Meet the Panelists

Opening Session Keynote

Dr. Ruth Wilson Gilmore

Dr. Ruth Wilson Gilmore is professor of Earth & Environmental Sciences, and American Studies, and the director of the Center for Place, Culture, and Politics. She also serves on the Executive Committee of the Institute for Research on the African Diaspora in the Americas and the Caribbean.

Co-founder of many grassroots organizations including the California Prison Moratorium Project, Critical Resistance, and the Central California Environmental Justice Network, Gilmore is author of the prize-winning Golden Gulag: Prisons, Surplus, Crisis, and Opposition in Globalizing California (UC Press). Recent publications include “Beyond Bratton” (Policing the Planet, Camp and Heatherton, eds., Verso); “Abolition Geography and the Problem of Innocence” (Futures of Black Radicalism, Lubin and Johnson, eds., Verso); a foreword to Bobby M. Wilson’s Birmingham classic America’s Johannesburg (U Georgia Press); and a foreword to Cedric J. Robinson on Racial Capitalism, Black Internationalism, and Cultures of Resistance (HLT Quan, ed., Pluto). Forthcoming projects include Change Everything: Racial Capitalism and the Case for Abolition (Haymarket); Abolition Geography (Verso); plus a collection of Stuart Hall’s writing on race and difference (co-edited with Paul Gilroy, Duke UP).

Gilmore has lectured in Africa, Asia, Europe, and North America. In April 2019  Rachel Kushner profiled her in The New York Times Magazine. Honors include the American Studies Association Angela Y. Davis Award for Public Scholarship (2012); the Association of American Geographers Harold Rose Award for Anti-Racist Research and Practice (2014); the SUNY-Purchase College Eugene V. Grant Distinguished Scholar Prize for Social and Environmental Justice (2015-16); the American Studies Association Richard A Yarborough Mentorship Award (2017); The Association of American Geographers Lifetime Achievement Award (2020); and most recently (along with Angela Y. Davis and Mike Davis) she was named winner of 2020 Lannan Foundation Lifetime Cultural Freedom Prize.

Public Health Justice and Planning

Tanya McGee

Tanya McGee has been a Planner with the Chemung County Planning Department in Elmira, NY for 3 years.  As a native of the City of Elmira, she is driven to enhance the quality of life for her community through planning. Tanya has a passion for research and promoting equity-driven solutions in historically underserved communities. 

Tanya received her Master of Urban and Regional Planning from University at Albany, SUNY with a concentration in Community Planning. She is currently a Doctoral Candidate at Binghamton University, SUNY.  Her current research focuses on the socio-spatial neighborhood factors that contribute to the mental health of Black women.


B.A. History, 2015 University at Buffalo

M.R.P. University at Albany, 2019

PhD. Student Public Affairs Binghamton University ‘21

Professional affiliations:

  • APA Member
  • City of Elmira Rotary Club
  • Corning-Elmira Chapter NAACP Executive Board
  • Cornell Cooperative Extension Executive Board Member
Kiara Van Brackle

Kiara Van Brackle has been practicing Clinical Neurophysiology as an Electroneurodiagnostic Technologist for three years. Native of Queens, and hailing from Far Rockaway NY, she is driven to change the healthcare narrative for members of marginalized communities who have been disproportionately affected by healthcare injustice. Kiara has dedicated her educational and career endeavors to mastering an understanding of human physiology, biochemical analysis, pathology, neurophysiology and epilepsy/epilepsy-related syndromes.  She is passionate about patient/patient-family care and correspondence and aims to translate such passion into a bridging relationship between providers and the communities in which they serve.

Having earned a Master of Biomedical and Forensic Science with advanced study in Neuroscience and Public Health, Kiara seeks to intersect personal adversity, educational and clinical experience to advocate for change in the healthcare bureaucracy ensuring health justice and serving as a thought leader in healthcare policy. Kiara’s research interests encircle racial disparities in stroke and epilepsy treatments, as she seeks to continue studies in Community Research and Action; translating analysis to action.


  • B. S. Health and Exercise Science
  • M.S. Biomedical and Forensic Science
  • Advanced study: Neuroscience and Public Health

Professional affiliations:

  • American Society of Electroneurodiagnostic Technologists Member
  • American Clinical Neurophysiology Society
  • United University Professions Member

In Pursuit of Racial Justice in Housing Policy

Dr. Jeffrey Lowe

Dr. Jeffrey Lowe is an Associate Professor in the Department of Urban Planning and Environmental Policy at Texas Southern University.  Prior to joining the Department of Urban Planning and Environmental Policy faculty, Lowe was a Visiting Associate Professor of Urban Planning in the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation at Columbia University; and Associate Director /Visiting Associate Professor of the Mid-Sized Cities Policy Research Institute, Graduate Program in City and Regional Planning at The University of Memphis, respectively.  Also, he held faculty positions in the Department of Urban and Regional Planning at both Florida State University and Jackson State University.

Lowe’s research focuses on social justice and racial equity concerns within the context of community development.  His scholarship advances understanding and policy recommendations for Gulf Coast revitalization post-Hurricane Katrina; innovations in community-based planning; and philanthropy.  He is the author of Rebuilding Communities the Public Trust Way: Community Foundation Assistance to CDCs, 1980-2000 (Lexington Press) and other publications including those in Planning, Practice and Research, Housing Policy Debate, Journal of Urban Affairs, and Urban Geography.  He is an immediate-past distinguished visiting fellow at the Advanced Research Collaborative, The Graduate Center, City University of New York.

Lowe’s service to the planning profession includes founding member and past co-chair of the Planners of Color Interest Group (POCIG) of the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning (ACSP), and chair of the Planning and the Black Community Division of the American Planning Association.  At present, Lowe is a member of the Grounded Solutions Network (a Community Land Trust) Research Collaborative, research fellow at the Kinder Institute for Urban Research (Rice University), immediate-past chair of ACSP’s Committee on Diversity, and board member of the Great Plans Restoration Council.

Lowe earned a Bachelor of Business Administration from Howard University; a Master of City and Regional Planning from Morgan State University; and a Ph.D. in Urban Planning and Policy Development from Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey.

Sean Taylor

Sean Taylor graduated from the SUNY Albany MRP program in 2019. He worked as an environmental educator for 5 years where helped community organizations transform vacant city lots into an oasis for urban agriculture and green infrastructure. He now works as a Project Development Assistant for the Albany Housing Authority providing affordable housing for residents in the City of Albany.

Rebecca Garrard

Rebecca Garrard organizes for housing security at the local, state, and national levels.  She is the Campaigns Manager for Housing Justice with Citizen Action of New York, sits on the coordinating committee of the Housing Justice For All Coalition, and serves on the steering committee of the New York State Poor People’s Campaign. Rebecca was integrally involved in the passage of the historic Housing and Tenant Protection Act of 2019.  Currently, she organizes with communities around the state to increase tenant rights, create permanent and stable housing solutions for homeless New Yorkers, and create housing systems which promote community control as opposed to free market influence.

Sam Wells

Sam Wells received his Master’s Degree in Urban & Regional Planning, along with Bachelors’ Degrees in Environmental Design & Political Science from SUNY Buffalo. He currently works as the Neighborhood Stabilization Coordinator for the City of Albany. His responsibilities include the city’s vacant buildings coordinator, leading the effort to make many of the city’s roughly 1,050 vacant buildings habitable again. “My focus is finding solutions to vacant buildings in Albany and getting them re-occupied,” Sam says. “It’s challenging and unique task.” Sam notes that the vacant building problem is multi-layered, with solutions dependent on the condition of a building, where it’s located, and ownership and legal issues.

Sam is also a board member of the Albany County Land Bank and is working with the Vacant Buildings Task Force to come up with policy solutions.

When Sam is not analyzing Albany’s vacant buildings, you will likely find him playing ice hockey on a pond or in a rink, such as Swinburne Park.

Virginia Rawlins

Virginia Rawlins received her Bachelor of Arts in Economics from University at Albany in 2013. She then went on to work at the New York State Assembly. In her role as Legislative Analyst, Virginia made policy and budget recommendations on legislation that primarily affected people of color and low-income communities.

Virginia served as an LISC AmeriCorps member with the Albany County Land Bank as the Housing Services Counselor. During her tenure, Virginia created the Equitable Ownership Program (EOP). The goal of the Equitable Ownership Program was to leverage the Land Bank’s real estate and pair residents with available resources to create more affordable home ownership opportunities for individuals and families residing in or relocating to Albany County’s economically distressed neighborhoods and are seeking to purchase their first home. She has deepened her homeownership and real estate knowledge in her roles as Grant Administrator with Troy Rehabilitation and Improvement Program and her current position as Economic Development Program Assistant with Capitalize Albany Corporation.

Virginia founded, Building Blocks Together, which aims to educate potential homebuyers on the purchase process as well as available local funding opportunities. In the future, Building Blocks Together aims serve as a real estate investment vehicle for minorities in the Capital District.

Recentering Race in Environmental Justice

Jared Enriquez

Jared Enriquez’s research centers on climate-based relocation, disaster recovery, municipal climate action, and water policy. His dissertation examined how flood buyout programs in New York State emerged and functioned as a municipal tool for post-disaster recovery and ecological restoration. He has also examined sustainable water practices in Santorini, Greece and transportation-oriented development in Mexico City.

Jared’s current research projects include state involvement in local plans for managed retreat, planning strategies for community-scaled relocation, and antiracist approaches to local climate adaptation policies and climate-based resettlement.

Jared began his appointment in the Department of Geography and Planning at SUNY Albany following a year as Consortium Fellow for Faculty Diversity at St. John’s University in MN. Prior to his doctoral studies in City and Regional Planning at Cornell, Jared received a B.A. in Architecture from Yale College and Master’s in Urban Planning from the University of Michigan.

Dr. Scott Kellogg

Dr. Scott Kellogg is the Educational Director of the Radix Ecological Sustainability Center, an urban environmental education and just sustainabilities advocacy non-profit based in the South End of Albany.  Additionally, Scott is the Chair of Urban Agriculture for Albany’s Sustainability Advisory Committee.  Scott has a Ph.D. in Science and Technology Studies from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and a Masters in Environmental Science and Policy from Johns Hopkins.  He teaches in the Masters in Environmental Education and Citizen Science programs at Bard College and Urban Policy at SUNY Albany’s Masters in Regional Planning program. He is the author of “Toolbox for Sustainable City Living: A do-it-Ourselves Guide” (South End Press, 2008) and “Urban Ecosystem Justice: Towards a Science of Cities for the People” (Routledge, 2022).

Nasibah Elmi

Nasibah Elmi is a planner specializing in land-use and environmental planning. She is currently working as an Environmental Program Specialist for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation in Albany, NY. Her day-to-day work revolves around waste reduction and recycling, solid waste management planning, food systems planning, NYS-agency sustainability policy, and the intersections of waste management and climate action.

Her research interests include zoning reform, sustainable materials management, gender and public space, participatory planning, informal urban settlements, and environmental law and planning.

Nasibah holds a BA in Globalization Studies (2016) and a Master of Urban and Regional Planning (2019).

Professional Affiliations:

  • APA Member, Capital District Planners Association Officer
  • New York State Association for Reduction, Reuse, and Recycling (NYSAR3)
  • NYS Executive Order 4 Interagency Committee on Sustainability and Green Procurement
  • Fathi Initiative Advisory Board Member

Race and Economic Development: Towards More Than Just Growth

Dr. Elsie Harper-Anderson

Dr. Elsie Harper-Anderson is an Associate Professor and Director of the Ph.D. program at Virginia Commonwealth University, L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs. Her research examines the impact of macroeconomic transformation on regional economies and urban labor markets with a focus on social equity and sustainability. Her current research focuses on understanding entrepreneurial ecosystems and their impact on building inclusive economies.  She is also currently examining the impact of COVID-19 and the C.A.R.E.S. Act on African American workers, businesses, and communities.  Previous scholarship has focused on understanding and enhancing the connection between workforce development and economic development. Dr. Harper-Anderson serves on the Governing Board of the Urban Affairs Association and the Diversity Committee of the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning. Prior to academia, her work included significant experience evaluating economic development, workforce development, and housing programs for local, state, and federal agencies such as DOL, EDA and HUD.  She has also worked as a practitioner administering federal housing and economic development programs at the local level. She teaches courses in economic development, labor and employment and urban development policy.  Dr. Harper-Anderson earned her Ph.D. in City and Regional Planning from the University of California, Berkeley, an M.S. in Public Management and Policy from Carnegie Mellon University, and a B.S. in Political Science from Lincoln University.

Arlene Way

Arlene Way is the Executive Director of the Arbor Hill Development Corporation, a small, not for profit Neighborhood Preservation Company serving “Communities of Promise” in the City of Albany.  She is a native of Harlem and a Citizen of the City of Albany. Prior to joining the team at AHDC, she served as a Program Officer with the New York State Education Department, Office of Higher Education where she managed the Liberty Partnerships Program, a pre-collegiate dropout prevention program for at-risk youth enrolled in grades 5-12. This was an honor and labor of love. She encouraged statewide alignment with New York’s agenda for economic and social development through the creation of LPP’s Empire Promise initiative and facilitated additional support for Programs and their host institutions through collaborations with national foundations such as America’s Promise, Scholarship America and Youth Ventures, Inc. She’s worked with and/or provided program development support to CUNY, SUNY, Independent and Proprietary Institutions. Arlene has facilitated educational opportunities in urban, rural and suburban communities through employment and collaborations with colleges, school districts and community organization serving populations that included:

  • P-20 students
  • Migrant and seasonal farmworkers
  • Students pursuing education in correctional facilities

Arlene her work with the higher education community through collaborative projects, internships; and, consulting assignments through her company, Transform Performance Solutions, LLC.  


  • Albany NAACP- Chair, Committee for Economic & Community Development
  • New York State Board of Regents, Past Chair, Regents Advisory Council on Libraries
  • Albany Public Library System- Trustee
  • Upper Hudson Library System- Trustee
  • Albany City School District-Advisory member for Middle School Grade Reconfiguration; Arbor Hill Elementary School Community Schools Program
  • Foundation for NYS Nurses, Board Director
  • Council of Albany Neighborhood Associations
  • 2018 Scholarship Recipient- Key Bank- Leadership Certificate Program for women engaged in Commercial Real Estate
Dr. David Lewis

Dr. David Lewis is associate professor of Geography & Planning at the University at Albany, SUNY, and affiliated faculty with the Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy and the Lewis Mumford Center. He has extensive experience in sustainable economic development planning and implementation. An asset-based, community-driven participatory process has been at the center of his research, service and teaching in this area.

From affordable housing, transfer of development rights, environmental justice and brownfield redevelopment and the economics and politics of renewable energy, Dr. Lewis has focused on creating more environmentally sustainable and socially just communities. Beyond research, he has been active in community organizing starting with voter registration for the Rainbow Coalition and campaign volunteer for Jesse Jackson in 1983-84, working in the the Divestment Movement as US Peace Council Member, as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention for the Jerry Brown campaign 1992, through organizing for the anti-fracking movement in NY, the Occupy Wall Street and volunteering for the Bernie Sanders campaign in 2016 and 2020.

His U.S. Department of Commerce, Economic Development Administration funded study on the efficacy of business incubation in the United States has been recently released to the public ( and has stimulated the interest of Capitol Hill.  He also spearheaded the economic impact assessment on the Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor, through the collaboration of a regional partnership of more than 30 organizations that participated in the training of corridor residents to collect visitor survey data. One of the most important goals of the project was to increase the community’s capacities to plan in the future by training residents and providing appropriate tools for communities to use. Another example of building the capacity of local communities is the Web-based GIS application developed to help communities conduct corridor management plans for proposed scenic byways.

Lewis’ research has often been the basis innovative public policies at the local, state and national levels. In particular, he has helped inform local policy discussions in Bridgeton, N.J. and state-level technology incubation policy in New Jersey. In March 2010, Lewis testified before the U.S. House of Representatives Small Business Committee in 2010 and advised the Japanese Ministry of Trade, Economics and Industry in 2003. The SUNY wide start up innovation and business incubation program is based on his research and uses the tools for evaluation he developed for the U.S. Department of Commerce. More locally, the Sheridan Hollow neighborhood in Albany, NY has implemented the policies recommendation for community based clean energy.

Equitable and Just Practices for Transportation Planning

Dr. Dwayne Baker

Dr. Dwayne Baker is an Assistant Professor at Queens College in the Urban Studies Department. His research and teaching interests focus on the inter-connections between neighborhood development and transportation planning – paying special attention to transportation-induced gentrification. His work particularly explores the contradictions that often exists with large-scale transit projects: while expected to enhance urban accessibility, they may also displace vulnerable residents and those needing the improvements the most.

Dr. Calvin T. Brown

Dr. Calvin T. Brown is a planning professional with over a decade of experience working in urban planning. Dr. Brown is currently the Assistant Commissioner for Neighborhood Development at the Department of Small Business Services. In this role, he manages three program areas – Neighborhood Planning, Capacity Building and Business Improvement Districts – that are aimed at assisting in the creation and support of community-based development organizations (CBDOs) advancing the growth of commercial districts across the five boroughs. He previously worked at the Department of City Planning (DCP) as a senior planner, where he supervised project managers working in Upper Manhattan.  As the senior planner, he supervised the East Harlem Neighborhood Rezoning Team and worked closely with other divisions within City Planning, other city agencies, elected officials and community stakeholders.

Alexander McClean

Alexander McClean is an environmental planner who has worked for the City of New York and in the private sector where his work has focused on the environmental review processes for major projects. Prior to moving to a private planning firm, Mr. McClean worked for New York City’s Department of City Planning as a Senior Project Manager overseeing the preparation of City Environmental Quality Review applications as part of the City Environmental Quality Review (CEQR) process and Uniform Land Use Review procedure. The CEQR process examines several areas of analysis to determine potential community impacts that include transportation.

Dr. Do Lee

Dr. Do Lee is an Assistant Professor and Graduate Advisor at the Department of Urban Studies. His research interests critically examine the interrelationships of people, mobility, environment, and social justice. His dissertation research in Environmental Psychology (PhD, The Graduate Center CUNY, 2018) focused on a participatory action research project with immigrant food delivery cyclists in NYC to examine the mobility and working experiences in the NYC streets from the food delivery perspective. This work investigated the intersections of low-wage informal employment, delivery and logistics, bicycling and electric bikes, immigration, policing, street planning, and social justice activism and advocacy.

Dr. Lee’s professional career has included work on grassroots sustainability issues for environmental nonprofits such as the Sierra Nevada Alliance, ISAR, and the Center for Safe Energy along with environmental consulting with the Eurasia Environmental Associates LLC and other groups. In addition, he served as an environmental education Peace Corps Volunteer in Kazakhstan. His previous degrees include a Master in Public Administration in Earth Systems Science, Policy and Management from Columbia University and a Bachelor of Arts in Molecular Cell Biology from UC Berkeley.

Eric Bettis

Eric Bettis is a PhD candidate in urban planning, focusing on transportation planning and social equity. Drawn to planning during his years working in architecture and doing graduate research on the politics of identity, he pursued a master’s degree in urban and regional planning, with emphases on transportation and land use policy, from the University of New Orleans. This provided an ideal venue for studying enduring patterns in the race- and class-dependent distribution of transportation resources and their implications for accessing opportunity. After graduating in 2014, Eric began his professional planning career working on federal and military projects.

Eric’s work focuses on the effects of historically inequitable social processes on current planning policy and outcomes, as well as institutions that create and maintain relative advantages for some regional groups over others. His dissertation project discusses how anti-transit political rhetoric is deployed in segregated and increasingly integrated metro regions, and how changing demographics affect support for regional transit expansion. Using GIS mapping, demographic data, archival research, and ongoing consultation with local planning practitioners and scholars, Eric’s project analyzes how actors use targeted language to influence local transit voting, as well as the roles of geography and population shifts in influencing attitudes about public transportation.

Charles Brown

Charles T. Brown, MPA, CPD, LCI is a street-level researcher and “pracademic” working at the intersection of transportation, health, and equity. He serves as a senior researcher with the Alan M. Voorhees Transportation Center (VTC) and adjunct professor at the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy, both at Rutgers University. He also serves as a 2020 Fellow within the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication in Partnership with The OpEd Project. He has delivered over a dozen keynote addresses and workshops on the importance of health in all policies, health equity, and transportation equity to local, national and international audiences. He serves as a member of the Global Safety Advisory Board at Lime (micromobility), member of the Board of Directors with America Walks, and member of the Franklin Township Planning Board (NJ). He is also a member of the Transportation Research Board (TRB) Pedestrian Safety Committee, Bicycle Transportation Committee, and former member of the Region II Healthy Equity Council. His work has been published in several international journals as well as featured by or quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Vice, Bloomberg CityLab, and various other national outlets. He is a military veteran and a recipient of the Mississippi Commendation Medal and Global War on Terrorism Service Medal.

Body and Community Mapping: Healing and Mobility Tools for Feminist, Anti-Racist, and Decolonial Planning Practice

Dr. Elizabeth Sweet

Dr. Elizabeth L. Sweet is an expert in planning theory and qualitative research methodologies, and teaches in the Urban Planning and Community Development Program and the Department of Africana Studies at the University of Massachusetts Boston. Professor Sweet engages in collaborative community economic development with a focus on the links between economies, violence, and identities. Using feminist, anti-racist and decolonial frameworks, her work in U.S. Native, Black, Latino and Latin American communities has led to long term collaborations and inclusive projects that both push the boundaries of planning theory and methods while at the same time provides practical planning interventions. In recent publications she has proposed the use of body map storytelling and community mapping as innovative ways to co-create data and strategies with communities on a wide range of issues and urban problems. Theoretically, these methods create awareness that enables planners and communities to re-envision their relationships with environments and see their visceral, historical, and spiritual bonds. These new understandings promote new practices. Her most recent project is focused on Afromexicans and Native erasure and the ways that Anti Black/Native narratives impact Mexicans/Chicanos in U.S. cities. Professor Sweet has also been very active in promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion within university settings through organizing events, student recruitment, and publishing both research and teaching articles on the same.

Dr. Sara Ortiz Escalante

Dr. Sara Ortiz Escalante is a feminist activist and urban planner. Sara received a PhD in Planning by the University of British Columbia with the dissertation “Planning the everyday/everynight: a feminist participatory action research with women nightshift workers”. Sara is a member of Col·lectiu Punt 6, a coop of sociologists, planners and architects based in Barcelona working applying an intersectional feminist perspective in urban planning. Based in Barcelona, Col·lectiu Punt 6 has more than 15 years of experience working nationally and internationally. They develop urban planning and architecture projects, participatory processes, capacity building, teaching and research. In November 2019, they published “Urbanismo Feminista. Por una Transformación Radical de los Espacios de Vida” Virus Editorial. They have published multiple materials and guides to apply a feminist perspective in different aspects of design and planning.


Ana Romero Diaz

Ana Romero Diaz is a Mexican sociologist and a feminist activist-organizer. She is Co-Founder of Women for Economic Justice and Casa de Activismo Comunitario Domitila Barrios. These organizations have departed from the hierarchical non-profit model of operation and are driven by the community, primarily by immigrant Latino women. Through these initiatives, Ana seeks to transform a culture of hyper-individualism and self-centeredness to a culture of community solidarity and mutual aid.  

Formerly Ana was Director of the Centralized Training Institute at Chicago Metropolitan Battered Women’s Network and Director of New Initiatives at Chicago Workers’ Collaborative, where she developed innovative projects geared to address gender violence with an intersectional and decolonial feminist lens and a popular education methodology.  

During her 30 years of activism and organizing, Ana has had collaborated with a wide gamut of organizations in the U.S., Mexico, Spain, France, Philippines and South Africa. She is currently the Mexico and U.S. representative of Nosakhele (Zulu for Building), an international network funded by the NoVo Foundation, to advance Black and Decolonial Feminist frameworks and strengthen women of color grassroots movements in both the South and Northern Hemispheres.  

In 2015, Ana was selected by the NoVo Foundation, as one of 20 national leaders nationwide to join the foundation’s groundbreaking ten-year enterprise, Move to End Violence.