Who We Are

UT Opportunity Forum Faculty Affiliates

Chris Burnett – Division of Recreational Sports
Burnett is the Senior Assistant Director of Outdoor Recreation and Community Outreach at the Division of Recreational Sports. Burnett was honored last year with the Staff Merit Award for his work as a mentor with Horns Helping Horns and the University Leadership Network, his commitment to connecting with first-generation students, and his coordination of service-learning opportunities.

Joshua Childs – College of Education
Joshua Childs is an assistant professor of Educational Policy and Planning (EPP) in the Department of Educational Administration. Joshua’s research focuses on the role of inter-organizational networks, cross-sector collaborations, and strategic alliances to address complex educational issues. Specifically, his work examines collaborative approaches involving community organizations and stakeholders that have the potential to improve academic achievement and reduce opportunity gaps for students in urban and rural schools.

Kevin Cokley – Institute for Urban Policy Research & Analysis
In addition to appointments in the Department of Educational Psychology and the Department of African and African Diaspora Studies, Cokley is also the Director of the Institute for Urban Policy Research & Analysis. Cokley’s research encompasses the psychological and environmental factors that impact African-American student achievement.

Mary Crouter – School of Law
Crouter teaches in the clinical program and is assistant director of the Law School’s William Wayne Justice Center for Public Interest Law, which teaches students about access to justice issues, creates legal pro bono service opportunities for the law school community, and conducts research into legal issues affecting underserved individuals and communities.

Virginia Cumberbatch– Division of Diversity and Community Engagement
Cumberbatch is the director at UT’s Community Engagement Center. She is a graduate of LBJ’s Master of Public Affairs Program.  In this role, Cumberbatch pursues opportunities to make UT less of an ivory tower and more of a community anchor. She’s working to ensure UT can use its world-class resources to improve the local community. She identifies resources, research and expertise and connects them to community organizations and entities to help address issues in underserved communities.

Mary Crouter – School of Law
A former social issues reporter for newspapers nationwide, Dawson has created honors courses that take students out into the Austin community to learn how to communicate the human side of social issues, including gentrification and immigration. She is interested in research done by members of the Opportunity Forum and in learning about new and different speakers and organizations that might add to her students’ understanding of these critical topics.

Mechele Dickerson – School of Law
Dickerson’s research focuses on economic inequality and the growing income and wealth inequality gaps.  She also explores the role that rising household debt (including student loans) and the lack of affordable housing is playing in destroying the middle class in this country.

Mercedes De Uriarte – School of Journalism
De Uriarte’s research interests span social justice issues including the exclusion of voice, minority invisibility, and housing insecurity. In 2010, De Uriarte received a Kelloff Foundation three-year grant to collect the voices of long-time residents of East Austin displaced by ongoing intense gentrification of the area.

Kevin Foster – Department of African and African Diaspora Studies
Foster is interested in student achievement and overall community well-being, as well as in the question of how universities can shape their agendas to best meet community needs as they fulfill their missions for teaching and research.

Helen Gaebler – School of Law
Gaebler is interested in equitable opportunity, especially as it affects youth and families. Her work encompasses a range of issues, including criminal justice reentry, guardianship, child welfare system reform, and barriers to fair housing.

Suchi Gururaj – Longhorn Center for Community Engagement
As Assistant Vice President in the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement, Suchitra Gururaj provides administrative and strategic leadership for student engagement programs rooted in mutually beneficial service; community-based learning course offerings; and public engagement programming. As a lecturer in the College of Liberal Arts, Gururaj teaches courses on community organizing and leadership development through service. In addition to her research interest in community engagement, Gururaj focuses on the experience and pathways of first-generation college students, students from underserved high schools, Asian-American students, and nontraditional students through their K-20 experience and through diverse higher education institution types.

Terrance Green – School of Education
Green’s research focuses on the intersection of urban school reform and equitable community development. His current project investigates the spatial distribution of high-quality educational opportunity in the Austin Independent School District.

Sherri Greenberg – Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs
As director of the LBJ School’s Center for Politics and Governance, Greenberg’s research areas include state and local government, public finance, economic development, affordable housing, transportation, and education finance.

Shavonne Henderson – Institute for Urban Policy Research and Analysis
Henderson provides legal perspective and analysis on IUPRA’s policy reports and briefs. She also serves to connect IUPRA with community members and policymakers. She conducts research, speaks, and lectures about race and the law and their intersection with policy. Her interests include the application of critical race theory to the law, reproductive justice, and health outcomes for Black women. Henderson has varied legal experience that includes private practice for national law firms and higher education. Licensed in Texas, Henderson holds her Juris Doctor from The University of Texas School of Law. She received a Bachelor of Arts in the Plan II Honors Program and a Bachelors of Arts in Government from The University of Texas at Austin.

Rich Heyman – Department of Geography
Heyman’s research interests include urban social and economic restructuring associated with globalization, and the ways in which marginalized groups organize in response to these changes. His work has appeared in numerous academic journals including American Quarterly, Cartographica, ACME, Human Geography, Antipode, Journal of Geography, The Professional Geographer, and Environment and Planning D: Society and Space. He has worked extensively with the community organization, Workers Defense Project, on their studies of the construction industry in Texas, Building Austin, Building Injustice: Working Conditions in Austin’s Construction Industry (2009) and Build a Better Texas: Construction Working Conditions in the Lone Star State (2013). He also worked with Cooperation Texas on their study of the cooperative economy in Austin, Beyond Business as Usual: Putting Cooperation to Work in Austin, Texas (2015). He is a member of the City of Austin’s Land Development Code Advisory Group.

Deanna M. Hoelscher – Michael & Susan Dell Center for Healthy Living
Hoelscher is the Director of the Michael & Susan Dell Center for Health Living, a Professor in Health Promotion and Behavioral Sciences, and an Associate Regional Dean for Research at the School of Public Health. Hoelscher’s research interests include child and adolescent nutrition, school-based health promotion programs, dietary assessment methodology, evaluation of child obesity policies, linkages between primary care and public health, and dissemination of school health programs.

Jennifer Holme – College of Education
Holme’s research focuses on the politics and implementation of educational policy, with a particular focus on the relationship among school reform, equity, and diversity in schools. She seeks to understand how the structure of opportunity within metropolitan areas relates to schooling conditions and outcomes for students, and to examine how educational policies interact with, or are influenced by, these larger metropolitan opportunity structures.

Jungfeng Jiao – School of Architecture
Jiao’s research focuses primarily on the relationship between urban form and accessibility to food and transportation resources.  To further this line of enquiries he explores innovative applications of new information and communications technologies (ICTs) and spatial analysis techniques. The research front creates opportunities to better inform public interventions that improve plan-making, service delivery, and personal/community health.

Peniel Joseph – LBJ School/ History Department
Peniel Joseph holds a joint professorship appointment at the LBJ School of Public Affairs and the History Department in the College of Liberal Arts at The University of Texas at Austin. He is also the founding director of the LBJ School’s Center for the Study of Race and Democracy. His career focus has been on “Black Power Studies,” which encompasses interdisciplinary fields such as Africana studies, law and society, women’s and ethnic studies, and political science

Miyong Kim – School of Nursing
Dr. Kim is a translational researcher who has built a strong program of research focused on community-based participatory research (CBPR) as a means of reducing cardiovascular related health disparities among traditionally undeserved ethnic minority populations. Dr. Kim’s research program examines the effectiveness of self-care strategies for improving health outcomes and overcoming racial, ethnic and social disparities in healthcare. She has conducted several descriptive studies to explore and better define barriers and facilitators to equitable care for this racial and ethnic minority population. She has conducted more than 40 externally funded studies (Over $ 20 million research cost) to improve minority health and over 100 publications on high impact scientific journals.

Katherine Lieberknecht –  School of Architecture
Lieberknecht is a lecturer in the Community and Regional Planning program and Fellow at the School of Architecture’s Center For Sustainable Development. Her research interests include land use and water resources planning, the equity implications of land conservation, and community-based approaches to land conservation and economic development.

Kevin Michael Foster –  African & African Diaspora Studies Department
Dr. Foster is an educational anthropologist and a University of Texas at Austin faculty member. He is also the founding director of ICUSP, the Institute for Community, University and School Partnerships, which works with students, conducts research and leads professional development workshops in central Texas schools. Dr. Foster’s passion is to bring research, teaching and community service together for the purpose of improving academic outcomes for African American and other students.

Steven Moore – School of Architecture
Moore is a Professor of Architecture and Planning in the School of Architecture. He is the Co-Director of the Graduate Program in Sustainable Design and Co-Founder of the Center for Sustainable Development. Moore’s work focuses on sustainable architecture and urbanism.

Elizabeth Mueller – School of Architecture
 Mueller is interested in the social make up of cities and how city policies reinforce or challenge existing divisions between socioeconomic and racial groups.  Her current research focuses on the tension between local goals and policies for city planning and for affordable housing.

Michael Oden – School of Architecture
Oden’s teaching and research areas include local and regional economic development, regional growth dynamics and regional governance challenges, and program evaluation methodologies.

Abi Oluyomi – School for Public Health
Oluyomi (UTH Health Affiliated Worker): With background trainings in environmental design and management and advanced research trainings in environmental health sciences, epidemiology, and community health, Dr. Abiodun (Abi) Oluyomi’s research goals are to work intensively on elucidating the inherent connection between environmental phenomena and population health. Abi is interested in understanding the intricacies of how global climate change may affect human health; researching the acceptability and effectiveness of proposed behavioral changes to limit anthropogenic contributions to global climate change; and examining potential health effects of the various climate-change mitigation strategies (e.g. alternative energy sources).

Cynthia Osborne – The Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs
Osborne’s teaching and research interests are in the areas of social policy, poverty and inequality, family and child wellbeing, and family demography. She has extensive experience conducting long-term evaluations of state and national programs, with the aim of helping organizations understand what works and why, and how to ensure sustainable implementation of effective policies

Deborah Palmer – College of Education
Palmer’s esearch interests include ethnography and discourse analysis in diverse multilingual settings, bilingual education programs, policy and practice, dual language/two-way immersion education, and inservice bilingual teacher education. In particular, Dr. Palmer examines issues of race and class in bilingual settings, and the impact of critical awareness of teachers on mitigating hegemonic discourses.

Becky Pettit – Department of Sociology
Pettit is Professor of Sociology with interests in social inequality broadly defined.  She is the author of two books and numerous articles which have appeared in the American Sociological Review, the American Journal of Sociology, Demography, Social Problems, Social Forces and other journals. Her newest book, Invisible Men: Mass Incarceration and the Myth of Black Progress (Russell Sage Foundation 2012) investigates how decades of growth in America’s prisons and jails obscures basic accounts of racial inequality.

Richard Reddick – College of Education
Reddick’s research focuses on several areas: the experiences of Black faculty and faculty of color at predominantly White institutions; mentoring and developmental relationships between faculty and Black students; and work-life balance in academia. A native Austinite and graduate of AISD schools, he serves on the boards of two public charter schools, a community-based non-profit, and is actively engaged in organizations focused on improving the quality of life for Black citizens of Austin, Texas.

Lourdes Rodriguez – Dell Medical School
Rodriguez directs the Center for Place-Based Initiatives, which aims to: identify persons within Austin/Travis County and Central Texas communities who have ideas to improve the health of their communities and neighborhoods; provide timely and customized support to help implement and test ideas — and to scale those shown to be effective; identify and support exceptional people and ideas that may otherwise not have a source for support, and ensure their community impact and sustainability.

Stephen Russell – Department of Sociology
Russell studies adolescent development, with an emphasis on adolescent sexuality, LGBT youth, and parent-adolescent relationships. His research is guided by a commitment to create social change to support healthy adolescent development and his work has been used to shape local and state policies and laws for school safety.

Gian Claudia Sciara – School of Architecture
Gian-Claudia Sciara is Assistant Professor of Community and Regional Planning.  She researches and writes about transportation and land use decision making in intergovernmental contexts, and regional institutions are a longstanding focus of her work. Her current research studies implementation of California’s Sustainable Communities and Climate Protection Act of 2008 (SB 375), which asks regional planning organizations to integrate land use and transportation in order to reduce auto reliance and greenhouse gas emissions.  She is also examining how transportation funding structures support or undermine sustainability objective

Bjørn Sletto – School of Architecture
Bjørn’s research focuses on indigenous land rights, environmental and social justice, and alternative planning approaches, both in the United States and in Latin America. He is particularly interested in the dichotomies and tensions between local knowledge and traditional environmental management systems, and formal planning and management approaches.

Jeanne Stamp – Dana Center, Texas Homeless Education
The Homeless Education Office provides training and technical assistance to public school districts to gain knowledge and awareness, provide services, and create policy and procedures that comply with the provisions of the McKinney-Vento Homeless Education Assistance Act, which is reauthorized by the Every Student Succeeds Act of 2016.  The office studies issues of poverty, homelessness, high mobility, disproportionality, trauma and violence and their effect on student attendance and achievement, in order to provide guidance and support for district personnel working with students facing these issues.

Eric Tang – Department of African and African Diaspora Studies, Center for Asian American Studies
Tang is an Assistant Professor in the African and African Diaspora Studies Department and faculty member in the Center for Asian American Studies. He also holds a courtesy appointment in the Department of Sociology and serves as a faculty fellow with both the Institute for Urban Policy Research & Analysis and the Division of Diversity and Community Engagement. A former community organizer, Tang has published several articles on race and urban social movements, including award-winning writing on post-Katrina New Orleans. His current research focuses on the past and present of racial segregation in Austin, Texas, paying particular attention the gentrification-driven displacements of the city’s longstanding African American residents.

Fatima Varner – Population Research Center
Varner’s major research interests include the roles of ethnicity, gender, and context on parenting, family processes, and adolescent outcomes. She is especially interested in the pathways through which racial discrimination influences parenting and adolescents’ academic achievement in African American families. In addition, she studies how contextual factors influence African American mothers’ psychological well-being.

Shetal Vohra-Gupta – Institute for Urban Policy & Research Analysis
Vohra-Gupta’s research focuses on economic and labor policy as it relates to women and families of ethnic minority groups. She is currently conducting research on minimum wage policy and the safety net as it applies to women of color in poverty. In addition she is completing a research study on birth outcomes in low-income women of color.

Jim Walker – Office of Campus Planning & Facilities Management
Walker is director of the Office of Sustainability in the UT Austin Office of Campus Planning & Facilities Management.

Craig Watkins – Moody College of Communication
Watkins studies young people’s social and digital media behaviors. His recent work looks into the evolving worlds of digital media, education, and social inequality in the U.S.  The book takes on some of the established ideas and notions related to the rise of STEM learning and the complex role of games and other technologies in our schools, the role of digital media and social capital in young people’s informal learning ecologies, and how the media behaviors of black and Latino youth–their adoption of mobile, creative investments in digital media, and struggle to find opportunity in the network world—compel a reconsideration of longstanding ideas about technology, social inequality, and social mobility.

Heather Way – School of Law
Way directs the Entrepreneurship and Community Development Clinic at the Law School. Her primary interests are analyzing and developing laws and public policies that promote the creation of equitable and sustainable communities, including: problem properties, land title issues, land banks, housing preservation, transit-oriented development, and inclusionary housing.

Jake Wegmann – School of Architecture
Wegmann teaches quantitative methods and real estate-related topics in the Community and Regional Planning program. His research focuses on housing affordability, broadly defined, in high-growth US metropolitan regions.

Patricia Wilson – School of Architecture
Dr. Wilson’s research in sustainable community development focuses on individual and social transformation through civic engagement and collaborative action. She uses the methods of appreciative inquiry, social narrative, and participatory action research, and draws upon the theories of communicative action, dialogue and deliberation, and holistic emergent systems. She directs an ongoing action research project on sustainable community development in Mexico.

Robert Wilson – The Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs
Wilson’s research has addressed comparative urban policy, community development and metropolitan governance. He teaches courses on the application of quantitative methods to public policy and urban and regional policy.

Lucy Wood – School of Law
Wood currently serves as the Senior Attorney for the Texas Title Project, a project of the William Wayne Justice Center for Public Interest Law established in 2013 to provide direct legal assistance to low-income Texas residents affected by Hurricanes Ike and Dolly. She is the former director of the Justice Center’s Supportive Housing Project and former co-director of the Center’s Contract for Deed Prevalence Project.


Organization and Center Affiliates

Center for Health and Social Policy (CHASP)Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs

Center for Politics and GovernanceLyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs

William Wayne Justice Center for Public Interest LawSchool of Law