Current PhD Students
David Akinbode, a Critical Urban Research fellow and a doctoral student at the School of Urban Affairs and Public Policy, earned his Bachelor of Technology degree in Urban and Regional Planning from the Federal University of Technology Akure (Nigeria), with a primary emphasis on transportation planning during his undergraduate research. Furthermore, he obtained a Master’s Degree in Environmental Studies from Adelphi University (USA), where his research primarily delved into the comparative analysis of metabolic rates within distinct coastal ecosystems in Long Island, New York.
During his academic tenure at Adelphi University, David held various roles, including serving as a graduate research assistant for Adelphi University's Sustainable Campus Council and the Faculty of Environmental Studies & Sciences. Additionally, he worked as a Learning Strategist for the Bridges to Adelphi program, providing support to neurodiverse students. His professional background encompasses diverse experiences in both the public and private sectors, spanning research, healthcare, manufacturing, business administration, and environmental management. Prior to joining the University of Memphis, he served as a researcher involved in various funded multi-center studies at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and worked as a research technician at the University of Pittsburgh.
David's research interests are deeply rooted in environmental planning and policy, water resource management, health, equitable housing, climate change, and sustainable development. He is a member of the Pi Epsilon Environmental Sciences Honor Society and the American Society for Investigative Pathology.
Gordon Amankwaa is an Environmental Engineer and a Research Assistant at the Department of City and Regional Planning. He holds degrees in Geography, Environmental Science and Engineering from Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (Ghana) and Jiangsu University (China). His primary research interests are urban water resource management, the environmental behavior of urban populations, and urban environmental monitoring (water, soil, and waste). As a research scientist, he has worked in Ghana, China, and Germany. His scholarly interests led to the publishing of numerous academic works in peer-reviewed journals, including the Water Environment Research Journal, Environmental Science and Pollution Research, and the Iranian Journal of Fisheries Sciences to name a few.
He is a member of the International Water Association (UK), the American Water Association (AWA). He serves a peer reviewer for several SCI journals, including Environment, Sustainability and Development (ENVI), Water Science and Technology (WST), and the Journal of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene for Development. View his publications >>>
Kenya Anderson is a social work educator providing academic advisement, coaching and mentorship for first generation college students in the School of Social Work at the University of Memphis. She is a Clinical Assistant Professor and holds a professional license as a Licensed Masters Level Social Worker (LMSW) with a concentration in Management and Evidence-Based Community Practice in the State of Tennessee. Her professional affiliations include the National Association of Social Workers, the Council on Social Work Education, the Coalition of Black Social Workers, and Phi Alpha Honor Society. She is serving a second term as an appointed regulatory board member with the Tennessee Department of Health-Related Boards for Social Work Licensure. Through her service as a regulator, she has been appointed to various service committees and elected to the Nominating Committee with the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB). She has also been recognized for her dedication in enhancing the Path to Licensure for social work professionals.
Currently, Kenya Anderson serves as faculty advisor for the University of Memphis’ Chapter of the Coalition of Black Social Workers. For the past six years, her professional appointment with the University of Memphis has included service as the BA Field Director and academic advisor in the School of Social Work. She is a member of the North American Network of Field Educators and Directors (NANFED) and the Tennessee Statewide Field Consortium.
Kenya’s research interests include exploring intergenerational and social aspects of housing stability in urban communities. Her area of study emphases the intersectionality of issues of housing instability and poverty to develop interventions that reduce the impact of social and economic disparities. She seeks to identify the environmental conditions that cultivate prosocial community responses to strengthen individuals, families, and communities.
Elizabeth Cawein is a music advocate and strategist. She founded Signal Flow Public Relations, a boutique media firm dedicated to serving the Memphis music industry, in 2011. In 2015, she launched a not-for-profit initiative called Music Export Memphis, which leverages public and private support to function as an export office for Memphis music, creating opportunities for musicians and driving economic development through music and culture. In January of 2019, she joined strategic consultancy Sound Diplomacy to continue her work in music strategy and advocacy.
Elizabeth is an adjunct professor of music urbanism at Rhodes College and is the Assistant Director of the Curb Institute for Music. In 2015, she was honored by the British Council at its inaugural Education UK Alumni Awards, celebrating outstanding U.S. alumni of British institutions. Elizabeth has moderated panels and has presented showcases at Folk Alliance International, SXSW, A3C, AmericanaFest, Canadian Music Week, and Music Cities Convention. In 2019, she was the keynote speaker at the inaugural Texas Sounds and Cities conference. She serves as an Adviser on the Recording Academy Memphis Chapter Board and hosts Straight from the Source, a weekly all-Memphis-music program, on WYXR 91.7FM. Elizabeth is dedicated to the belief that smart cities are music cities – her TED Talk on the subject has 1 million views and climbing. You can find out more about Elizabeth and her work in the arts by visiting her website.
Dorcas Young Griffin is a doctoral student in the Urban Affairs Ph.D. program. She completed her undergraduate degree in Sociology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and her Master's in Public Administration from the University of Memphis. She currently serves as the Director of the Shelby County Division of Community Services with oversight of nearly 250 staff members and manages a budget of over $50 million dollars which is used to provide human and social services for residents of the city of Memphis and Shelby County. This division has played a critical role in the recent local response to the COVID-19 outbreak. Dorcas serves as a committee leader for the Memphis and Shelby County Joint COVID Task Force.
Prior to her appointment as Director of Community Services, she worked as the Administrator for the Memphis Ryan White HIV program coordinating funding and services providing medical care and support for over 3,500+ individuals living in the Memphis area with or without insurance. Additional previous positions included work with the Church Health Center and as the director of a local Head Start program. Dorcas continues to serve on several community boards, including the Community Foundation of Greater Memphis, Memphis and Shelby County Crime Commission and the Vitalant Community Advisory Board. She is a native Memphis with deep roots and heritage centered on service, particularly for underserved and vulnerable communities.
Her research interests include analyzing the impact of local government organizational structures, policy development and processes impacting the social and economic mobility of low income and vulnerable populations.
Martavius L. Hampton
Martavius L. Hampton is a public health professional and assistant professor in the College of Health Sciences at the University of Memphis. Currently, Mr. Hampton is an Urban Affairs PhD student in the School of Urban Affairs and Public Policy. In 2017, he received his Master of Public Health from the University of Memphis School of Public Health. His professional career and experience in public health have included LGBTQ+ health, HIV prevention research, health & wellness programming, adolescent health, professional health training, and program evaluation. In his over twelve years of public health service, he has served as a senior director, program manager, Tennessee Department of Health lead trainer, researcher, and community educator.
As a public health professional, Hampton aspires to apply urban theory and applications to his professional trajectory as it relates to urban health problem-solving, community participatory research, impactful teaching, and program development. His research interests include LGBTQ+ health, sexual/reproductive health, gun violence prevention, minority stress, environmental health, mental health, and injury/accident prevention just to name a few.
Eric Harris was born in Memphis, TN, and is a proud graduate of Shelby County Schools. Eric continued his education at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, where he received a Bachelor of Arts Degree in History and Secondary Education. He furthered his education at Christian Brothers University, where he received his Master of Science in Educational Leadership and earned an Executive Master of Business Administration from the University of Memphis.
As an educator, Eric initially began his career in education as a history teacher and coach. While he successfully coached basketball on the AAU level, winning several district, state, and national championships. He also coached basketball on the high school level, winning District Coach of the Year. Eric later shifted to school administration, first as an assistant principal at Cordova High School and then at White Station High School. In 2010, he then returned to his alma mater, East High School, to serve as principal. In 2015, he accepted a position as Director of Student Operations for the State of Tennessee Achievement School District, before becoming a School Administrator in the Whitehaven Empowerment Zone in Memphis. It was the experience of supporting turnaround efforts in one of the lowest-performing elementary schools in the State of Tennessee that sparked his primary research focus on the foundations of learning and the importance of vertical alignment of primary, secondary, and post-secondary institutions. This alignment delivers an education that best prepares students to positively impact the economy.
Eric currently serves as school principal at the Geeter School, a pre-k through 8 grade school currently on the State of Tennessee Priority List. Eric believes all learners must be provided with an equitable learning environment designed to ensure their success both academically and socially. Schools are the hubs of urban communities and must be a conduit of the holistic nurturing of students and families.
His research interests explore the intersection of education policy, school administrative behavior, and the local economy to spur educational success for vulnerable populations.
Kelli Harris holds a bachelor’s in human services and a master’s degree in community agency counseling; both from the University of Memphis. She is a licensed professional counselor and a mental health services provider. Kelli is also an approved clinical supervisor and provides licensure supervision for counselors in training. She has trained and worked alongside some of the nation's top experts providing grief and trauma resolution utilizing experiential therapies such as Eye Movement Desensitization Reprocessing and Psychodrama. She has served the Memphis community for over 20 years, serving as a summer camp counselor for Hands Across Memphis, a family advocate counselor for the University of Tennessee Relative Caregiver Program, a residential therapist for union workers of General Motors and American Airlines, clinical director for people living with HIV and AIDS, and a contracted therapist for OnSite Workshops.
Kelli has also conducted trauma-informed care training for the Internal Revenue Service, the Shelby County School System, the Memphis Police Department, West Tennessee Counseling Association, United Health Care, and for several local churches. She ran a private practice and nonprofit for 10 years, specializing in trauma-informed care, and for the past 8 years she has served as the director of grief and trauma resolution for one of the largest behavioral health hospitals in West Tennessee. In 2016, she was awarded Counselor of the Year by West Tennessee Counseling Association. She is passionate about the mental and emotional health of the community and the world.
Her research interests include analyzing the effect of unhealed woundedness in white America as a cause of racism, as well as the impact psychological reactance in urban planning.
Md Sharif Hossain
Md Sharif Hossain joined the Ph.D. in Urban Affairs as a graduate research assistant in fall 2022. Previously he worked as a graduate research assistant in the department of public administration for his MPA with a major in Public Management and Policy in the Department of Public and Nonprofit Administration at the University of Memphis. He also received extensive professional training in international development policy, policy research, and data-driven-decision making from the National University of Singapore (NUS), National Academy of Planning and Development (NAPD), Bangladesh, and the International Labor Organization (ILO) prior to matriculating at the University of Memphis.
He received his Bachelor's in Sociology from the University of Dhaka, Bangladesh. After graduation, he joined the public service as a Research Officer for the Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh in 2018. There he worked as a focal-point officer of policy research in the Ministry of Chittagong Hill Tracts Affairs, where he led the data management and research, policy analysis for the planning and implementation of the projects and programs for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations in Bangladesh. He successfully conducted the monitoring and evaluation of the development projects in partnership with the World Bank, United Nations Development Program, and the Asian Development Bank in poverty alleviation, strengthening local government, and infrastructure development in Bangladesh.
Md Sharif Hossain was inducted to Pi Alpha Alpha Scholar -The Global Honor Society for Public Affairs and Administration in 2021. His research interests are collaborative governance, minority rights, and urban development politics. He recently published a peer-reviewed research journal with Dr. Joseph Hafer in the Journal of Public and Nonprofit Affairs.
Charia Jackson is a graduate student in the Urban Affairs PhD program at the University of Memphis. She holds both a Master of City and Regional Planning and Bachelor of Business Administration with a concentration in Marketing Management both from the University of Memphis–she is driven by doing. Her goal for returning to academia is to develop advance-level institutional knowledge and practical skills to be able to expand her professional opportunities in the field of local community and economic development. She serves on serval organizations boards that includes, BLDG Memphis, a local coalition of CDCs and individuals seeking to improve the quality of Memphis’ different communities; Community Lift, a funder/supporter of local community and economic activity through the city; Tennessee Housing Development Agency Home Buyer Education Initiative Advisory Board; and Frayser Connect Advisory Board, as way to influence investment in Frayser and similar communities throughout Memphis.
Her path into the local community development sector began as a volunteer of the Frayser Community Development Corporation and later flourished into a leadership role within the agency as its deputy director. On this journey she has held many roles in the agency, but it was her role in designing and implementing the agency’s HUD-certified Housing Counseling program at the onset of the Financial Crisis, that she realized she had a passion for identifying neighborhood issues/challenges and seeking out policy and programs as sustainable solutions for neighborhood growth. She spent many years researching the Frayser market, to include its high rate of foreclosures and bankruptcies. This led to the development of Housing Counseling Program that would assist thousands of residents in the community with becoming an informed homeowners and or aid existing homeowners with sustainable home preservation services. Frayser has overcome the high rates of foreclosures and its values have rebound and on the continual rise. Her next mission is work diligently in the same community and explore ways to build economic prosperity amongst its residents.
Her research interests are formed within understandings of neighborhood structural racial inequities and addressing the GAPs for growth and opportunity in divested communities. She is inspired to explore if communal wealth building could alleviate poverty and build areas of sustainable growth.
To learn more about Miss Jackson and her personal journey devoted to neighborhood development visit www.realurbanconcepts.com.
Kenny Latta is a native Memphian and currently serves as an instructor and student advisor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Memphis (U of M). Kenny earned his Master's of Arts in Anthropology from the University of Memphis in 2014 and holds a Bachelor of Arts in Religion and Philosophy from Christian Brothers University. Kenny’s master's thesis focused on the impact of community gardens in the city of Memphis neighborhoods as part of a larger collaboration with faculty from the U of M Department of Counseling and the local nonprofit, GrowMemphis.
Prior to joining the U of M faculty in 2018, he served as coordinator of special projects for the local nonprofit Center for Transforming Communities (CTC) where he supported community organizing efforts in a variety of low-income neighborhoods in Memphis. While at CTC he also oversaw all the organization’s program evaluation, using a range of quantitative and qualitative methodologies to investigate the impact of the organization’s community organizing and community building strategies.
His research interests include analyzing the role of community organizing and place-based social movements in gentrification and housing affordability in the United States.
Rifat Jahan Loran
Rifat Jahan Loran is a Ph.D. student and research assistant. She started her program in the fall of 2023. Prior to her enrollment in the Urban Affairs program, Rifat earned her M.A. degree from the University of Memphis with a specialization in Sociology. During her master's program, she actively contributed as both a teaching assistant and graduate research assistant, lending her expertise to various impactful projects within the Sociology department. Additionally, Rifat served as a virtual Sociology Tutor for two terms at the University of Memphis, further honing her teaching and mentoring skills. She earned both her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in Public Administration from the University of Chittagong in Bangladesh.335559740":240}">
Rifat's research interests encompass a wide spectrum of critical urban issues, including the examination of urban planning's impact on climate change, urban inequality, urban poverty, sustainable development, and spatial analysis. Her dedication to addressing these complex challenges through rigorous research and analysis sets her on a path toward making meaningful contributions to the field of Urban Affairs.
Stephen Leonard Mensah
Stephen Leonard Mensah is a Ph.D. student and an interdisciplinary Critical Urban Research Fellow at the School of Urban Affairs and Public Policy, University of Memphis. He holds a Bachelor of Arts (First-Class Honours) and a Master of Philosophy degree in Geography and Resource Development from the University of Ghana. Stephen also holds a pragmatic worldview and adopts quantitative and qualitative methods to research urban and community sustainable development issues referencing housing and climate justice nexus, climate resilience planning, community development, and policy responses to inequities in local environments. Stephens's master’s thesis examined the role of socio-spatial factors on residential satisfaction among private rental households in the Cape Coast Metropolitan Area, Ghana 335559740":240}">
Prior to joining the University of Memphis, Stephen served as a Graduate Teaching and Research Assistant at the Department of Geography and Resource Development, University of Ghana, where he assisted in the teaching of foundational courses in urban studies and research methods. He has also acquired enormous research experience through working as an associate researcher on several joint-funded international research projects on varying urban sustainability issues which involved scholars from the United States, Australia, Europe, Asia, and Africa. Stephen currently has research papers under varying stages of peer review in renowned journals such as the Journal of Urban Affairs and the International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction and serves as a peer-reviewer for the Journal of Urban Management He is also making sustained efforts to communicate his research findings in simple and understandable language with the non-scientific community through international outlets such as The Conversation.
Mahdis Modaresi is a Ph.D. student and graduate assistant in the Urban Affairs Program at the University of Memphis. Prior to coming to the University of Memphis, Mahdis received her M.A. degree in Environmental Policy and a graduate certificate in Urban Environmental Policy and Planning from Lehigh University, PA. During her master’s study, she was working as a community fellow and an intern at Lehigh Valley Planning Commission (LVPC) and was engaged in various planning and development projects. She received her B.Sc. degree in Urban Planning and Design from the Art University of Isfahan, Iran.
Her research interests analyzes urban planning efforts and urban decision-making around land use, the impacts of planning on urban inequality, smart cities, spatial analysis, and urban informatics and visualization.
Heather Lee Morgan
Heather Lee Morgan is a doctoral student in the Urban Affairs Ph.D program at the University of Memphis. Originally hailing from the Floridian Gulf area, Heather moved to Memphis, TN in 2011 to pursue her Bachelor's in Fine Art at Memphis College of Arts where she majored in design arts and minored in art history. Post her baccalaureate studies she served as a K-12 visual arts educator within Memphis-Shelby County Schools (MSCS). During her tenure with MSCS, Heather served on multiple behavioral response teams advocating for students' mental health and as a major point of contact for her department on usage of technology within the arts classroom.
In 2021 Heather continued her education at the University of Memphis (UofM) in the Master's in Public Administration program from which she graduated in Spring 2023. During her time in this program, Heather helped to successfully create the UofM’s first collegiate chapter for the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP). Through serving as the chapter President, Heather hoped to give all students an opportunity to learn and engage more within philanthropy in the Greater Memphis area. UofM AFP held its first joint philanthropic event in the Spring of 2023 with the Hattiloo Theatre. This event was an Arts Bazaar bringing together local artists across many disciplines to share and sell their artwork.
This ticketed event raised $1,000 for the Hattiloo Theatre and gave local artisans a space to sell their work and come together for the cause of supporting local arts. Heather still currently serves as Co-President on the UofM AFP board. Heather also received the School of Urban Affairs and Public Policy award for Outstanding Student Engagement along with being inducted into Omicron Delta Kappa and Pi Alpha Alpha during her final semester of her master's program.
In light of Heather’s background in the arts community, she feels deeply connected to the importance of the arts and culture. Her research interests include examining access to cultural heritage as a human right and the effects of cultural heritage loss and theft on domestic and international communities.335559740":240}">
Katie Norwood, LCSW LSSW RPT-S has been practicing social work in a professional capacity since 2006. Her background is in both direct clinical and administrative practices. She is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, a Licensed School Social Worker, a Registered Play Therapist-Supervisor. She is a Certified EMDR Therapist through EMDRIA, an AutPlay Certified Therapist and is a Child and Parent Psychotherapy (CPP) rostered clinician. She is entering into her fifth year as a Clinical Assistant Professor with the School of Social Work at the University of Memphis and serves as the MSW Program Coordinator. She is proud to call Memphis home since 2002 and is passionate about the clients and community in which she serves. 335559740":240}">
Katie served as a non-tenured adjunct faculty member with the School of Social Work for seven years beginning in 2011 before joining the department in a full capacity in August of 2018. She has taught courses in clinical interventions with individuals and groups such as Practice I and II. She has also taught courses in human behavior from both a micro and macro perspective, HBSE, Clinical Evaluation and Communities and Organizations.
Her clinical experience working with vulnerable populations addressing issues of substance abuse, domestic violence, abuse, neglect, and trauma provides her with a powerful framework to utilize with her students. The majority of her clients experience significant anxiety, often engage in self-injurious behavior and express thoughts of suicide and homicide. This at-risk population will always be an area of focus for her.335559740":240}">
She has over 17 years of post-graduate experience in direct clinical practice, supervision, development and implementation of agency policies and procedures. She continues to embrace the honor of having the opportunity to challenge and enrich the minds of new social workers. She is currently pursuing her PhD in Urban Affairs and is interested in exploring the relationship between people, other living beings, and their physical environment.
Ophrah Payne is working with TRIO programs here at the University of Memphis, she is an appointed Assistant Director for TRIO Upward Bound at the University of Memphis. Ophrah's leadership philosophy has been developed over many years of public service to the communities and residents of the city of Memphis.
Ophrah holds a Bachelor of Professional Studies in Health Administration and a Master of Science in Community and Economic Development. Her professional affiliations are the National Black MBA Association, Southern Political Science Association, American Public Health Association, and Tennessee Housing Development Agency, and Council of Opportunity in Education. Through her service as an Assistant Director, she has served several students within our community and served as a representative within her university and community. Ophrah won the Top 20 under 30 Memphis award is 2019, she is a nominee for Forbes 30 under 30 class of 2020, and Top 40 under 40 Urban Elite nominee in 2021. Ophrah serves as an Assistant Director for the University of Memphis TRIO UB Program. For the past seven years, her professional appointment with the University of Memphis has included service as the Program Coordinator for Student Support Services Programs and Assistant Director TRIO UB.
Her research interests include working with multi-cultural communities and how the environment affects their health and different systemic factors. She seeks to research macro levels of health environmental factors and cultivate positive community responses to the research that she plans on doing with her Ph.D. She hopes to provide accessibility to low-income impoverished communities and help gain the resources and tools that are needed here in the Memphis community.
Dana Sjostrom works to support science-based decision making and encourage thoughtful, equitable governance strategies and policies. She is a Certified Floodplain Manager and holds a Master of Science from Texas A&M University - Corpus Christi in Curriculum & Instruction, a second Master’s of Science from the University of Memphis focusing on City & Regional Planning, and a BSc in Evolutionary Biology from the University of Alberta.
Currently, she works in the field of sustainability planning for Shelby County Government in Memphis, TN, allowing her the creative space to incorporate resilience principles into government operations and programs. Her current role in Memphis-Shelby County's Division of Planning and Development, Department of Housing works to incorporate these sustainable and science-based approaches into federal grant program management and to advance innovative financing strategies for more equitable infrastructure investments. Since 2019, she has helped secure and manage over $2.7M in grant awards for Shelby County, including funding through the Southeast Sustainable Directors Network, the Urban Sustainability Directors Network, Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Energy, and TDEC’s Office of Energy Efficiency. Dana also helped facilitate and contribute content to the Mid-South Regional Resilience Master Plan, the Memphis Area Climate Action Plan, and the Smart Memphis Plan (no dinosaurs!). She continues efforts to guide and facilitate the development of Memphis’ first Environmental Impact Bond, serving as an innovative pilot for outcome-based financing tools with both green and social co-benefits. Her research has led to publications in journals including Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, Nature Sustainability, Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability, and she has recently submitted work to Nature Climate Change. Her research engages transdisciplinary colleagues in advancing our understanding in climate adaptation, boundary spanning, and knowledge co-production spaces.
Her research interests currently work to tackle applied methods to address disparate impacts from climate change and public policy decisions and seek ways to finance large-scale resilience and equity-focused investments.
Krista Wright Thayer
Krista Wright Thayer is a doctoral student in the Urban Affairs Ph.D. program. She earned her Bachelor's in International Studies from the University of Mississippi, her Bachelor's in Sociology from the University of Memphis, and her Master's in Sociology from the University of Memphis. She is currently the Director of Outreach and Prevention at Friends for All (FFA) in Memphis, TN. She oversees FFA’s outreach center The Haven, where they conduct free HIV and Hepatitis C testing, access to free PrEP/PEP, stigma reduction and other services to increase the level of good health and wellness in the community. In her role specifically, she manages a team of Outreach Specialists, plans outreach events, manages grant requirements, and works with community partners to bring HIV education and awareness to the Memphis metropolitan area that also serves Arkansas and North Mississippi. Her advocacy work includes being a part of the TN HIV Modernization Coalition, Faith Advisory Board and Shelby County Voter Alliance to normalize HIV prevention, bring stigma reduction to churches, speak out against discriminatory legislation, and give those living with HIV, or potentially impacted by HIV, a platform to speak on their experiences and share their journeys.
After graduating from the University of Mississippi, Krista moved to Seattle where she found her passion for working in the nonprofit sector. She worked in the Development Department of Technology Access Foundation, an organization providing skills and knowledge to youth of color in STEM areas and changing the trajectory of public education to create access to transformative systems of learning for students and teachers of color to eliminate race-based disparities in an increasingly diverse society. 335559740":240}"> Her research interests have included the exploration of stigma among public assistance workers against their clients. She seeks to research discriminatory stigma in nonprofits, and how it impacts those they serve and the community.
Emily Thomson is a Critical Urban Research Fellow and student in the Urban Affairs and Public Policy Ph.D. program. She is a graduate of the Master of Public Administration program at Seattle University, where her research focused on investing in social services and community programming to divert youth and adults from the carceral system.
She received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communication in Society and a Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice and Criminology at Washington State University while competing on the Varsity Women’s Rowing team and working in the Elson S. Floyd Cultural Center.
Emily was a public safety dispatcher at Seattle University, where she managed calls on the university’s emergency and business phone lines. In this role, she engaged with individuals experiencing mental health crises, facing challenges with substance use, and those experiencing housing instability. Emily has also spent time as a volunteer with the ACLU of Washington. Emily has attended school and participated in the community in Knoxville, Pullman, Seattle, and in various cities in Canada before joining the doctoral program in Memphis.
Emily’s research interests include bail reform, the use of pretrial detention, diversion programs, and other alternatives to incarceration. She has a keen interest in local government and nonprofit collaboration and public transportation as well. She is also a member of the American Society for Public Administration and Pi Alpha Alpha, the national honor society for public administration students.
Nasir Uddin is a Ph.D. student and graduate research assistant who joined the program in fall 2022. Before joining the UoM, Nasir obtained his bachelor's and master’s degree in Public Administration from the University of Dhaka, Bangladesh.
Nasir has experience in teaching and research for more than ten years. He is an Assistant Professor (currently on leave) in Public Administration at the University of Chittagong (CU), Bangladesh. Before joining CU in 2013, he also worked with the Human Development Research Centre, Dhaka as a Research Associate for nearly two years, working with the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, the United Nations Development Program, and the United Nations Population Fund in Bangladesh. As an independent consultant, Nasir also served Social Impact Inc. and M&EA, Inc. (USA) on several occasions for the performance evaluations of USAID and UKAID-funded projects in Bangladesh.
Nasir has several peer-reviewed publications that have appeared in international outlets; such as the Journal of Urban Management (Elsevier), The International Journal of Community and Social Development (Sage), Book Series of Encyclopedia of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (Springer), Public Administration and Policy (Emerald), Asiascape: Digital Asia (Brill), Public Affairs and Governance, and Dynamics of Public Administration (University of Lucknow), and also has manuscripts under review. He also led various research projects and presented his research at international conferences.
His research interests include public governance, electronic government, sustainable development, local governance, and access to justice. You can view Nasir’s publications by visiting his Google Scholar page.
Austin T. Wyatt, Sr. is a student in the Ph.D. Urban Affairs program. As a researcher, he has worked closely with the Black community and other people of color to use his education and lived experiences to benefit marginalized members of society. Recent research projects include: working with the SoulsvilleUSA community in South Memphis with its best practice research and their creation of the Neighborhood Revitalization Report, working with the American Anthropological Association (AAA) Committee on Minority Issues in Anthropology, conducted research as part of the Community Planning and Ecological Design (CoPED) 2018 international summer school in Sicily, and he conducted his Masters practicum research in conjunction with the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee (ACLU-TN).
Austin Sr. holds a Master’s in Applied Anthropology from the University of Memphis and a B.A. in Sociology from the Tennessee State University. In addition to his academic research, he works as the Education Supervisor for the non-profit organization Youth Villages, a residential treatment facility for at-risk youth. He is also a mentor for several young men and underprivileged youth in Mississippi and Tennessee. He is a member of the American Anthropology Association and the Society for Applied Anthropology.
His research interests center on criminal justice reform and explores how the culture of policing contributes to racialized disparities within the U.S. criminal justice system and perpetuates violence.