On June 30, 2019, longtime Center for Urban and Regional Studies (CURS) Director Bill Rohe stepped down from his CURS leadership role and moved into phased retirement. Senior Associate Dean for Social Sciences and Global Programs Rudi Colloredo-Mansfeld has appointed Nichola Lowe, professor of city and regional planning, to serve as the interim director of CURS for a one-year term beginning July 1, 2019.

No stranger to the Center, Lowe is a CURS Faculty Fellow and was the CURS Scholar-in-Residence in 2007. In addition to serving as interim director, Lowe will lead CURS in an allied strategic conversation in planning for the future of research support at UNC-Chapel Hill.

Lowe’s research focuses on the institutional arrangements that lead to more inclusive forms of economic development and, specifically, the role that practitioners can play in aligning growth and equity goals.

Lowe conducts research in three related areas of economic development:

  • A focus on workforce intermediaries and the strategies they use to engage businesses in a negotiated process around skill, including increasing employer responsibility for work-based skill development.
  • Smart approaches to state and local economic development, including efforts to align strategic forms of industrial recruitment and entrepreneurial support in ways that extend quality job opportunities to displaced workers and less educated individuals.
  • Research on immigrant workers and the innovative strategies they and their allies devise to make their contributions to industry upgrading and upskilling more visible and valued.

Combined, her work unpacks the processes and practices that contribute to more equitable and inclusive forms of regional economic development and labor market adjustment. She has conducted most of this research in the North American context and recently in collaboration with researchers in the United Kingdom.

She has received funding support from the National Science Foundation, Kauffman Foundation, Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, the North Carolina Biotechnology Center, Institute for Emerging Issues and UNC-Chapel Hill’s Institute for Arts and Humanities, Global Research Institute, Center for Urban and Regional Studies, Institute for the Study of the Americas and the College of Arts and Science.

Lowe joined UNC-Chapel Hill’s Department of City and Regional Planning in 2005 after receiving her Ph.D. in Economic Development and Planning from MIT. She has consulted on projects for the International Labour Organization, Inter-American Development Bank, Bank of the Northeast Brazil, Ontario Ministry of Economic Development and Trade, the Chicagoland Workforce Funder Alliance, the Kenan Institute for Private Enterprise, the North Carolina Council for Entrepreneurial Development and the North Carolina Board of Science and Technology.

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