay of space, performance (the culture that we wear) and interactions manifest themselves in the city, and I want to be a part of that. I'm pursuing more education so that I will be able to cultivate community and community awareness in the classroom, eventually teach service learning and work with city-community-minded organizations, and have the freedom to always dive into new research in ever-shifting cities. For the last couple of years, I've spent time looking at city space and place and little communities that form in them (like story-swapping at a Saturday morning farmers' market), as well as some leadership development and a communication program's impact on urban elementary schoolers. If we become better communicators and have shared space to come together, whether it be in schools, parks, on subway cars, or wherever, good thing are bound to happen. I'm thrilled to be here and to get started!

So... I'm an optomist. : )

Audrey Stewart

I am a first year Masters student in City and Regional Planning. My academic background is in environmental science and history. As an undergraduate, I was involved in promoting environmental sustainability at the University of Rochester and learned a great deal about the challenges of “greening” an institution. I developed an acute interest in urban design and citizen-based planning during both a semester in the post-communist Czech Republic (Prague), and my three-year professional experience at the Rochester Regional Community Design Center where I got to participate in a number of community design charrettes. These combined experiences have contributed to my multi-faceted interest in “urban livability.” At Chapel Hill, I anticipate exploring in much depth the social, economic and physical dynamics of what it takes to design an ecologically “sustainable” city, and to what degree citizens can and should be involved in urban design, planning and development. I'm also very interested in exploring means to link environmental conservation projects with economic improvement for impoverished communities in the US and abroad, although I haven't quite refined the details of how this fits into my picture of urban livability.

Sarah Waterman

Raised in Montpelier, Vermont, I was always a city girl trapped in a small town girl's body. At 8, I hopped a bus to Boston, navigated South Station and took the T to my grandmother's house. From then, I traveled to every city I had reason to visit, obsessed with the pulse of the city. I went to undergrad in Albany, NY, a city struggling like many to reconfigure an identity after the loss of industry. After graduation, I spent 4 months in post-Katrina Biloxi, MS and then moved to Austin, TX, my favorite city to date. An avid runner, I am highly interested in how cities and city leaders can begin to address our nation's perpetually expanding waistline. I am especially interested in how we can bring our youth back to the outdoors, even if in parks and greenbelts. I am also interested in looking at how we can help our cities prepare for the next 100 years, as our original infrastructure begins to crumble. I am in the Masters of Public Administration program here at UNC and will be focusing on the intersection between public and private sector as it impact urban management.

Linsdey West

I am a first year student in the medical anthropology PhD program. In the 2 years since I graduated from college with a degree in Sociocultural anthropology I have worked in public health, first at Planned Parenthood then at the World Health Organization Headquarters in Geneva as a research assistant. My research interest is in national identity ethnicity and belonging in the EU, and how migrants to the EU from Africa and other border regions negotiate health care access and build community.