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Alumni Spotlight

Meet A Few Alums And Learn What They’re Doing…

Lorena Muñoz 

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Lorena Muñoz, M.A. 2000, is an assistant professor in the Geography, Environment and Society Department at the University of Minnesota. After completing her M.A. at Temple, she went to the University of Southern California for a Ph.D. in Geography. She is an urban/cultural geographer whose research focuses on the intersections of place, space, gender, sexuality and race. She is currently writing my book titled Queer, Brown and (In)Visible: Production, Consumption, and Counterhegemonic Performances in Immigrant Latina/o Vending Street-Scapes in Los Angeles, that examines Latina/o immigrant street vending and the attendant production and reproduction, as well as the consumption and transformation, of trans-border spaces in Latina/o Immigrant barrios of Los Angeles. Her second project examines (im)migrants production of sustainable livelihoods (health, food and labor) in informal settlements in Latin America, this project is currently funded by the UMN Global Spotlight Major Faculty Grant. 

Chris Mizes

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Chris Mizes, M.A. 2012, is a former adjunct faculty and Master of Arts graduate of Temple’s program in Geography and Urban Studies (GUS). After finishing at Temple, he began pursuing a PhD in City and Regional Planning at University of California, Berkeley. He has been awarded the Berkeley’s Chancellor’s Fellowship as part of a fully funded position in the College of Environmental Design. His time at Temple significantly shaped his encounters with Philadelphia and urban thought more generally, experiences he takes seriously in thinking through his burgeoning career as an academic at Berkeley. Since beginning at Berkeley his interests have shifted towards a focus on the politics of infrastructure and land tenure in rapidly urbanizing West African cities, a contentious and under-studied aspect of the global development project. Despite a shift in region, my work at Temple on the politics of vacant land management in Philadelphia informs his future research on African urbanisms, and is part of a larger commitment to tie together urban experience across the Global North/South divide.

Elizabeth Gutierrez

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Elizabeth Gutierrez, M.A. 1998, has nine years experience as a city/neighborhood planner working with nonprofit community development agencies, largely in the northeastern U.S. She is co-founder (with her husband Gerry) of Group G in Philadelphia, an architectural, interior design and community planning firm that uses GIS technology extensively in its work with clients. About the time she was completing her Master’s degree at Temple, Elizabeth joined forces with St. Joseph Carpenter Society, a nonprofit housing group that promotes home ownership in Camden, New Jersey. Among her accomplishments, she implemented a new GIS system at the agency. Elizabeth was the planning manager for St. Joseph’s Carpenter Society for three years before forming her own practice. Her work involves culturally diverse neighborhoods with eclectic mixes of Vietnamese, Puerto Rican, and African American populations. Her goal is not to impose an outsider’s solution: “I use tools like GIS to help them make decisions about their community. I help them look for grants and other funding and try to provide home ownership opportunities.”

Her planning achievements there include the Frankford Avenue Arts Corridor Plan; Liberty Park in Camden , New Jersey ; Ridge Avenue Economic Development Plan, Project H.O.M.E. in Philadelphia ; Housing Data Collection and Analysis in Montgomery County , Pennsylvania ; and GIS Neighborhood Planning, Frankford Town Center , Philadelphia.

Sandra Andino

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Sandra Andino, M.A. 1993, came to Temple from Puerto Rico to pursue studies of Latino social and cultural patterns in Philadelphia and completed an internship at Norris Square Civic Association, a community organization that serves a neighborhood with a significant Latino population. At Temple’s Center for Intergenerational Learning, Sandra served as a media literacy consultant in several elementary schools. Earning a PhD in Anthropology in 2001, Sandra worked first as a freelance program evaluator for WHYY, Philadelphia’s public braodcasting station, and was subsequently hired to lead the Ready-to-Learn Program. She organized workshops and events for parents, educators and caregivers of children aged 0-8 to support children’s development and educational growth. Sandra now holds the job of Director of Education at Taller Puertorriqueno, a community-based organization promoting Puerto Rican cultural traditions.

Mark Barnes

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Mark Barnes, M.A. 1996, graduated from Temple and became a Business Services Manager for Philadelphia ‘s Empowerment Zone. He worked with business associations and connected individual business owners in older industrial areas with sources of financial assistance (like government programs providing tax incentives and low-interest loans), and with new supply networks and information resources. As a student intern at the Empowerment Zone while pursuing his master’s degree, Mark researched business development along commercial corridors and had written his thesis on enterprise zones. While employed as a business developer, Mark volunteered as a lead organizer of a nonprofit association to mobilize alumni of color who have graduated from colleges and universities in the region. Having decided to pursue his interest in higher education, Mark then served on the faculty of the Philadelphia Center , a program that gives college students from over 50 colleges around the U.S. a one semester introduction to urban issues and urban communities through experiential education.

Mark has taught courses in a number of academic departments in the region, including this department and the Department of Geography and Planning at West Chester University.Her planning achievements there include the Frankford Avenue Arts Corridor Plan; Liberty Park in Camden , New Jersey ; Ridge Avenue Economic Development Plan, Project H.O.M.E. in Philadelphia ; Housing Data Collection and Analysis in Montgomery County , Pennsylvania ; and GIS Neighborhood Planning, Frankford Town Center , Philadelphia.

Kristen Crossney

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Kristen Crossney, M.A. 2002, came to Temple after earning an undergraduate degree in Geography at the University of Maryland/Baltimore County. While in the masters program, she worked part-time for Ben Franklin Technology Partners, to help organize a regional conference on promoting high technology development in southeastern Pennsylvania. She also served as research associate for the Eastern Pennsylvania Organizing Project, which researches policy issues affecting urban neighborhoods. Kristen’s thesis focused on the federal Home Owner’s Loan Corporation, evaluating how HOLC’s appraisal system affected differential access to mortgages in the 1930s. This work became the basis for a co-authored paper with Professor David Bartelt, which Kristen presented at the national meeting of the Urban Affairs Association in Boston in March 2002. She is currently pursuing a PhD in Rutgers University’s program in Urban Planning and Policy Development.

Kristin was one of only 10 doctoral students in the U.S. to win a 2003 Early Doctoral Student research Grant from the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development, to support her dissertation research. She is currently Assistant Professor of Geography and Planning at West Chester University of Pennsylvania.

Harley Etienne

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Harley Etienne, M.A. 2002, worked as Senior Project Manager at Greater Philadelphia First (GPF), the region’s leading business organization, in its mission to transform Greater Philadelphia into one of the nation’s leading centers of knowledge. His duties included day-to-day management of Business/Academic Partnerships for the Information Technology Workforce, a partnership of 5 area employers working with 4 regional universities to increase the supply of skilled IT graduates to the local labor market. Harley’s master’s thesis, “University/Community Relations: Public Rhetoric and Private Interests,” examined the relationship between a large urban university and its surrounding community. Prior to completing his master’s thesis, Harley worked as a consultant to the Philadelphia Jobs Initiative and staff to the 21st Century League on issues like welfare reform, workforce development, job training and access to health care for the uninsured. In Fall 2003, Harley began doctoral work in Cornell University ‘s planning program, with funding for his studies there. He is now Assistant Professor in City and Regional Planning at Georgia Tech in Atlanta.

Heather Keafer

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After earning her M.A. in 2001, Heather Keafer became Operations Coordinator for Behavioral Health Services at Congreso de Latinos Unidos, a leading provider of social, health, and educational programs to Latinos and other minorities in Philadelphia . She had come to the master’s program with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism, a path that taught her to write effectively in several different styles — a valuable skill in the nonprofit world. At Temple , Heather’s assistantship assigned her to the city government’s Office of Mental Health where she gained knowledge of many city health programs. As Operations Coordinator at Congreso, her position combined a background in health issues with an interest in the history and culture of urban communities, which was the focus of Heather’s thesis. She was involved in designing and marketing new services, like the Girl’s Center, a new day treatment program for delinquent girls that offers mental health services, job readiness, and reproductive health care to help girls realize their potential. Currently, Heather is the Director of Fund Development and Communications for Women Against Abuse, a leading organization i n advocacy and direct services to victims of domestic violence.

Steve Spindler

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Steve Spindler, M.A. 1994, is President of his own firm, Steve Spindler Cartography. While studying at Temple , Steve completed an internship at the Clean Air Council, where he was assigned to provide the public with information about ozone and other urban environmental problems. He quickly recognized the effectiveness of maps as a way to present large amounts of information and enrolled in cartographic lab courses. He combined his skills with his environmental commitments and enthusiasm for bicycling to create a consulting practice that specializes in mapping bike trails, public transit options, greenways and related (visitwww.bikemap.com to learn about Steve’s business). In addition to designing Pennsylvania ‘s Rails to Trails book and the definitive Bike Map for the city of Philadelphia , he has built websites for the New Jersey Department of Transportation and Anne Arundel County , Maryland . Steve reports he devotes an amazing 50% of his professional time to learning, just to keep his practice up-to-date. He works with engineering & planning firms, government agencies and non-profit organizations. The bulk of his work is in the Mid-Atlantic region, but he designs maps for other parts of the US as well.

Robert Stokes

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Bob Stokes, M.A. 1993, earned his Ph.D. from Rutgers University ‘s Bloustein School of Urban Planning and Public Policy in 2001. After teaching for 3 years at the University of South Carolina in its criminology program, in 2003 Bob accepted a faculty position at the University of Texas at Arlington ‘s School of Public and Urban Affairs. Currently, Bob is Assistant Professor in the Department of Culture and Communication at Drexel University . His research focuses on the role of local business improvement districts in crime prevention and public safety. He has studied this phenomenon in Philadelphia , San Diego and Los Angeles . Bob ‘s take on Temple ? “While it has been more than a few years since my time at Temple ‘s GUS program, I still hold the opinion that my education at Temple was superior. As for students considering attending the program, I can only say that the faculty is fabulous; moreover, the city of Philadelphia itself presents you with such a richness of experiences and research opportunities as to make the overall graduate educational experience invaluable. In short, Temple ‘s GUS program provided a perfect blend of theory, practice and empirical skills (not to mention a half decent Hoop team now and again).”

Craig Totaro

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Craig Totaro, M.A. 1993, is Manager of the borough of Lansdowne, a Delaware County suburb of Philadelphia . Craig entered the masters program with an undergraduate background in Sociology and took a combination of courses in urban economic development, housing and land use, along with basic training in geographic information systems. With his degree, he became a Program Associate with responsibility for geographic information systems at The Reinvestment Fund, a community development financial institution that makes loans and investments for affordable housing, small businesses, and community services, including workforce training. There, he helped build an information base to guide its investments within southeastern Pennsylvania and to evaluate the impacts of expenditures made on housing, child care, workforce development, commercial development, etc. Craig also provided information support for the Fund’s efforts to influence government policy concerning blight removal, predatory lending, and smart commuting. Now, as Manager of a borough, he is using the multi-disciplinary character of his education to improve the local economy, environment, infrastructure, public safety, and many other facets of town life.

Michelle Schmitt

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Michelle Schmitt, M.A. 2004, found a job during her Master’s degree studies as a part-time researcher for the Center City District, a special services district committed to improving the quality of Philadelphia’s downtown district. While analyzing employment trends in the downtown area, Michelle gained knowledge about several data sources that she used to write her M.A. thesis, which employed Geographic Information Systems to analyze the residential choices made by “creative class” workers who are employed downtown. After graduating, Michelle worked for a period as a G.I.S. specialist for the city government of Philadelphia, but was soon offered a chance to return to the Center City District, this time as the organization’s Manager of Research and Analysis. While launching her career, Michelle found time in February 2005 to pursue her love of maps by curating a fascinating exhibition at the Rosenbach Museum and Library: “You Are Here: Maps and the Invention of Place.” Using a selection of historical maps from the Rosenbach’s vast collection, Michelle organized and interpreted them so that viewers could appreciating the carefully crafted and sometimes conflicting stories that maps tell. Our photograph of Michelle was taken at the entrance to her exhibition.

In 2006, we lured Michelle back to Temple University , asking her to accept the position of Project Coordinator for the Metropolitan Philadelphia Indicators Project. (See the project’s website at www.temple.edu/mpip ). As Project Coordinator, she manages a student staff that handles data collection, analysis, and mapping, and she provides technical assistance to many civic, community, and governmental organizations that seeking help in using data to advance their work.

Dan Reagle

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Dan Reagle, M.A. 2003, had employment experience with both the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development and the city of Baltimore Department of Recreation and Parks, when he decided to focus a significant portion of his studies for the Master’s degree on G.I.S. analysis applied to urban economic patterns. Dan’s M.A. thesis documented and explained the rapid expansion of chain drug stores in inner city Philadelphia , at a time when other forms of retail development were much less likely to enter into inner city markets. He analyzed their location decisions, their sales strategies, and the competition they presented to independently owned neighborhood drug stores. Upon graduation, Dan moved to Charlotte , North Carolina , where he joined Americorps to work for Habitat for Humanity of Charlotte. After his Americorps experience, Dan took a job with A.D. Marble and Company, a firm that supplies environmental, cultural, and engineering services in the mid-Atlantic region. He now works for the Maryland State Highway Administration, making sure that state projects meet environmental requirements under NEPA.

Kira Strong

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Kira Strong, M.A. 2006, is now Vice President of Community and Economic Development at the People’s Emergency Center, a community-based organization that provides comprehensive supportive services to homeless women and their children, works to revitalize its West Philadelphia neighborhood, and advocates for social justice.  Kira supervises the activities of PEC’s community development arm, the People’s Emergency Center Community Development Corporation (PECCDC).  Prior to accepting the position of vice president, Strong was the senior project manager at PECCDC.  Kira received her undergraduate degree from Hampshire College before enrolling in Temple’s master’s degree program.  As a student here, Kira wrote a major paper delving into the mysteries of how Low Income Housing Tax Credits can be used to build affordable housing.  That research project, along with an internship and other learning experiences, helped build the skills that she has used to lead PECCDC’s community development program.  In 2007, USA Today quoted Kira about the need for affordable housing design and construction to take women’s needs into account:  “You take a typical three-story row home that has two apartments, and they want to stick the kitchen on the third floor,” she says. “Do you want to carry your groceries and strollers up to the third floor?”

Angel Coleman

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Angel Coleman, M.A. 2008, is Executive Director of the Girard Coalition.  She leads this broad coalition of over 50 neighborhood groups, businesses and major institutions along Girard Avenue, a major east-west artery in Philadelphia, who have come together to stimulate commerce, increase foot traffic, and grow the population along one of the city’s historically vibrant commercial corridors.  Angel came to Temple with a bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Eastern Michigan University.  Complementing her graduate studies, she has worked in community organizing, created high school to college gateway programs, summer and after school recreational outlets, and provided technical assistance to merchants.  Angel’s academic focus within the graduate program was on the interdependent relationships between people, business and government in the community revitalization process.  Using ideas and insights she gained during her studies, Angel advanced from a staff member, to Interim Director, to Executive Director of the coalition.  As its leader, she has been working to develop a comprehensive business development and attraction program to strengthen Girard Avenue. She has also emphasized organizational development and growth strategies for the organization.