Current Doctoral Students

Below is a list of our current Doctoral students. Click here to see a list of PhD in Regional Planning Doctorates Granted.

Photo of Atyeh Ashtari with gray background

Atyeh Ashtari

email / LinkedIn / Personal Website / Researchgate

Degrees: Urban and Regional Planning Doctoral Candidate; Graduate Minors: 1) Gender Relations in International Development, 2) Global Studies. Master of Landscape Architecture from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Bachelor of Architectural Engineering from University of Art, Tehran, Iran.

Research Interests: Atyeh’s research interests center community as the main unit of analysis and emphasis, and broadly lie within the realms of sustainable community-based development; community economies; intersectionality; participatory action research; feminist methodologies and storytelling.

Description of Research: Atyeh’s doctoral research examines the relationship between community-based development and diverse solidarity-based economic practices under conditions of displacement, gender, ethnic and religious discrimination amidst a global crisis-ridden economy aggravated by the recent pandemic and climate change. Specifically, she studies ethnic and religious minority Sunni-Baluch women engaged in solidarity finance using their needleworking skills in order to create an inclusive financial terrain, provide job opportunities, negotiate with the state to claim resources, and engage in collective practices of care and commoning that go beyond the individual and household levels in informal settlements of Iran. Her work has been nationally recognized and generously supported by the International Center for Research on Women, Center for Global Studies, Barbara Yates Fellowship, Evelyne Accad and Paul Vieille International Research Award, Ryerson Fellowship, among others.

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Photo of Vinisha Singh Basnet

Vinisha Singh Basnet

email / LinkedIn

Degrees: M.A. in Environment & Development, Ambedkar University Delhi; B.A. in English, University of Delhi

Research Interests: Human ecology, housing and urban development, mobility justice

Description of Research: For my MA thesis, I researched on the implementation of a resettlement and rehabilitation policy following irrigation-induced-displacement in dry-lands of central India. I focused on tracing the policy as it traveled through various bureaucratic levels through archival research and in-depth interviews with displaced persons. My research revealed that the local state is open to several readjustments and gaps when confronted by difficult situations.

Prior to entering my PhD, I worked as a Research Associate since 2017 at Centre for Development Practice, Ambedkar University Delhi where I was engaged in an action-research project Unlocking the Value Potential of Non-Timber Forest Product (NTFP) and was funded by the Ford Foundation, India. Through my research I was able to conceptualize and design a germplasm/seed repository (called Living Brood Lac Bank) of insect Kerria lacca an economically important species for indigenous community in central India which otherwise was vanishing from their local forest. The bank that aimed to enhance the livelihoods of forest-dependent indigenous Gond communities was co-created with the help of the community on their common land in collaboration with local NGOs and state organization by integrating community’s as well as available ‘scientific’ knowledge around sustainable insect rearing. As of today, the seed bank stands fully functioning and government officials are considering the model of Living Brood Lac Bank to be adopted throughout the state of Chhattisgarh, India.

Following my interest, I look forward to research that brings theory and practice together in planning from the framework of ecological sustainability. My interest lies in understanding the nonhuman human relationship in urban and regional spaces to an aim for environment sustainability and attaining co-habitable future(s).

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Photo of Maximilian Eisenburger

Maximilian Eisenburger

email

Research Interests: Regional economic development, workforce development, “reshoring” and “advanced manufacturing” policy

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Black and white photo of Marwah in front of a white background

Marwah Maqbool Malik

email / Twitter

Degrees: Bachelors in Economics (Lahore University of Management Sciences, Pakistan), Masters in International Development (University of Manchester, United Kingdom)

Research Interests: Climate adaptation planning; feminist methods; climate justice; decolonial praxis; grassroots planning

Description of Research: I am a feminist decolonial scholar in the second year of my PhD program in the Department of Urban and Regional Planning at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. I am also mother to a two-year-old toddler who continues to shape my journey as an academic through lessons in empathy and reflexivity. My interests lie in bringing feminist decolonial scholarship to climate change discourse(s) and policy making, especially in the context of countries at most risk from climatic impacts. As a feminist decolonial scholar within planning, I seek to contribute to conversations on climate adaptation planning by pushing for radical change processes that transform lives of communities at-risk

Trained as an Economist in my Bachelor’s, I spent several years thereafter consulting for international development agencies on projects dealing with climate change adaptation, disaster risk management, and social protection. My experience from my consulting years convinced me of the need for alternatives to dominant, conventional approaches to climate adaptation. I became interested in questions about transformative adaptation practices. As a feminist decolonial scholar I constantly questioned the role I could play in envisioning and enacting alternatives that work for communities at-risk. These questions and motivations guide my current research and define the purpose of my PhD program.

Black and white photo of Marwah in front of a white background
Photo of Amanda Merck in a bright yellow sweatshirt

Amanda Merck

email

Degrees: Master of Public Health, University of Texas Health School of Public Health

Research Interests: Transportation, mobility justice, zoning for equity, public policy, and healthy communities

Description of Research: Transportation and urban planning practices shape our physical and social world and determine who gets access to what. However, because many of these practices are rooted in a history of discriminatory policymaking and investment decision-making, American neighborhoods were not created equal, resulting in unjust obstacles to stay healthy and thrive. My research interests are to explore the consequences of and contributors to inequities in transportation and land-use decision-making and to better understand transportation barriers that threaten social, economic, and health outcomes. As the medical and public health fields explore screening tools to measure transportation insecurity; as state and local transportation departments and agencies transition to performance-based planning and programming; as federal and state transportation engineering standards are updated; and as federal and state dollars continue to get pumped into health care, poverty reduction programs, and roadways, my goal is to understand and work at the intersection of these efforts to ensure the best use of public investment.

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Jonathan Petty

email / LinkedIn

Degrees: B.S. Marketing, DePaul University 2012; M.Div. Urban Ministry and Faith-Based Development, Wesley Theological Seminary 2018

Research Interests: Economic development, community development finance, real estate finance, urban political economy, land use regulation, health policy development and healthy sustainable communities

Description of Research: My research focuses on healthcare anchor institutions’ capacity and potential impact to support low-income communities. I am interested in the innovative funding strategies and policies that best address communities’ long-term social health conditions, as well as investigating the roles of various stakeholders involved in the implementation process.

 

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Photo of Natalie Prochaska

Natalie Prochaska

email / student profile

Degrees: B.A. Political Science, University of Chicago 2009. M.A. Urban Planning, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign 2015; Thesis title: “Bristol Place Neighborhood Plan: Urban Renewal in Post-Kelo Fiscal Policy Space”

Research Interests: Housing, municipal, and community development finance, Critical GIS, land use regulation, urban political economy

Description of Research: My research focuses on financial segregation in city-building. I am interested in how access to capital restricts opportunity (regardless of mobility- or place-based investment strategies), and how communities are re-structuring the distribution of individual and collective risk in housing through CLTs and in business through CDFIs to create more resilient neighborhoods.

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Photo of Faizaan Qayyum

Faizaan Qayyum

email

Degrees: B.Sc (Hons) Economics, Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS); Master of Urban Planning (MUP), University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Research Interests: Marginalization, urban violence, grassroots activism, displacement, transnational solidarities, insurgent planning, cities of the global south, urban political economy

Description of Research: I am interested in how violence, cities, and people shape one another, especially in contexts of informality and ineffective governance. My research is based in critical theory and has included physical, social, economic, and spatial implements and consequences of marginalization. I link them with state institutions and processes as well as local and transnational solidarities and movements to reclaim the city.

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Photo of Shiva Sheikhfarshi with Foellinger Auditorium in background

Shiva Sheikhfarshi

email /LinkedIn

Degrees: Bachelor of Urban Planning from Art University of Isfahan, Iran; Master of Urban Design from Iran University of Science and Technology, Tehran, Iran

Research Interests: Urban microclimate, public health, walkability and travel behavior, urban informatics, parametric design, city modeling and simulation

Description of Research: With a background in urban planning and design, my research focuses on exploring innovative strategies and approaches to urban planning that can help create more sustainable and resilient cities and built environments. Through my work, I aim to understand the impact of changing microclimatic conditions in urban spaces on neighborhood energy demand, thermal comfort and health, and to examine how well-designed and thermally comfortable communities can play a role in promoting economic, social, and environmental sustainability in the context of climate change.

Photo of Shiva Sheikhfarshi with Foellinger Auditorium in background
Photo of Ariam L. Torres Cordero

Ariam L. Torres Cordero

email / LinkedIn  / Instagram

Degrees: BA Economics, University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez; MA Urban Planning, University of Puerto Rico at Rio Piedras

Research Interests: Disaster recovery, environmental justice, grassroots planning, community development, transformative planning

Description of Research: My research focuses on grassroots initiatives for transformative disaster recovery. I study bottom-up practices and processes that are effective in helping marginalized communities mitigate social and environmental injustices and develop alternative pathways towards a just recovery. This includes examining different spaces and forms of active citizenship mobilized by local and transnational civic sector groups for post-disaster recovery.

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Photo of Emma Walters

Emma Walters

email

Degrees: 2013, B.A. International Relations and Religion, Boston University;
2021, M.A. Urban and Regional Planning, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Research Interests: Housing, public policy, and shrinkage

Description of Research: My research is still developing as I enter my first year, but I am broadly interested in the ways that housing is developed, financed, and experienced in places facing shrinkage through the perspective of various market actors and public policy. This includes a focus on tax sales and how, in shrinking regions, they function as not only a place for extraction and accumulation, but potentially as an alternative avenue to acquire affordable housing when other means of access are not available. Additionally, I am interested in examining the role policy and political actors play in addressing the planning and policy needs of places experiencing shrinkage.

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Photo of Ozge Yenigun

Ozge Yenigun

email / LinkedIn / ResearchGate

Degrees: B.S. City and Regional Planning, Middle East Technical University, Ankara, Turkey (2012); M.S. Regional Planning, Middle East Technical University, Ankara, Turkey (2015)

Research Interests: Regional economic development, entrepreneurship, immigration and diversity, urban and regional governance, gentrification and displacement, grassroots initiatives

Description of Research: My current research focuses on the role of diversity in regional economic development. In particular, I examine how social, cultural, ethnic and demographic diversity affects economic development of regions. My research concerns diversified labor market dynamics in relation with the role of governance and institutional arrangements at multiple levels shaping economic activity. Identifying the factors shaping the relationship between diversity and economic development can help planner and policy-makers define strategies with which cities and regions can benefit from diversity as sources of innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship.

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