Professor & Chair
Urban and political geography, social welfare policy, housing access, local governance, and city planning
Carnegie Hall, 104f
As an urban social geographer, I am particularly interested in ways that social, political, legal, and economic processes influence city life and landscapes, as well as the ways that people and organizations create meaningful places and landscapes through participation in such processes. I am also a qualitative researcher. I pursue this interest through interview and observation research that investigates the constructed and contested nature of city life. I developed an interest in qualitative methods while completing my undergraduate degree in Anthropology. And I later honed these interests in my graduate work, pursuing advanced degrees in geography (MA at SUNY Buffalo and Ph.D. at the University of Colorado at Boulder). I continue to specialize in qualitative research and its use in mixed-methods research.
My scholarship focuses on the themes of access and exile and relates specifically to the roles of city planning and public policy in shaping urban development. Two questions are at the core of my scholarly inquiries: How does the way societies shape and use space contribute to the marginalization of particular social groups? How can spaces be produced in ways that serve goals of social justice and equity?
My research engages these questions by exploring the interactions between the built environment and social inequality and support efforts to promote more just, equitable, and inclusive cities. I am especially interested in supporting community-engaged projects. I have advanced my scholarly interests through three main projects:
(1) understanding citizenship formation under welfare state restructuring in the United States.
(2) investigating the ways in which urban planning and design fields contribute to social justice in cities. I have focused this inquiry on a project examining the geographies of the New Urbanism planning movement, which advocates for creating compact, mixed-use, and mixed-income neighborhoods. I have been following the ways in which social equity concerns are integrated into different instances of the movement in North America, Sweden, and South Africa.
(3) supporting the creation of inclusive public spaces through public scholarship. Many of my efforts in this vein are available through A Field Guide to Public Spaces, which is focused on the Twin Cities Region of Minnesota. In addition, I have been working with public engagement artist Amanda Lovelee to create digital resources that enable members of the public to learn about and reflect upon how differently situated people interact with Lake Phalen Regional Park, a well-used public park in St. Paul, MN that attracts a diverse mix of communities from across the broader metropolitan region. Our goal is to catalyze conversation and action that supports the development of public parks as places where everybody feels they belong.
My scholarship and teaching are deeply intertwined. My scholarship directly informs the courses that I teach. And I make a point of bringing my research into relevant courses. This helps me stay current, relevant, and enthusiastic about what I teach. Furthermore, I am always keen to involve students directly in research through course-based civic engagement and action research projects, hiring students to assist me in collecting data for my own scholarship and advising students in independent projects.
- GEOG 241: Urban Geography
- GEOG 248: Political Geography
- GEOG 277: Qualitative Research Methods in Geography
- GEOG 341: City Life: Segregation, Integration, and Gentrification
- GEOG 478: Cities of the 21st Century: The Political Economy of Urban Sustainability
Links for Geography course syllabi can be found on our Course Syllabi page.