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 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
Peggy 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 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 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 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 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 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 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. Simpson is a first year PhD student in the Public Affairs-Community Development program. She graduated magna cum laude from Herbert H. Lehman College with a B.A. in Psychology and valedictorian from New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development with an M.A. in Human Development and Social Intervention. Rasheda is a Graduate Assistant at the Community Leadership Center (CLC) where she manages a research study on the development of socio-emotional, physical, and language acquisition skills of children in the Knight Early Learning Research Academy. At the CLC, Rasheda also coordinates the Chancellor’s Signature Series Policy Symposia, which is a series of conferences on urban poverty and inequality led by prominent scholars, practitioners, and political leaders. Rasheda’s passion for interconnecting research, coursework, and service led her to become one of five Civic Engagement Graduate Fellows for the Office of Civic Engagement. As a Fellow she coordinates activities and assists in an engaged civic learning course on social welfare policies in the School of Social Work. Rasheda is also Vice-Present of the Public Administration Student Association (PASA) and is establishing a Graduate Student Association next year in effort to build community among graduate students in the Rutgers-Camden Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.
Theo 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
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 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.