Research Affiliates

Nick Falvo

Nick Falvo headshot
Nick Falvo obtained his PhD in public policy from Carleton University in 2015. While at Carleton, Nick developed and taught one of Canada’s only university-level courses on affordable housing and homelessness. He is currently President of Nick Falvo Consulting Inc.

Nick’s decade-long experience working front-line with individuals experiencing homelessness in Toronto provides him with a deep understanding of the ‘on the ground’ phenomena that influence poverty, a lack of affordable housing and homelessness. His extensive research of the macroeconomic and public policy factors that intersect with those phenomena inform his analysis, and, combined with his unique capacity to ‘cut through the jargon,’ makes his work accessible to academia and the public at large.

Joni Hirsch

Joni Hirsch headshot
Joni Hirsch is a Policy Analyst at the Center for the Study of Social Policy. She partners with NIMC to manage a team of community builders who design and implement network-building strategies in public housing communities slated for mixed-income redevelopment through DC’s New Communities Initiative. She also leads learning and documentation efforts around innovative approaches to social inclusion and economic opportunity in mixed-income communities. In addition, as a member of the Mixed-Income Strategic Alliance, she helps manage the Mixed-Income Innovation and Action Network. Prior to her work with NIMC, Joni’s work centered on fair housing policy. Joni holds a BA from Amherst College and a Masters in City Planning from UC Berkeley.

April Jackson

April Jackson headshot

April Jackson is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Urban and Regional Planning at Florida State University (FSU). Her research focuses on how professional planners and universities plan for, engage with, and train students to work in communities of color. More specifically, she examines the ways that new urbanism can be used to develop mixed-income communities, as well as how planning programs can integrate issues of diversity and cultural competence into curriculum and departmental culture.

Her current research explores how Choice Neighborhood Initiatives (CNI) facilitates more effective implementation of the built environment and community building practices compared to HOPE VI projects in Seattle, WA and Chicago, IL. Additionally, her work also examines ways to achieve greater racial inclusion through cultural competence in planning processes and how changes in the built environment create opportunities for effective placemaking. April is also working on two projects that examine different aspects around how planning programs can work towards creating more inclusive places that value and promote diversity. The first recently completed project is a study on the climate for diversity within urban planning programs and was conducted in partnership with the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning Planners of Color Interest Group. The second project extends this work in partnership with the American Planning Association, which examines how practitioners perceive or experience diversity within the urban planning field and the steps necessary to bridge planning higher education and culturally competent practices in the planning profession.

In addition to research, April teaches courses in Neighborhood Planning, Urban Design, Affordable Housing, Graphic Communications and Research Methods. Prior to her faculty position she worked as an architect and urban designer at Destefano Partners and AECOM in Chicago, IL and Irvine, CA on public housing redevelopment projects, neighborhood revitalization plans, and new urbanist communities in the U.S., China, and the Middle East. She received her doctorate in Urban Planning and Policy from the University of Illinois at Chicago in 2015, her M.Arch and M.U.P from the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee and her B.Arch from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana.

Lasse Kjeldsen

Lasse Kjeldsen headshot
Lasse Kjeldsen, M.P.S., is an Industrial PhD Fellow at Department of the Built Environment, Aalborg University, and Chief Advisor at Center for Urban Regeneration and Community Development (CFBU) in Copenhagen, Denmark. Lasse has 12 years of experience evaluating social programs and community building initiatives in disadvantaged housing estates. As Chief Advisor at CFBU, Lasse guides policy-makers and practitioners across Denmark.

Lasses PhD project focuses on developing methods for bridging community work and strategic physical transformations of disadvantaged social housing estates. The aim is to refine the planning and implementation of strategic physical transformations so to promote socially inclusive and well-functioning communities. Lasse has a master’s in political science from the University of Copenhagen, Denmark.

Dustin Read

Headshot of  Dustin Read 
Dustin C. Read, Ph.D./J.D. joined Virginia Tech in 2014 and currently serves as an Assistant Professor of Property Management and Real Estate within the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences. He previously served as Director of both the Center for Real Estate and the Master of Science in Real Estate (MSRE) program at UNC Charlotte. In addition to his background in real estate, Dustin has extensive experience in international education. He created UNC Charlotte’s international real estate study tour program in 2008, which provided over a hundred graduate students with the opportunity to travel abroad to learn from real estate practitioners working in a diverse array of countries. He also served as the Belk College of Business’s Director of International Initiatives from 2013-2014. Dustin holds a Ph.D. in Public Policy from University of North Carolina at Charlotte. He also holds the Juris Doctor degree from University of Missouri.

Akira Rodriguez

Akira Rodriguez headshot

Akira Drake Rodriguez is a Vice Provost Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of City and Regional Planning at PennDesign. 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. Using an interdisciplinary and multiple method approach, her research engages scholarship in urban studies, political science, urban history, black feminist studies, community development, urban policy, and critical geography using both qualitative and quantitative data and methods. This research agenda is particularly relevant in these politically unstable times, where cities continue to marginalize underrepresented minority groups by defunding public institutions, promoting urban policies that subsidize their displacement while limiting affordable housing options, and continuing the funding and support of a militarized police force. Prior to her fellowship, Dr. Rodriguez taught in the Planning department at Temple University and the Political Science department at Rutgers University – Newark. Dr. Rodriguez is currently working on her manuscript, Deviants in Divergent Spaces: The Radical Politics of Atlanta’s Public Housing, which is under contract with the University of Georgia Press. The book explores how the politics of public housing planning and race in Atlanta created a politics of resistance within its public housing developments. This research offers the alternative benefits of public housing, outside of shelter provision, to challenge the overwhelming narrative of public housing as a dysfunctional relic of the welfare state.

Shomon Shamsuddin

Headshot of  Shomon Shamsuddin 
Shomon Shamsuddin, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor of Social Policy and Community Development at Tufts University. He studies how social problems are redefined by policies to address urban poverty and inequality. His research examines the effects of local and federal housing policy on socioeconomic mobility for poor families. In addition, he studies barriers to educational attainment for low-income students. Prior to joining Tufts, Shomon was a National Poverty Fellow at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. He holds a Ph.D. from MIT, M.Arch. from Yale University, and Sc.B. from Brown University.

Shehara Waas

Shehara Waas headshot

Shehara Waas is Research Manager at the Chicago-based Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC), an urban planning and policy change nonprofit serving the city of Chicago and greater Chicago metro area. Her research at MPC, while interdisciplinary, has a particular focus on community development and uses a mixed-methods approach. She has a background working at the intersection of environmental justice and community development, honed in part through her previous work as a community development analyst with the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Office of Environmental and Historic Preservation. She is particularly interested in long-term racial wealth gap eradication strategies—research she conducts as a 2020 Chicago United for Equity Fellow. Shehara has a master’s in public policy from the University of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy.

Danielle Walters

Headshot of Danielle Waters 
Danielle Walters, MPH is an independent consultant at the 35th Street Consulting, LLC. Danielle has extensive experience in the mixed-income and public health fields as an epidemiologist. Her main interest is the intersection of health and community development, particularly in the context of public housing redevelopment. For thirteen years Danielle was the Executive Director of a non-profit organization that provided services to residents of a mixed-income development, and as a consultant she assisted the City of Chicago to prepare HOPE VI and Choice Neighborhoods proposals and developed the requisite collaborations and data sharing agreements for broad community change. She’s worked to inform and guide policymakers through qualitative and quantitative research, while working on the ground as part of public housing redevelopment efforts. During her time in Chicago, she developed exemplary, creative and innovative youth programs in the mixed-income development context that were unlike any others throughout the city. She continues to work as a liaison between practitioners implementing housing initiatives and the policymakers shaping those initiatives. Danielle has a master’s in public health from the University of California, Berkeley.