Weiss Urban Livability Program
2016-2017 Weiss Fellows
Alejandro Escalante, Religious Studies
After completing his bachelor's degree at Trinity College, Alejandro Escalante moved to New York City to pursue a master's degree at Union Theological Seminary. Alejandro is a first-year doctoral student in religious studies; he is researching the relationship between gender and sexuality and religious rituals and festivals. Alejandro anticipates exploring ideology critique in drag culture during Puerto Rican Carnival.
Jonathan Holt, Public Administration
Jonathan Holt graduated in 2016 from the University of South Carolina with a bachelor's degree in political science and geography. He is pursuing a master of public administration degree with an academic focus on municipal and county government. His interests relate to how state, regional and local government partnerships can support shared goals for environmental stewardship, transportation and long-term land-use planning. He plans to apply his graduate education toward a career in public service at the local level in North Carolina.
Katherine Hysmith, American Studies
Katherine Hysmith graduated from Boston University in 2014 with a master of liberal arts degree in gastronomy. She is pursuing a doctorate in American studies, focusing on historical foodways and their relation to our modern consumption patterns and attitudes toward food, society and the media. Katherine has an academic and professional background in food writing, food photography, and research focusing on topics such as urban farm-to-table, sustainability and transnational foodways. She has worked with several digital publications, including America's Test Kitchen and Culture Magazine, specifically with their social media and web publishing initiatives. Katherine hopes to apply her knowledge toward creating an accessible digital resource relating to community-wide food education.
Sandeep Kandikuppa, Environment & Ecology
Sandeep Kandikuppa holds a master's degree in social work from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences in Mumbai, India. He has worked for nearly eight years on issues that lie at the intersection of natural resource governance, rural livelihood and food security. He has been associated for a number of years with the Foundation for Ecological Security, a leading environmental group in India. Sandeep is pursuing a doctorate in ecology, and his interests lie in understanding factors that aid or hinder the effective governance of water, especially groundwater.
Surendra Kunwar, Environmental Sciences & Engineering
Surendra Kunwar received his undergraduate degree in physics and mathematics from Wesleyan University. Right after, he joined the Technical University of Denmark where he graduated with a master's degree in wind energy engineering. He has been working in the alternative energy sector in Nepal for the last three years. During this period, he developed an interest in the link among energy, environment and health, especially in cities. A doctoral student in environmental sciences and engineering, Surendra is interested in performing air quality modeling of certain areas and linking them with energy installations, with climate change in mind. In particular, he will be modeling microscopic particulate matters in the atmosphere and studying their effects on air quality, climate and human health.
Travis Moe, Social Work
Travis Moe's academic interests include the intersections between sustainable urban development, civic engagement and social and environmental justice. In particular, he is interested in how major issues like climate change, gun violence and institutionalized racism can be addressed through cooperative models of economic development. As a master's degree student in the School of Social Work, he is also interested in the applications of mindfulness, somatic-awareness, and wilderness and horticultural therapies to the field of clinical psychotherapy.
Dawn Rivers, Anthropology
Dawn Rivers has a bachelor's degree in economics and anthropology from Hartwick College. Her professional experiences span more than 15 years and encompass journalism, political analysis, economic analysis, economic development and workforce development, with a particular focus on small business. She is pursuing her doctorate in anthropology and plans to focus her dissertation on self-employment in the post-industrial West, including issues such as identity formation, social change, power and political economy.
Stephanie Watkins-Cruz, City & Regional Planning
Stephanie Watkins-Cruz, a North Carolina native from Charlotte, received her bachelor's degree in political science with a minor in sociology from UNC–Asheville. While in Asheville, she conducted housing and economic development research for the State of Black Asheville in 2014; led the local campus chapter of She's the First, a nonprofit focused on international education equity and girls' empowerment; and conducted research on variation in homeless population size and the gap between home values across the United States. Since leaving Asheville, Stephanie joined the board of directors for America's Promise as a youth representative in 2015 and continued her involvement with She's the First as a chapter mentor. She currently works for the Chatham County Council on Aging as a collaborative database project coordinator and is pursuing master's degrees in public administration and city and regional planning. She focuses primarily on affordable housing and community economic development.
Travis Crayton, Public Administration, Senior Fellow
Travis Crayton holds a bachelor's degree in public policy and political science from UNC-Chapel Hill. He is a dual-degree master's student in public administration and city and regional planning. Travis has an academic and professional background in public policy and research, having worked for policy-oriented nonprofits, the U.S. government and research universities. He is particularly interested in the future of transportation and the land-use policy implications of emerging transportation technologies.