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Carmen Gutierrez

Assistant Professor, Public Policy

Gutierrez’s research explores issues at the intersection of immigration, the criminal justice system and health, with an emphasis on how inequalities arise across race, ethnicity and citizenship. A central theme of her work is the use of statistical and spatial methods to address research questions that inform contemporary policy concerns. Gutierrez’s research plan for her time as Scholar-in-Residence is to examine the relationship between the involvement of the criminal justice system and health outcomes in the United States. She also plans to update current knowledge of the adverse health consequences of criminal justice involvement in the time period following implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).


Xiaodong ChenXiaodong Chen

Associate Professor, Geography

Dr. Chen’s research focuses on Coupled Human and Natural Systems (CHANS), and includes topics such as how human activities affect the natural environment, how human livelihood may be changed due to changes in environmental conditions, what are complex interactions among components in human and natural systems and how human-environment interactions are influenced by policies. Chen’s current research looks at the effects of conservation and development policies at the nexus of Food, Energy and Water systems (FEW) around the world. As CURS Scholar-in-Residence, Chen studied the Heihe River Basin of northwest China. The Heihe River Basin provides more than 300 million cubic meters of fresh water to Xi’an city annually, accounting for more than 70% of the fresh water demand of a total of over eight million people in the city.


Todd BenDorTodd BenDor

Professor, City and Regional Planning

Dr. BenDor’s research looks directly at ecosystem service markets, including water quality, wetland mitigation and habitat offset markets. He has also performed numerous studies on urban development policy, including green building, form-based codes and the politics of urban densification. His work as a Scholar-in-Residence extended his on-going research in both areas to: 1) formally and theoretically tie transfer of development rights (TDR) and ecosystem markets together based on their intent and regulatory goals; 2) understand why each of these policy mechanisms are equally under-utilized at multiple social and temporal scales; and 3) reveal lessons about how to better structure TDR policies and ecosystem service markets to improve their use, certainty and efficiency.


Elizabeth Olson

Professor, Geography and Global Studies

Dr. Olson used this opportunity to work with UNC-Chapel Hill collaborators, and consult with members of the Caregiving Youth Research Collaborative (CYRC), to study the experiences of young adult caregivers (17-25 years old) who are enrolled in post-secondary degree-granting programs. Her project is one branch of a broader research program focused on youth caregivers, or young people who provide essential care for family members suffering from chronic illness, disease or disability.


Laura Lopez-Sanders

Dr. Lopez-Sanders’ research explores how immigrants integrate in regions without an established co-ethnic network to assist in their settlement. This question generated renewed public and scholarly interest as Latino immigration patterns shifted to include regions that prior to the mid-1990’s had little or no Latino immigration. Findings have been inconclusive and current research focuses on the interaction between policy and institutions in integrating immigrants, particularly the undocumented, in new regions. Dr. Lopez Sanders extended this research by examining how practices and processes influence the social and structural integration of immigrants in non-traditional immigrant regions such as the Carolinas.

Fall 2014

picture of Torin MonahanTorin Monahan

Professor of Communication Studies

Dr. Monahan’s research focuses on institutional transformations with new technologies, with a particular emphasis on the ways in which surveillance and security programs tend to reproduce social inequalities. As CURS Scholar-in-Residence, Monahan developed a research proposal on smart cities, big data, and surveillance and plans to investigate the implications of big data and surveillance in the development of “smart cities” in the U.S., Canada, and U.K. Currently, he is overseeing an NSF-funded collaborative research project on the data-sharing practices of Department of Homeland Security “fusion centers,” which are sites oriented toward the provision of national security. Areas of expertise include ethnography, science and technology studies, surveillance studies, critical criminology, urban studies, and contemporary social and cultural theory. Monahan is an associate editor of the leading academic journal on surveillance, Surveillance & Society.

Fall 2013

Nina MartinNina Martin

Associate Professor of Geography

Dr. Martin’s research focuses on the local political and planning conflicts that are generated by increased immigration to urban and suburban areas. These conflicts include access to good jobs, affordable housing, and the availability of health and social services. Martin used her time as the CURS Scholar-in-Residence as an opportunity to develop a proposal to explore the growth, nature, and trajectory of activism around the issue of immigration in the U.S. South, which has seen unprecedented rates of immigration and an upswing of anti-immigrant sentiment. The research seeks to establish a framework for studying the agency, intention, and tactics of civil society organizations and policy makers as they craft legislation effecting those who are largely disenfranchised. Using a mixed methods approach of survey research and open-ended interviews, the research will document the range of responses by immigrant groups on all sides of the debate to the perceived threats and opportunities created by a political environment espousing the “self deportation” of undocumented immigrants.

Spring 2013

T. William LesterBill Lester

Associate Professor of City and Regional Planning

Dr. Bill Lester is an associate professor of city and regional planning, specializing in economic development. His research focuses on the role of labor market institutions in fostering greater equity at the urban and metropolitan scales. His is an expert on the impact of minimum wage and living wage policies on urban economic development. Dr. Lester employs quantitative and qualitative methods drawn from the fields of labor economics, political science and regional development. While his research on the minimum wage and living wage has garnered national attention recently–including a mention in the State of the Union address–he continues to broaden his research agenda within the field of economic development.

Spring 2012

Erika WiseErika Wise

Associate Professor of Geography

Dr. Wise’s research of “Seventeenth Century Drought in the North-Central Rocky Mountains: Implications for Modern Water Management in the Western United States,” built on her previous research concerning past and contemporary climate in the north-central Rocky Mountains. Conducting extensive field work in the region surrounding Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, Wise uses tree rings to reconstruct past climate in the area. She has found that the most severe drought of the past 400+ years occurred in the early- to mid-1600s. This drought is unparalleled in the modern era: if such an event were to occur today, it would have major implications for water management. Her work on contemporary climate in the region has shown that water supply, which is closely connected to mountain snowpack, is linked to shifts in storm track position. Professor Wise’s project brings these two bodies of work together in order to reconstruct the climate conditions that led to the severe and extended seventeenth century drought.

Fall 2010


Noreen McDonald

Professor of City and Regional Planning

Dr. McDonald’s research interests and expertise have focused on transportation policy, school travel, physical activity, transportation and land use, and school siting. Most recently, her research has revealed that teens living in urban environments delay driver license acquisition, drive less after acquiring their license, and have lower motor vehicle crash injury rates. These revelations highlight the importance of understanding the links between community design and motor vehicle injuries and fatalities. As the CURS Scholar-in-Residence, Dr. McDonald developed a research project to measure the links between the built environment and motor vehicle crashes–“Measuring the Causal Impacts of the Built Environment on Teen Motor Vehicle Crashes.” Dr. McDonald used data from North Carolina to conduct a pilot analysis using the proposed research design that allows causal inference about the connections between the built environment and teen motor vehicle crashes. She used these findings to develop a proposal submitted to the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) in collaboration with Dr. Matthew Trowbridge, a pediatrician in the Department of Emergency Medicine at the University of Virginia. The specific aims of her time at CURS were to develop a research design to: Measure the causal effects of the built environment on teen motor vehicle injury; measure the causal effects of the built environment on teen motor vehicle crashes and injuries using pilot data from North Carolina during the period 2001-2005; and prepare a research proposal for submission to NICHD.

Fall 2009


Neal Caren

Associate Professor of Sociology

Dr. Caren’s research interests center on social movements, environmental justice, political sociology, political engagement and urban politics. While at CURS, he worked on a project entitled “Reducing Environmental Disparities: Movements, Policies and Toxins.” According to Caren, “This project is a hybrid of four parts of my existing research agenda. First, it builds on my work on social movement outcomes. In a series of publications, I have explored the conditions under which social movements are able to successfully mobilize for state-related benefits. Working with co-authors, we have advanced a political mediation model, which holds that the type of mobilization tactics, the degree of bureaucratic autonomy, and the degree of political support are the most critical factors for social movement success. This project would advance this previous line of research theoretically and empirically by moving beyond favorable governmental policies to the implementation and impact of those policies. Second, I have recently completed a manuscript that provides new data on the degree of environmental inequalities in contemporary America. In this project, I link EPA estimates of toxic air levels to neighborhood demographics, and employ a novel methodology for distinguishing between neighborhood racial and economic compositional factors, analysis of which had preciously suffered from difficulties with high levels of variable co-linearity. This measurement project develops the measurement of environmental disparities that will be expanded in the proposed project. I am also completing a project that explains variation in the tactical choices made by social movements, using local environmental justice organizations as the cases. Here, I find that the level of elite support and the institutional networks that the challenging social movement organizations are embedded in are the most critical factors in determining the degree of confrontational tactics. Finally, my dissertation work on variation in the level and type of political action across U.S. cities will provide a theoretical basis for exploring variation across cities in their demographic, economic, and political configurations.” Dr. Caren’s data from earlier projects on environmental disparities and environmental justice organizations enabled him to begin preliminary work on this project.

Fall 2008


Donald Nonini

Professor of Anthropology

Dr. Nonini’s research and teaching interests include political anthropology; globalization, political economy and alternative economic systems; trans-nationalism; the cultural politics of ethnicity, class, gender and citizenship; inter-ethnic violence; anthropology in the public interest; democracy; Southeast Asia; Chinese Diaspora in the Asia Pacific; and the United States. While at the Center, Dr. Nonini worked on a research proposal that builds on previous work that examines local activism and politics under the condition of economic restructuring and globalization that affect public life in North Carolina. That project resulted in the publication of Local Democracy Under Siege: Activism, Public Interests, and Private Politics (New York University Press, 2007), a book he co-authored with UNC-Chapel Hill anthropology professor Dorothy Holland. During Fall 2008, he focused on a methodologically sophisticated research grant proposal and project to investigate issues surrounding cultural environments, social movements, and identities linked to local food production and consumption in four communities in North Carolina.

Spring 2008

Andrews-e1424480078693-150x150Andy Andrews

Professor of Sociology

Desegregating the South: Dynamics and Impacts of Civil Rights Protest

Dr. Andrews focused on whether social movements generate enduring change. In his prior study, he examined the impacts of the civil rights movement in Mississippi that culminated in the publication of Freedom Is a Constant Struggle (2004, University of Chicago Press). This work will build more recent research on the emergence and diffusion of desegregation campaigns from 1960 to 1964. He has developed an original dataset on 334 Southern cities based on archival research with detailed information regarding the civil rights movement, white opposition, social, political, and economic characteristics of the community. This data was extended in several important ways to allow Dr. Andrews to test competing theoretical arguments regarding the success and failure of social movements.

Fall 2007 

lowe2Nichola Lowe

Associate Professor of City and Regional Planning

Immigrant Skills Acquisition in Changing Urban Labor Markets

The main focus of Dr. Lowe’s research is to challenge conventional understandings of skill formation by looking at the possibility that categories of “skilled” and “unskilled” work are ambiguously defined and therefore open to negotiation and contestation. Three inter-related questions framed her research while Scholar-in-Residence: What are the processes through which the existing skills and tacit knowledge of less-educated migrants become formally recognized and valued by their U.S. employers? How do larger institutional factors (e.g., legal status of migrants, availability of immigrant support services, access to labor market intermediaries, relational ties to other migrant.sender communities) hinder or facilitate this process of skills recognition? To what degree does skills recognition become a source of political and economic leverage for migrant workers and their families?

Spring 2007 

Martin Doyle

Martin Doyle

While at CURS, Dr. Doyle studied the efficacy and economic realities of market-based approaches to environmental management and restoration. In particular, Dr. Doyle was interested in evaluating the relative importance of spatial variability in land acquisition costs for market-based approaches to wetlands restoration. At the heart of this issue is determining the extent to which land acquisition costs affect the location of restoration activities and if impacts on location decisions affect the benefit derived from the restoration efforts.

Fall 2006 


Michele Tracy Berger

Associate Professor of Women Studies

Dr. Berger spent the Fall 2006 semester at CURS exploring the role of communication about health and sexuality (including HIV/AIDS, risk behavior, sexual violence, etc.) among African American mothers and daughters and the ways that inter-generational communication and social support might be strengthened to reduce the risk of contracting HIV/AIDS. Dr. Berger used her time at CURS to develop a funding proposal for an extensive project that included focus groups, semi-structured interviews, a twelve-week pilot intervention, pre-test and post-test evaluation measures for the intervention and follow-up interviews. The research took place primarily in Durham, NC. In addition to improved health outcomes for pilot intervention participants, this project resulted in a comprehensive, culturally relevant model that can be adapted for other communities.

Spring 2006 

Patricia Parker

Dr. Patricia Parker

Associate Professor of Communication Studies

Research Topic: Learning to Lead: The Contemporary Context for Career Socialization and Leadership Development Among African American Teen Girls in Rural and Urban Counties in North Carolina

As Scholar-in Residence, Dr. Parker developed a proposal to examine career counseling processes and practices for low-income African American teenage girls. Her study identified culture-specific career counseling needs for the group, assessed the communicative content, quality and structuring of their school counseling interactions, and documented the sources, content, and processes of career socialization revealed in interactions with teachers, coaches, parents/guardians, peers, and community programs. Potential collaborative interventions in the school counseling setting were proposed.

Fall 2004 


Karla Slocum

Associate Professor of African/Afro-American Studies & Anthropology

Research Topic: Meanings and Memories: Tracing Notions of Race and Place in Boley, Oklahoma

Dr. Slocum used her time at CURS to begin performing a social history of a historically black town in Oklahoma. Her work on this topic focuses on residents’ changing meanings and goals around the idea of racial solidarity through residence across shifting time periods, and political, social and cultural contexts.

Spring 2004


Scott Kirsch

Professor of Geography

Research Topic: The Changing Nature of Territoriality and Governance: Jurisdiction, Boundaries, and the Roots of American Globalism

During Dr. Kirsch’s sojourn at CURS, he began work on a research project, in collaboration with colleagues in Geography, that explored social and labor market transitions in North Carolina’s Research Triangle area in relation to contemporary globalization trends. His particular focus within that project was the growth of high-tech and pharmaceutical industries in Research Triangle Park.

Fall 2003 


Philip Berke

Research Topic: The Effects of New Urban Developments Compared to Conventional Low Density Developments on Natural Hazard Mitigation

Dr. Berke spent his semester developing a research plan to identify New Urban development projects that are located in hazard prone areas in the U.S., and a control group of conventional low-density development projects. This project was funded by the National Science Foundation to explore the extent to which hazard mitigation practices are integrated into site designs for New Urban developments compared to conventional developments. This research also evaluated the influence of New Urban design, relative to the influence of local mitigation plans and implementation programs on integration of natural hazard mitigation practices into developments, and draw implications from this proposed research for improving the disaster resilience of New Urban development projects by adjusting site designs, mitigation elements of local plans and local implementation programs.

Spring 2003 


Brian Billman

Associate Professor of Anthropology

Research Topic: Prehistoric Urbanism and the Rise of the Moche State on the North Coast of Peru

The focus of Dr. Billman’s research was to obtain more detailed data on social stratification, violence, highland-coastal interaction and environmental perturbations in the Moche Valley prior to, and during, the formation of the Moche State.

Fall 2002 

Krista Perreira

Krista Perreira

Professor of Social Medicine in the School of Medicine

Research Topic: Prenatal & Postnatal Substance Use: A Multi-Ethnic Study

As the first CURS Scholar-in-Residence, Dr. Perreira developed a proposal to fund a study to evaluate the determinants and consequences of alcohol and tobacco use among pregnant women. Dr. Perreira, a professor in the Department of Public Policy at the time, was particularly interested in variations in alcohol and tobacco use, its determinants, and its consequences for child development by ethnicity and nativity (i.e. foreign born or native born).