Jorge Alvarez is a student majoring in Public Health with a minor in Biological Sciences on the pre-medical track. Jorge is passionate about learning all he can about the U.S. healthcare system and creating spaces for marginalized folks like him. Jorge has served as a participant and Site Leader with Rutgers Alternative Breaks where he discovered his passion for serving others. As an avid mental health advocate, Jorge served three years on Active Minds at Rutgers E-board, where he began as the Public Relations Chair and recently completed his term as Co-President. Jorge works to destigmatize mental illness by shadowing psychiatrists and works as a Patient Monitor at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, where he cares for people experiencing mental health conditions. During the Fall of  2020, Jorge served as a Research Intern with @columbia where he worked on a federal pilot program that served Medicaid clients with mental health and substance use issues. Today, Jorge continues to work as a Patient Monitor at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital. He is currently the International Veterinary Health Intern with Merck Animal Health. He works with others to provide countries experiencing outbreaks of transboundary diseases like FMD and Rabies with the necessary vaccines. Jorge enjoys making TikToks about his experiences as a first-gen pre-med and healing (@ijorgealvarez), where he has grown his platform to +3000 amazing supporters. After Rutgers, Jorge plans to pursue a post-baccalaureate science master’s program (SMP) to obtain his Master’s in Biomedical Sciences and medical school shortly after.

Saidy Cedano is a senior at the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy majoring in Public Policy, minoring in Women’s and Gender Studies, and completing a certificate in Women’s Leadership. Saidy is dedicated to improving urban policymaking, minority youth civic engagement, and community-based organizing. She is a summer research intern at Brown University’s Leadership Alliance Program, where she will research disenfranchised communities’ relationship with their governments to highlight the need for accountable policy-making practices that support vulnerable and disempowered populations. As a Ronald E. McNair Research Scholar, she investigated the impact of socioeconomic class and racial/ethnic identity on minority youth life navigation and political action through year-long collaborations with the Rutgers SECD Lab and support from the Rutgers Interdisciplinary Research Team Fellowship. Saidy has been the Verbal Mayhem Poetry Collective’s Community Outreach Chair and organized in-community service projects, volunteered at the New York Legal Assistance Group as a translator for recent refugee-seekers from Central and South America, and mentored and tutored New Brunswick Middle and High School students, where she led biweekly youth development workshops on accessing college education. Most recently, Saidy was a project intern at New Brunswick Tomorrow, where she researched models for increasing minority youth civic participation. She spearheaded youth poetry workshops with New Brunswick High School, where students used creative writing to engage in self-reflection and practice policy advocacy tools. Saidy plans to expand upon her internship experience by designing a social action project with the Rutgers University Institute for Women’s Leadership that will assist local youth with researching policy interventions they are passionate about.

Brooke Margolin is a senior in the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences’ Honors Program and the Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy majoring in Public Health, minoring in Political Science and Women’s & Gender Studies, and pursuing a certificate in Health Disparities. She is simultaneously working towards her MPH in Epidemiology at the Rutgers School of Public Health. Brooke is an Undergraduate Associate at the Eagleton Institute of Politics, a Rutgers Scholar at the Intelligence Community – Center for Academic Excellence, and a G.H. Cook Scholar. She is currently a Programming and Development Intern at the New Brunswick Development Corporation and a HealthMap Intern at Boston Children’s Hospital’s Innovation and Digital Health Accelerator. She previously interned at GlobeMed Headquarters, Rutgers Global Health Institute, and Rutgers University’s Center for Women’s Global Leadership. Brooke serves as President of the Rutgers Global Health Institute’s Student Council, Student Advisory Panel Member of the Rutgers University Climate Task Force, Vice President of Triota – Women’s & Gender Studies National Honor Society, Director of Community Outreach of GlobeMed at Rutgers, and Global Awareness Representative of She’s the First – Rutgers. Currently, Brooke is completing research as a Senior Fellow for the Pandemic Task Force at Eagleton’s Miller Center for Community Protection and Resilience and is a Research Assistant for Dr. Johanna Schoen’s NIH-funded, multi-institutional research on the eugenic sterilization of women in North Carolina. Brooke has also served as a Teaching Assistant and Alternative Break Site Leader for the pilot Honors College First-Year Byrne Seminar, “Hunger and Food Insecurity in New Brunswick: A Service Learning Perspective.” She looks forward to being a member of this year’s cohort of Voorhees Public Service Fellows.

Neha Saju is pursuing a dual major in History and Political Science with minors in French and Women’s and Gender Studies. Neha is a Leadership Scholar with the Institute of Women’s Leadership, a Lloyd C. Gardner Fellow, and an Eagleton Undergraduate Associate. As an intern with the Center for American Women and Politics and the Center for Youth Political Participation, she helped design the RU Voting National Microsite (a national initiative to disseminate accurate election information). As an Aresty Research Assistant with Dr. Beth C. Rubin, she worked on The Civically Engaged Districts Project. She is the Chief Copy Editor of the Aresty Undergraduate Research Journal, Secretary of Pi Sigma Alpha (the political science honors society), and a correspondent for the Inside Beat section of The Daily Targum. She also led a first-year seminar on Law and Leadership in the Political Science Department. Neha is dedicated to service work. She has been a participant, site leader, and executive board member with the Rutgers University Alternative Breaks program and she has worked with the Rutgers Collaborative Center for Community Based Research and Service and Youth Empowerment Services, a community organization in New Brunswick. A lover of fantasy novels and language learning, Neha hopes to study law after graduating from the School of Arts & Sciences in 2022.

Isaac Alejandro Velez is a student in the Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy and the School of Arts and Sciences at Rutgers University, studying Public Policy and Political Science. Velez is interested  in the intersection of politics, policy, and economics and their effects on working families and underserved communities. As an Undergraduate Associate at the Eagleton Institute of Politics, Velez studies the application of politics in government and community engagement. As a former member of the Rutgers University Student Assembly,  he instituted and formalized a process for minority communities that have a disproportionate amount of police contact to hold voting positions on the Rutgers University Police Department Hiring Board. In 2018, he interned for the Fairfax County, VA  Board of Supervisors, and, in 2019, he interned for Congresswoman Jennifer Wexton (VA-10), where he supported constituent service programs and outreach. Velez currently serves as the State and Federal Policy intern at Results for America, where he advocates for data-driven and evidence-based policies, practices, and budgets. He was the Political Director of a Congressional campaign for NJ-10, and a volunteer for Virginia Governor Ralph Northam. Passionate about promoting policies that stimulate upwards economic mobility, Velez is pursuing  a Master’s degree in Public Policy at the Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy. In the future, he hopes to attain a JD to protect vulnerable communities.


Jonathan Bonilla headshot Rutgers Voorhees Center BlousteinJonathan Francisco Bonilla is a graduate student in the Master of City and Regional Planning program at the Bloustein School where he is pursuing a concentration in Community Development, Housing and Redevelopment. He is interested in sustainable socio-economic development, equitable planning practices and policies addressing racial justice, urban governance, community engagement, and alternative forms of development. Prior to joining the Bloustein School at Rutgers, he completed an internship at the Metropolitan Council as a Local Planning Assistant working on projects related to climate change, affordable housing, and environmental justice for the twin cities region in Minnesota. He has also completed research and related work on urban issues in Guatemala, South Africa, and Denmark. He received a Bachelor of Arts in Urban Studies from DePauw University.

Lily Chang is a senior studying Public Health and Urban Planning & Design. She is passionate about solving issues related to policy, public health, and human behavior. A New Jersey native, she loves her home state and spent her junior year as a Ralph W. Voorhees Public Service Fellow researching the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the emergency food system in Edison and Metuchen. In the spring of 2021, she worked as a higher education policy advocate with the Rutgers Office of Federal Relations urging policymakers to support doubling the Pell Grant which would help students facing financial hardship attend and afford college, and met with leading policymakers like Congressman Tom Malinowski. Currently, Lily is a Researcher for Mother’s Touch, an app for expecting mothers, where she writes on a variety of maternal and child health topics aimed at reducing NJ’s maternal mortality rate. She is also pursuing her interest in policy work through a summer internship at Lake Research Partners, a national public opinion and political strategy research firm. In the fall of 2021, she will be working with Dr. Kathe Newman through the Bloustein Honors Research Program on affordable rental housing in New Jersey. After graduation, Lily hopes to obtain her Master’s degree and work in the field of public policy.

William Downie is a graduate student in the Master of City of Regional Planning program at the Bloustein School. He is interested in affordable housing development, equitable economic development, neighborhood revitalization, and brownfield redevelopment in post-industrial communities, and ultimately hopes to help stressed and disadvantaged communities develop in an equitable and sustainable way. Prior to joining the Bloustein School, Will worked in city planning in Rhode Island, before moving first to the National League of Cities to advance municipal issues at the national level, and then into the legal realm, where we worked on a number of issues related to international trade and industrial policy. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in International Affairs and Political Science from The George Washington University in Washington, DC.

William Downie headshot voorhees Center RutgersWilliam Downie headshot voorhees Center Rutgers

Andrea Zixuan He Voorhees Civic Engagement Seminar Series

Andrea (Zixuan) He is a graduate student in the Master of City and Regional Planning program at the Bloustein School. Before joining the Bloustein school, she studied Architectural Design and Art History at MassArt in Boston. Exploring art and architecture in different cities led her to pursue urban planning. She is interested in urban informatics, international development, and spatial design. During her free time, she likes to illustrate what she sees in cities and bridge the urban environment with her artistic mind.

Lauren Nolan Doctoral student Rutgers University Voorhees CenterLauren Nolan is a first year Ph.D. student at the Rutgers Bloustein School. Prior to coming to Rutgers, Lauren served as the Director of Research for the Woodstock Institute, a nonprofit research and policy organization working in the areas of fair lending, wealth creation, and financial systems reform. She also worked as a researcher and economic development planner at the Voorhees Center for Neighborhood and Community Improvement at the University of Illinois at Chicago where she also taught a course in Policy Analysis Methods. Lauren is a certified planner and member of the American Institute of Certified Planners.

Elana Simon Voorhees Center Elana Simon is a graduate student in the Master of City and Regional Planning program at the Bloustein School where she is pursuing a concentration in community development. She is interested in equitable economic development frameworks, community development finance, and housing development. Prior to joining the Bloustein School, she lived in Kaohsiung, Taiwan for the Fulbright U.S. Student Program and later worked for nonprofit organizations in Washington, DC while finding her way to urban planning through volunteer community organizing. She received a Bachelor of Arts in Politics from Whitman College in Washington State.

smriti Singh headshot Rutgers bloustein voorheen center Smriti Singh is a graduate student in the Master of City and Regional Planning program at the Bloustein School where she is pursuing a concentration in community development and housing. Her research interests are focused on urban governance, land and housing rights, informality, feminist political economy and social justice. Prior to joining Bloustein she worked with a non profit in Delhi, India, where she led pilot projects aimed to improve informal women worker’s land tenure security, access to basic infrastructure services and housing finance in order to improve their economic empowerment. She is also part of two city-wide campaigns in Delhi aiming to make city planning processes more representative and inclusive by engaging citizens in the 2041 Master Plan process.

Rutgers Voorhees CenterJohn Fidel Klarke Smith is a graduate student of the Master of City and Regional Planning program at the Bloustein School where he is pursuing a concentration in Community Development, Housing and Finance. He is interested in development interventions that promote collective ownership, community control, affordable housing, sustainable infrastructure, green builds, retrofits, and increases in union density. Prior to joining the Bloustein School at Rutgers, these interests were formed during 4 years working in construction as a carpenter apprentice with Union Local 27 & 183, as well as in arts and culture as a community organizer. He is co-founder of two community arts and activist spaces in Toronto, 187 Augusta and Tea Base Co-op. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Equity Studies and Psychology from University of Toronto.


Ooha Uppalapati is a Master of City and Regional Planning student at the Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy, working towards completing the Community Development and Housing concentration. Before attending Rutgers, Ooha worked with a non-profit in Mumbai, where she was part of research focusing on self-built neighborhoods and their relationship with the urban planning processes in Indian cities. She organised workshops to facilitate exchange of vocabulary of planning practice between the residents and planning documents. Previously, she was an Urban Fellow at the Indian Institute for Human Settlements where her learning focused on the different socio-spatial practices that constitute Indian cities. She pursued architecture during her undergraduate studies and worked with an architectural studio on public infrastructure projects including the Bus Rapid Transit System in Ahmedabad and Amritsar.


Cara Cuite is an Assistant Extension Specialist in the Department of Human Ecology at Rutgers University. She is a health psychologist who studies community food security, risk communication and public perceptions of food-related issues, including food safety and genetically engineered foods. Her current research is focused on food insecurity among Rutgers students, including collaborations to implement a “screen and intervene” program in Student Health Services and to create a student community café for food insecure students. She works with the New Brunswick Community Food Alliance, the Feeding New Brunswick Network, and Meals on Wheels in Greater New Brunswick. Her work has been funded by the National Science Foundation, the United States Department of Agriculture, the National Center for Food Protection and Defense, New Jersey Sea Grant, and Johnson & Johnson. She received her Ph.D. in Psychology from Rutgers University and a B.S. in Psychology and Modern Languages from Union College.

James DeFilippis’ research focuses on the political economy of cities and communities.  He is particularly interested in the processes of social change, and questions of power and justice in cities.  While his interests are broad, it is questions of community control and building forms of power in poor neighborhoods that have been at the center of his work.  He began working on and with efforts for community control over economic development more than 20 years ago and continues to work with and in support of community land trusts, community development credit unions, worker co-ops and other forms of community control.  He is a founding member of the New York City Community Land Initiative (NYCCLI) and the Western Queens Community Land Trust (WQCLT). He is the author or editor of six books, around 50 articles and book chapters, and many applied monographs and reports for practitioners and advocates.


Will Payne Rutgers Voorhees Center for Civic Engagement HeadshotWill Payne joined the Bloustein School in September 2020. He received his PhD in Geography from the University of California, Berkeley, where he also was affiliated with the Berkeley Center for New Media, the Berkeley Food Institute, and the UC Berkeley Global Urban Humanities Initiative. Will uses quantitative and qualitative methods to study the relationship between geospatial technologies and urban inequality, examining how changing technical capabilities, labor relations, and competitive pressures in the location-based services (LBS) industry interact with processes of racialized and class-based segregation in American cities. He has published articles in the Annals of the American Association of GeographersUrban GeographyComputational Culture, and Environment and Planning A, among other publications. Will’s current book project examines how different groups of urban residents use “urban information systems” like the Zagat Survey, Yelp, Foursquare, and Google Local to organize and understand their consumption experiences in cities, while technologists and real estate developers employ the resulting data to help transform marginal neighborhoods into upscale consumption spaces. Will also develops open-source tools for spatial data visualization and computational research.

Ronald Quincy Ronald Quincy is a Professor of Professional Practice, a Visiting Senior Fellow for Diversity Studies at the John J. Heldrich Center for Workforce Development, Co-Academic Director of the Collaborative Center for Community-Based Research and Service, Academic Director of the Rutgers Civic Leadership Institute, and the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders, as well as Faculty Director of the South Africa Study Abroad, Honors College & School of Arts & Sciences Honors Program. Dr. Quincy earned his Ph.D. from the College of Social Sciences at Michigan State University.  He served as a member of the Governor of Michigan’s Cabinet, Director of the Michigan Department of Civil Rights, and Director of the Michigan State Office of Human Resources Policy and Special Projects.  His other previous positions include the following: Associate Vice President, Assistant to the President, of Harvard University; Executive Director of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change; Executive Director/President of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, Inc.; President of the White House Fellows Association and Chairman, White House Fellows Foundation; Senior Management Consultant, Towers Perrin (the world’s 11th largest management consulting firm); and Foreign Policy Advisor, U.S. State Department, Africa Bureau. His research interests include: nonprofit sector leadership and governance, fundraising, institutional branding and grantsmanship, organizational strategy, human capital, performance and executive coaching, international civil society organizations and international affairs.

Eric Seymour is an Assistant Professor at the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy. He holds a PhD in urban and regional planning from the University of Michigan and was most recently a postdoctoral research associate at the Population Studies and Training Center at Brown University. Eric’s research is broadly concerned with neighborhood dynamics in the aftermath of the financial crisis and their implications for the health and housing insecurity of disadvantaged populations. He continues to be engaged in research on transformations in urban housing markets in places hit hard by the foreclosure crisis, where investors purchased large numbers of repossessed properties and sold them on insecure terms or rented them in uninhabitable condition to low-income and credit-constrained households. Eric’s prior work has specifically examined the reemergence of exploitative contract-for-deed transactions in majority-Black cities and neighborhoods. He is currently engaged in research on evictions in Detroit and Las Vegas, focusing on the intersection of opportunistic property investment and the constrained housing options of low-income renters. His methodological expertise lies in spatial analysis and statistical methods. He draws on large administrative datasets, particularly real estate transaction records, to study urban dynamics.

Mi Shih is an associate professor in the Urban Planning and Policy Development Program at the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy, Rutgers University. Her research includes two major areas. Using mixed methods, the first area explores informal housing, the politics of land value creation and capture, and the relationship between the role of the developmental state and democratic planning in Taiwan. The second area uses ethnographic methods to understand displacement, peri-urban transformation, social and political governance of land conflicts in Shanghai and Guangzhou, China. Mi has published articles in Urban Studies, International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, Planning Theory & Practice, Urban Geography, Journal of Planning Education and Research, Planning Practice & Research, Environment and Planning A. She is currently working on several case studies that explore the intersection between technocratic planning, land politics, and democratic participation in state-led urban development.




Senior Program Director

Nadia Mian RutgersNadia A. Mian is Senior Program Director of the Ralph W. Voorhees Center for Civic Engagement and a Lecturer at the Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy. She holds a PhD from The New School, and Masters in Environmental Studies, where she specialized in urban planning from York University in Toronto, Canada. She previously taught at New York University, The New School, and Columbia University, where she was Managing Editor of the journal, City & Community. Her research focuses on urban policy, redevelopment, housing, sustainability, and neighborhood change. Her latest research examines how faith-based institutions are using their property to build affordable housing, and at the same time advocate for and change land use, zoning and housing policy. Passionate about urban planning and community development, Nadia is a member of the Planning Board and Environmental Commission in Hanover Township, New Jersey.

Faculty Director

Rutgers professor Kathe Newman Voorhees Center Civic EngagementKathe Newman is a Professor in the Urban Planning and Policy Development Program at the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy and Director of the Ralph W. Voorhees Center for Civic Engagement. She holds a Ph.D. in Political Science from the Graduate School and University Center at the City University of New York. Her research explores urban change, what it is, why it happens, and what it means. Her work has explored gentrification, foreclosure, urban redevelopment, food security, community economic development and community participation. Kathe has published articles in Urban Studies, International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, Urban Affairs Review, Shelterforce, Progress in Human Geography, Housing Studies, GeoJournal, and Environment and Planning A. She is currently an editor of Environment and Planning A.