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Student Spotlight

We R Rutgers-Camden: Ashley Nickels

Ashley Nickels“The level of connectedness we have with our faculty is invaluable.” Read more ...

Contact Information

401 Cooper Street
Camden, NJ 08102

For Graduate Programs:
Ms. Sandra Cheesman
Phone: (856) 225-6860

For Urban Studies:
Ms. Karen McGrath
Phone: (856) 225-6337

Dept. Fax: (856) 225-6559

Ph.D. Student Profiles

Patricia Ciorici
patricia.ciorici@rutgers.edu

Patricia Ciorici entered the Ph.D. program in Public Affairs at Rutgers University-Camden in 2010.  Her research interests include international development policy and administration, intergovernmental relations, international municipal cooperation, and local governance. As a Graduate Assistant, she does research on public sector labor relations, labor unions, and conflict resolution. She has previously researched determinants of vacant land conversion to community gardens.  She has served as a Legal and Policy Specialist on the USAID-funded Moldova Local Government Reform Project, developed and implemented the Community and Economic Development through Education and Action Project to support youth engagement in community development in Moldova, and conducted research for several community development organizations in the U.S.  Patricia holds an MPP degree from the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota, and a Law degree from Moldova State University.

Spencer T. Clayton
spencer.clayton@rutgers.edu

Spencer T. Clayton received his B.A. in Psychology at Yale College where he conducted research in the Autism Program at the Yale Child Study Center. He received his M.Div from Yale Divinity School where he interned for the Capitol Region Conference of Churches in Hartford, CT and helped to implement the first FaithWorks Summer Leadership Institute for leaders of faith-based organizations in Connecticut and Massachusetts.  Spencer’s research is centered on the impact of partisan gerrymandering on local-level community development efforts.  He is also interested in exploring the role of faith-based institutions in urban contexts.

Peggy Jean Craig
pjfpeggy@gmail.com

peggy-jean-craigPeggy Jean Craig is a first year doctoral student in public affairs and community development.  She received her M.Div. from Emory University with a concentration in Church and Community Leadership.  She graduated magna cum laude from Fordham University with a B.A. in Communications and Media Studies concentrating in Journalism.  She also is an alumnus of the New York performing arts conservatory, The American Musical and Dramatic Academy. Prior to coming to Rutgers-Camden, Peggy Jean worked for the General Board of Church and Society for the United Methodist Church at the denominational level developing an advocacy campaign to raise awareness about the legacy of Agent Orange in Vietnam.  During that same time, she interned with the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee where her areas of research were Southeast Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.  Peggy Jean has also worked in Laos and Kenya on issues of education, health (hygiene, sanitation, HIV/AIDS), and theology.  Peggy Jean’s research interests include rural participatory international development, documentary film and community development with a Frierian approach, faith-based social service delivery, and theology and development in East Africa and Southeast Asia. 

Prentiss Dantzler
pd283@scarletmail.rutgers.edu 

prentiss-dantzlerPrentiss A. Dantzler, II received a B.S. in Energy Business and Finance from the Pennsylvania State University and a M.P.A. from West Chester University with dual graduate certifications in Urban and Regional Planning and Geographic Information Technology.  His research interests include housing policy, neighborhood effects, community development, and urban politics.  His current research focuses on the impact of changes in housing policy targeted at low-income populations such as HOPE VI/Choice Neighborhoods, Section 8/housing vouchers, and public housing developments.  Prentiss has presented papers at various conferences including the Association of Applied and Clinical Sociology Conference (2012), the National Conference of Black Political Scientists (2013), and the Krueckeberg Doctoral Conference in Planning and Public Policy (2013).  Prentiss is currently working as a full-time research assistant for Dr. Maureen Donaghy on domestic and international housing-related issues.  He also teaches undergraduate courses in the Urban Studies program.  Prentiss has passed both comprehensive exams and has proceeded to doctoral candidacy.

Straso Jovanovski
straso.jovanonski@rutgers.edu

Straso holds an M.A. in Geography (Certificates in GIS & Urban and Regional Planning) from West Chester University of Pennsylvania, and an M.S. in Community and Regional Planning from Temple University-Ambler.  He is interested in  urban health policy and issues of access and quality of care for at-risk groups in the city and metropolitan environment, as well as the saliency for equity in improving healthcare delivery methods.  His recent research examines secondary documentation and uses spatial analysis to look at the impact of changing public policy approaches in health care at the state level, with implications for urban populations.  Additionally, Straso is a Teaching Assistant for graduate level courses, including Quantitative Analysis II, Introduction to GIS, and Research Methods.  Some of his broader research interests include: Health Care Policy and Disparities in Access, GIS and Cartography, Urban Community Development, Regional / Environmental Planning, as well as Sprawl and Metropolitan Systems.

Matthew McCaffrey
mcmcca@gmail.com

Matthew McCaffrey began his studies in the Public Affairs and Community Development Program in the fall of 2012. He holds a B.A. in English from Saint Joseph’s University. Matthew also holds an M.P.A from Rutgers University with a concentration on International Public Service and Development (IPSD). His studies in the IPSD program included practical work, both domestically and abroad.  At home, Matthew worked with the Community Outreach Department of the Camden County Prosecutor’s Office to help build stronger partnerships between community and government. Overseas, Matthew served two years in the United States Peace Corps in the Republic of Moldova. There, he lived with a Moldovan family in a rural village and worked alongside the local government, schools, and nongovernmental organizations. Matthew’s experiences in the fields of youth development, civic education, organizational development, and intercultural exchange inspire his interests to work with and learn from grassroots nonprofit organizations and to more deeply understand the relationships various groups of people – such as youth, migrants, the poor, and ethnic minorities – have with democracy and their local governments.

Ashley Nickels
aen42@scarletmail.rutgers.edu 

ashley-nickelsAshley E. Nickels completed a B.S. in Psychology and a M.P.A. both from Grand Valley State University. Ashley’s research interests include urban politics, democracy and civic engagement, nonprofit management and advocacy, community development, and government/ nonprofit relations. Her current research examines how extra-urban policies reshape local democracy in distressed urban communities. She has presented her research on the impact of municipal takeovers at the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management (APPAM) Conference (2012) and Association of Applied and Clinical Sociology Conference (2012). She also presented a collaborative paper (with Dr. Michael J. Fortner) at the Northeastern Political Science Conference. Ashley is currently working as a full-time teaching assistant for Dr. Marie I. Chevrier, where she assists in graduate public management courses. Ashley also teaches undergraduate courses in the Urban Studies program.

Wendy Osefo
wendy.osefo@rutgers.edu 

Wendy Osefo is currently a Ph.D. Candidate working under the supervision of Dr. Paul Jargowsky. Wendy’s doctoral research centers on community engagement in the urban context and the impact of structural racism on current community development initiatives.  Her research focuses on urban education, civic engagement, community participation and the political and psychological disfranchisement of urban minority populations. Wendy holds a B.A. in Political Science from Temple University and an M.A. in Government from Johns Hopkins University where she authored her thesis entitled “Ethnic Rivalry, Corruption and Impulsive Political Transitions in Nigeria”. 

Jason Rivera
jason.rivera8472@gmail.com

jason-riveraJason David Rivera earned his B.A. in History at Rowan University, and later his M.P.A at Rutgers University – Camden.  His research focuses on social vulnerability to natural and manmade disasters with an emphasis on ethnic minority and low-income experiences.  Examples of his work can be found in the Journal of Black Studies, the Journal of Applied Security Research: Protection and Response in Asset Protection, Terrorism, and Violence, The Journal of Public Management and Social Policy, the Journal of Critical Incident Analysis, Societies Without Borders: Human Rights and the Social Sciences, the International Journal of Emergency Management and Through the Eye of the Storm: Social Justice in the United States. He is coauthor of Hurricane Katrina and the Redefinition of Landscape, with DeMond Miller (2008) and coeditor of How Ethnically Marginalized Americans Cope with Catastrophic Disasters: Studies in Suffering and Resiliency (2010), Community Disaster Recovery and Resiliency: Exploring Global Opportunities and Challenges (2010), and Comparative Emergency Management: Examining Global and Regional Responses to Disasters (2011), with DeMond Miller.  Jason is also an American Political Science Association Minority Fellow. 

Rasheda L Weaver
Rasheda.weaver@rutgers.edu

Rasheda Simpson

Rasheda L. Weaver is a doctoral student in the Public Affairs-Community Development program. She graduated magna cum laude from Herbert H. Lehman College with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and valedictorian from New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development with a Master of Arts in Human Development and Social Intervention. Rasheda’s passion lies in generating research that advances human development and potential. She is a Graduate Assistant for the Department of Public Policy and Administration and a Research Assistant for the School of Business. Her research focuses on human capital, human capabilities, entrepreneurship, and social entrepreneurship. She is also an author of Camden Chatter, a blog series for the Local Knowledge Blog and works with local organizations in Camden towards community development efforts. Rasheda’s knack for connecting research, coursework, and service led her to become a Civic Engagement Graduate Fellow for the Office of Civic Engagement. As a Fellow she lectures classes, coordinates activities, and assists in engaged civic learning courses in various departments and schools throughout the university. 

Ms. Weaver recently received a Letter of Commendation from the National Society for Experiential Education (NSEE)  for her poster entitled, “South Sudanese Asylum Seekers in Israel” which she presented at the NSEE’s 2014 annual conference.

Theo Thompson
theo.thompson@rutgers.edu

theo-thompsonTheo Thompson entered the program in the fall of 2010. His current research interests include social capital and asset building/wealth creation and how each can be leveraged as tools to mobilize the underclass out of poverty. Additional broad research interests are workforce development, education, and poverty. Theo has served in a variety of job functions; including Legislative Assistant for the City of Philadelphia where he co-authored legislation providing 1,500 students paid internships and has worked to strengthen programmatic functions at a non-profit focusing on micro-lending and technical assistance to disadvantaged entrepreneurs. In addition to his work he has served on multiple non-profit boards including Library Build Inc. in Philadelphia, PA. Theo holds a B.A. in English and Communications from Westminster College located in Fulton, Missouri, and an M.P.A. with a concentration in Non-profit Management from Southern Illinois University.

Curtis M. Williams II
curtwill@scarletmail.rutgers.edu

Curtis Williams is a first year doctoral student in public affairs and community development. He earned a B.A. in History and African-American Studies from Rutgers-Camden in 2007, and an M.A. in Humanities and Social Thought from New York University in 2009. Prior to coming back to Rutgers, he worked on Joint Base McGuire Dix Lakehurst with Child and Youth Programs. He is also an adjunct history instructor at Burlington County College. His Master’s thesis at NYU was entitled “Voices of Protest: Analyzing Controversial Speech in the Black Public Sphere.” He has a wide variety of research interests, including black political discourse, education, and community development. 

Zachary David Wood
zachary.wood@rutgers.edu 

zachary-woodZachary Wood received both his B.A. in Political Science and his M.A. in Urban Studies from Temple University. His primary research focus is around issues of urban poverty and social change through civic engagement and political advocacy. His recent research revolves around exploring the role of non-profits as advocates for social and policy change. Zachary is a full-time graduate assistant for the university and also teaches in the undergraduate Urban Studies program at Rutgers-Camden. Previously, Zachary has held numerous leadership roles in the non-profit world, most recently as the Director of Development and the Director of Advocacy and Public Policy for Covenant House Pennsylvania, a shelter and service provider for homeless and marginalized youth in the Philadelphia area. He has also served as Executive Director of Habitat for Humanity on the Crow Creek Lakota Reservation in South Dakota.

Christopher A. Wheeler
christopher.wheeler@rutgers.edu

christopher-wheelerChristopher A. Wheeler is a second year doctoral student in public affairs and community development. Christopher also serves as an Eagleton Alumni Fellow, attending special classes with access to practitioners in state and national politics and government, and working in New Jersey state government for one semester.  In 2006, he graduated summa cum laude from Temple University with a B.A. in Political Science and a certificate in political economy. Christopher also holds a Masters Degree in Government Administration and a graduate certificate in politics, both from the University of Pennsylvania. A former public sector consulting professional, Christopher has almost six years of experience working with school districts, state, and municipal governments on management and budget issues, including extended engagements with the City of New Orleans and the School District of Philadelphia.  His research interests include tax policy, poverty dynamics, economic development, community development, and housing affordability.  His current research focuses on the causes of poverty and housing affordability change in regional contexts.  Christopher has presented papers at various conferences including the Urban Affairs Association Conference (2013), the Black Doctoral Network Conference (2014), and the Rutgers Camden Student-Led Academic Conference (2014).  Christopher is currently working as a graduate assistant for Dr. Paul Jargowsky supporting his research on the intersection of segregation, concentrated poverty, and academic achievement.