Governing Board Nominees

Urban Affairs Association > Governing Board Nominees
Hélène Bélanger

Hélène Bélanger

Professor | Université du Québec à Montréal

Hélène Bélanger is Professor in the Department of Urban Studies and Tourism at the University of Quebec in Montreal since 2006 where she teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in urban studies. Her research interests focus on housing, gentrification and on the impact of public spaces revitalization on their uses and users.

In 2021, Hélène co-guest edited an issue of Lien social et Politiques on housing and inequalities and one issue for Recherches sociographiques on gentrification in Québec. Since 2017, she is a member of the Collective of research and action on habitat (CRACH) a collective founded by scholars, practitioners and housing advocacy groups whose mission is to develop research to support the right to housing, social justice and the rights of tenants. She is currently leading a CRACH team for a project on senior tenants’ housing insecurity for which she had received a grant from The Fonds de recherche du Québec – Société et culture (FRQSC).

Hélène’s service to UAA includes Board member and chair of the Publication Committee, chair for the Best JUA Paper (Published Article) Award Committee and member of the UAA Nominations Committee. Hélène has also organized panels on peopling and on resilient communities and had presented her papers at numerous UAA conferences.

Hélène seeks election for a second term to help develop programs that increase access and participation to the annual conference for housing advocacy groups, practitioners, and graduate students. She also wants to complete the work in progress within the Publications Committee.

Margaret Cowell

Margaret Cowell

Associate Professor | Virginia Tech

Margaret (Maggie) Cowell, PhD is an Associate Professor of Urban Affairs and Planning at Virginia Tech where she teaches courses on economic development, urban economics, and public policy. Dr. Cowell previously worked for the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and was also a member of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation-funded research project, “Building Resilient Regions.” She is currently a co-PI for Virginia Tech’s National Science Foundation Research Traineeship (NRT) program on Disaster Resilience and Risk Management. She is the author of Dealing with Deindustrialization: Adaptive Resilience in American Midwestern Regions (Routledge 2014) and co-editor (w/ S. Lyon-Hill) of Vibrant Virginia: Engaging the Commonwealth to Expand Economic Vitality (VT Publishing, 2022), and has published numerous peer-reviewed articles focused on economic resilience, inclusive economy and recovery, and economic restructuring.

Dr. Cowell has been a regular participant in UAA meetings since 2008, has served one term on the UAA Board, and is presently serving as Secretary for the organization. She takes pride in mentoring students and early-career faculty from urban planning and related disciplines. As a Board member, Dr. Cowell’s interests include supporting continued efforts to build a more inclusive and accessible organization, helping strengthen the ties between UAA and the economic development and urban planning disciplines, and assisting organizational leadership as we evolve to meet the changing needs of an interdisciplinary academic community in the 21st century.

Prentiss Dantzler

Prentiss Dantzler

Assistant Professor | University of Toronto

Prentiss Dantzler is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology and Faculty Advisor to the School of Cities at the University of Toronto. He is also a Research Associate with the National Initiative on Mixed Income Communities at Case Western University. Previously, he held faculty appointments at Georgia State University and Colorado College. His research focuses on housing policy, neighborhood change, and residential mobility with a particular focus on urban poverty, housing assistance programs, race and ethnic relations, and community development. Prentiss’ work has been published in various academic journals with recent articles in the Journal of Race, Ethnicity and the City and City and Community. His work has been supported by the Fulbright Scholars Program, the Natural Hazards Center, and the Social Science and Humanities Research Council. Prentiss received his Ph.D. in Public Affairs with a concentration in Community Development from Rutgers University-Camden. He also holds an M.P.A. from West Chester University and a B.S. from Penn State University.

Prentiss has been a member of UAA since 2014. Since then, Prentiss has served on many UAA initiatives including webinars, professional development activities, and conference workshops, panels and special sessions. Currently, Prentiss is serving his first term on the Governing Board and as the Chair of the Honors Society Committee. If elected, Prentiss hopes to explore opportunities for integrating research and professional development with public advocacy efforts. He also hopes to recruit more early career scholars and practitioners to the organization through new outreach efforts.

Tia Sheree Gaynor

Tia Sherèe Gaynor

Associate Professor | University of Minnesota - Twin Cities

Tia Sherèe Gaynor, Ph.D. is an associate professor in leadership and management at the Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs at University of Minnesota. Prior to joining the UMN faculty, Dr. Gaynor was an associate professor of political science and founding director of the Center for Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation at the University of Cincinnati.

Tia is a community-engaged scholar whose work uses an intersectional lens to focus on the ways identity-based narratives shape decision-making in public and nonprofit organizations. Her most recent work sits at the nexus of mindfulness and management in exploring avenues toward equity and justice.

She holds a PhD and MPA from Rutgers University – Newark and a BA from Rutgers University – New Brunswick.

Tia was introduced to UAA, as a graduate student, in 2011. Since then, as a member, she has served UAA as a member of the Best Book Award Committee and has attended and presented her research at several of the conferences. Tia has built both personal and professional relationships through her connection with UAA.

As a board member, Tia hopes that she can continue work that supports community-engaged scholarship and researchers, especially early career scholars. She is also interested in supporting efforts to strengthen UAA as an inclusive and accessible organization, one that invites and welcomes a wide range of individuals and scholars including but not limited to members of directly impacted communities, undergraduate and graduate students, and scholars representing Indigenous identities and those residing in the Global South.

Zhilin Liu

Zhilin Liu

Associate Professor | Tsinghua University

Zhilin Liu is Associate Professor and Director of Public Policy Institute in the School of Public Policy and Management, Tsinghua University, China. She teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in research design and methodology and graduate seminars on urban development and governance. Her research focuses on urban planning and governance that promotes equity and sustainability, with specific interest in affordable housing, rural-to-urban migration, neighborhood governance, and climate change. She has published widely in English and Chinese peer-review journals, including Urban Studies, Cities, Landscape and Urban Planning, Journal of Planning Literature, Urban Affairs Review, Housing Studies, and Journal of Comparative Policy Analysis. She currently serves as JCPA’s co-editor, a board member of the International Association of China Planning (IACP), and co-chair for the Housing Track of ACSP annual conference. She has organized numerous events to promote international academic collaborations and support junior scholars’ career development.

Zhilin received her Master’s degree in urban geography from Peking University, China, and Ph.D. in city and regional planning from Cornell University, USA.

Zhilin has been a UAA member since 2010 and actively participated in annual conferences and other events. She has served as an editorial member for the Journal Urban Affairs (2013-2020) and for Urban Affairs Review (since 2014).

Zhilin hopes to expand the global outreach of UAA as a leading academic organization in the study of urban affairs. She also wants to contribute to UAA’s initiatives to support junior scholars’ career development.

Kimberly Mayfield Lynch

Kimberly Mayfield Lynch

Dean and Vice President of External Relations and Strategic Partnerships | Holy Names University

Kimberly Mayfield is the Dean of the School of Education and Liberal Arts at Holy Names University. She also serves as the Vice President for External Relations and Strategic Partnerships. She has taught undergraduate and graduate students who seek professions in the field of education. Kimberly has led community initiatives to increase diversity in the teaching profession particularly in urban school districts. Prior to her work in the academy, she was an elementary special education teacher. Before becoming Dean and Vice President, she was an Associate Professor in education. Kimberly earned a masters and doctorate degrees in Teaching and Learning. Her research interests include increasing the racial and ethnic diversity in the teaching profession, reducing the overrepresentation of African American males who receive special education services and increasing daily attendance in schools. She has served as a member of the UAA Awards Committee and organized pre conference sessions for early career faculty on activism and the promotion and tenure process. Kimberly has presented extensively at UAA conferences on increasing daily attendance in urban school districts and removing barriers to teaching for diverse citizens. As a board member she would like to develop policies that support activism in the academy and strengthen collaboration between community based initiatives and the work in academia.

Leslie Martin

Leslie Martin

Associate Professor | University of Mary Washington

Leslie Martin is an Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Mary Washington, a small, public liberal arts college in Fredericksburg, VA. She teaches a range of undergraduate sociology courses including urban sociology, community power, education and social welfare. Her research focuses on gentrification, homelessness and neighborhoods. Her teaching frequently involves working collaboratively with community partners in the local area, and she serves on the board of the Fredericksburg Continuum of Care (coordinating agency for homeless services in the region) and the Fredericksburg Regional Food Bank. She received her M.A. in Urban Studies from Temple University and Ph.D. in Sociology from Emory University.

Leslie’s service to UAA includes chairing the Program Committee and the Ad-hoc Committee on Recognitions, serving as a coordinator of the new UAA Teaching Academy, and serving on the Conference Policy Committee. She has presented papers, moderated sessions, and hosted breakfast roundtable sessions at the annual conference for 2 decades.

UAA has been Leslie’s academic and professional home. She has keenly felt the value of being part of an inclusive, multidisciplinary organization that connects academics and practitioners, grad students and established scholars. She seeks to join the board to support initiatives to grow the ways that we support our diverse stakeholders – including professional development offerings focused on teaching,

Akira Rodriguez

Akira Drake Rodriguez

Assistant Professor | University of Pennsylvania Weitzman School of Design

Akira Drake Rodriguez is an Assistant Professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Weitzman School of Design in the Department of City & Regional Planning. Her research examines the politics of urban planning, or the ways that disenfranchised groups re-appropriate their marginalized spaces in the city to gain access to and sustain urban political power. Her manuscript, Diverging Space for Deviants: The Politics of Atlanta’s Public Housing, was released in 2021 and reviewed in the Journal of Urban Affairs (2022). She has presented a paper and/or organized a session at the Urban Affairs Association conference since her first attendance in 2012 (Pittsburgh). Akira seeks re-election to the Board to advocate for and provide support to scholars without institutional support and affiliation, as well as scholars who are not working in the academy. She is also committed to increasing membership and board diversity across race, gender, institution, and ability.

Thomas Skuzinski

Thomas Skuzinski

Director / Associate Professor | Northern Illinois University

Thomas Skuzinski is Director of the Institute for the Study of the Environment, Sustainability, and Energy at Northern Illinois University, where he works with 35 faculty and 90 students in advancing transdisciplinary research, teaching, and engagement. He is also an Associate Professor of Public Administration, and was previously at Virginia Tech as Assistant Professor of Urban Affairs & Planning from 2015-2020. His research focuses on local government decision-making and regional governance in sustainable infrastructure systems. It has been funded by a variety of state and federal agencies and foundations and published in Journal of Urban Affairs and Journal of Planning Education & Research, among others.

Thomas considers UAA his academic family; he has been attending conferences since 2009. He was on the Governing Board Nominations Committee (2020-2021), twice chaired the Contributions to the Field of Urban Affairs committee (2018-2020), and chaired the Best Book in Urban Affairs Award committee (2017-2018). His UAA service began as a member of the latter (2016-2017). He is humbled by the opportunity to continue giving back in a meaningful way on the Governing Board

Thomas has received recognition and funding for developing programs that center co-curricular and research experiences for students systematically excluded from and underrepresented in academic and professional careers. He wants to grow mentorship and advocacy efforts in UAA that illuminate for early career scholars from these backgrounds and groups pathways to reaching their career goals while navigating challenges based on identity, ability, and major life events (UAA Strategic Goals 1 and 6).

Joan Wesley

Joan Wesley

Associate Professor | Jackson State University

Joan Marshall Wesley, PhD is Associate Professor of Urban and Regional Planning at Jackson State University, Jackson, MS. She teaches planning theory and a full complement of courses in community development and housing. Her work emphasizes the intersection of stakeholder empowerment and community-based participatory research to promote healthy and sustainable communities. Joan’s research focuses upon community/neighborhood revitalization and housing; social determinants of health; social, climate, energy, and environmental justice; and critical pedagogy. Through engaged scholarship, she collaborates with students to connect university resources to community needs, resulting in the co-creation of knowledge gained through reciprocal learning. Publication outlets include Societies Journal; Progressive Planning; Public Health Research, Practice, and Policy; The Community Development Journal; Race, Gender and Class Journal; and a chapter in Planning and LGBTQ Communities: The Need for Inclusive Queer Space.

A long-term UAA member, Joan has chaired UAA’s Program Committee and the Alma H. Young Emerging Scholar Award Committee; served as member on the Conference Site Selection Committee, the Ama H. Young Emerging Scholar Award Committee, and currently, the Activist Scholar Award Committee. She presents at UAA’s annual conferences, and recently served as panelist for the 2022 Fall Teaching Webinar.

Joan is committed to advancing UAA’s efforts to foster opportunities for scholars, practitioners, students, and others to engage as a global community, addressing complex issues and expanding equity and justice in urban spaces and rural places. Board membership will allow her to work collaboratively with others to explore and extend these efforts in service to UAA.

Nathaniel Wright

Nathaniel Wright

Associate Professor | Rutgers University-Camden

Nathaniel S. Wright, Ph.D. is an associate professor in the Department of Policy and Public Administration at Rutgers University-Camden. Dr. Wright’s research portfolio is a diverse nexus of social science, and urban studies research with emphasis on projects exploring topics involving nonprofit community-based organizations and sustainable development. Prior to his academic career, Nathaniel served as the City Planner for the city Binghamton and as a county planner in the Broome County Department of Planning and Economic Development, where he represented the City of Binghamton’s Planning Department and other city and county agencies. Nathaniel received his B.A. and Master of Public Administration from Binghamton University, and Ph.D. in Public Administration from the University of Kansas.

Nathaniel’s service to UAA includes work on the Conference Program Planning Committee. Nathaniel has presented numerous papers at the UAA conference and has organized panels on social justice and roundtables on adaptive solutions to public administration.

Nathaniel seeks election to the Board to help develop strategies that creates a pipeline of scholars from underrepresented backgrounds for urban affairs. He also wants to contribute to developing fundraising strategies for operational support and organizational sustainability.

Andrew Zitcer

Andrew Zitcer

Associate Professor | Drexel University

Andrew Zitcer is Associate Professor in the Department of Architecture, Design & Urbanism at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA, where he directs the Urban Strategy graduate program. He teaches courses in civic engagement and participatory methods, urban history, creative placemaking, international cultural policy, and qualitative research methods. His research explores cultural and economic democracy, particularly through the lens of arts and culture as a tool for community revitalization. Andrew’s book, Practicing Cooperation: Mutual Aid Beyond Capitalism, was published in 2021 by University of Minnesota Press. Andrew is also a founder of The Rotunda, a community arts center in West Philadelphia that he conceived as an undergraduate student at the University of Pennsylvania, where he completed his undergraduate and master’s degrees. His PhD is from Rutgers University.

Andrew has attended many UAA conferences over the last decade, where he has presented his research and organized panels on arts and culture in urban contexts. Andrew seeks election to the Board to help increase awareness of and membership in the UAA, particularly among smaller, lesser-known programs. He is dedicated to enhancing diversity, equity and inclusion in all the spaces he occupies. A natural organizer, he is keen to participate in the sustaining and growth of the Urban Affairs Association.