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Meet the amazing students of the Global Urban Studies PhD Program!

Ayesha Ali



2019-present PhD Global Urban Studies, Rutgers, Newark University
2015-2017 Master of Education, Educational Leadership and Policy
Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto, Canada
• Strands: Leadership, change, social diversity, and policy
• Methods: Qualitative, quantitative, and mixed methods
2008-2009 Bachelor of Education
University of Ontario Institute of Technology, Canada
• Primary and junior divisions
• Additional qualifications: Teaching English as a Second Language
2004-2008 Bachelor of Science (Honors), Psychology, University of Toronto, Canada

Anticipated Graduation: 2022-2023

Research Interests: urban education, educational policies in K-12 and higher education, social mobility, social stratification, and immigrant studies.


Ian Bouie



B.A. in Communication, 2003 from Fairleigh Dickinson University (Florham Park) & M.A. in Media Studies, 2005 from William Paterson University

Anticipated Graduation: 2022

Research Interests: Grow Your Own Teacher Programs, the precollege disposition of low-income college students, affordable teacher housing.

Title of Dissertation: A Phenomenological Study of a Grow Your Own Teacher Program (tentative title)

Thayane Brêtas



Thayane Brêtas graduated from Federal University of Rio de Janeiro with a degree in law and a masters in Contemporary Juridical Theories with an emphasis on Society, Human Rights, and Art. Her research focused on the juridical dilemma of sex work and working conditions observed in the sex commerce industry in Rio de Janeiro. Now as a doctoral student in the Global Urban Studies program, her aim is to continue her research on the sex industry and the ways that law and policy enforcement has influenced women’s lives in the trade.

Research Interests: Feminist studies, sex workers movement, urban redevelopment processes and law enforcement.

Gulse Eraydin



She graduated from the Department of Urban Design and Landscape Architecture, Bilkent University (Ankara, Turkey) and received her master’s degree from the City Planning Program of Middle East Technical University (Ankara, Turkey).

Research Interests: My previous research focuses on the analysis of migration and settlement patterns, solidarity and social networks of Syrian urban refugees in Turkey. As a doctoral student in the Global Urban Studies Program, my research will concern experiences, sense of belonging and place attachments of urban refugees in a multidisciplinary and comparative discourse.

Anticipated Graduation: 2022

Nooreen Fatima



Bachelor of Architecture (B.Arch), Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi
Master of Architecture (M.Arch) in Urban Design, School of Planning and Architecture Delhi
Fellow, Urban Fellows Programme, Indian Institute for Human Settlements Bangalore


Nooreen is a Ph.D. student with the Global Urban Studies Program at the School of Arts and Sciences Newark. She completed her Bachelor of Architecture (B.Arch) from Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi, and Master of Architecture (M.Arch) in Urban Design from School of Planning and Architecture Delhi. She has also been a fellow under Urban Fellows Programme at Indian Institute for Human Settlements, Bangalore. She has worked in several distinguished planning, design, and policy research projects in the past and also served as an Adjunct faculty at the School of Global Affairs, Ambedkar University Delhi.

Her research lies at the intersection of infrastructure, citizenship, and governance in Delhi’s resettlement colonies. Her research explores socio-technical responses, everyday negotiations, and make-shift spatial arrangements by the displaced urban residents to create ‘home’, access infrastructure, and make claims to citizenship in Delhi’s resettlement colonies through visual ethnography. Her scholarly interests also include spatial injustice, politics of space, politics from below, informal urbanism, and the Global south.

Research Interests: Infrastructural Citizenship, Make-shift urbanism, Informal Urbanism, Spatial injustice, Visual ethnography, Politics from below, Planning and Politics in the global South

Anticipated Graduation: 2025

Headshot of Nakeefa Garay with a golden-domed building in the background.

Nakeefa Bernard Garay



Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, Cook College
Bachelor of Science, Environmental Policy Institutions and Behaviors
Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy
Master of Public Policy, Community Development


Nakeefa entered the Global Urban Studies PhD program with eight years of experience in New Jersey’s nonprofit community development industry. Most recently she served as a Program Officer at Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) where she provided hands on technical assistance and support to government, nonprofits and resident leaders working to improve the quality of life for residents in greater Newark. Before working for LISC she served as a fundraiser at New Jersey Community Development Corporation (NJCDC) in Paterson, NJ. During her time at NJCDC and LISC, Nakeefa raised over $4.5M to support urban revitalization work in Newark and Paterson.

A two-time graduate of Rutgers University, Nakeefa is an alumna of both Cook College (Bachelor of Science, Environmental Policy, Institutions and Behaviors) and the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning & Public Policy (Master of Public Policy).

Born in Trinidad and raised in Jersey City, Nakeefa is a proud resident of Newark, New Jersey.

Anticipated Graduation: 2022

Research Interests: Nakeefa’s research interests include community development, civic participation, and nonprofit organizations. By exploring engagement issues and trends among nonprofits, she hopes to use the tools of academia to support and strengthen civic engagement efforts tied to community development practice.

Title of Dissertation: Capacities, Strategies and Processes of Civic Engagement Among Community Development Nonprofits: A Newark, NJ Case Study

Publications and Fellowships:
Garay, N. B. (2022). Community Development Organizations and Civic Engagement: A Newark, NJ Case Study, The Newarker. January 2022. Retrieved from
Morel, D., Drake Rodriguez, A., Sidney, M., Garay, N. B., & Straub, A. (2021). Measuring and explaining stalled gentrification in Newark, New Jersey: The role of racial politics. Urban Affairs Review.
O’Brien Richardson, P., Schein, L., Morel, D., Baker, N., & Garay, N.B. (2021). Putting stories to work: Confronting the pandemic through New Jersey narratives. Retrieved from the Rutgers Edward J. Bloustein. School website:
Fulbright Specialist | University of Pretoria-Mamelodi, South Africa | 2020
USAID Global Fellow | Community Chest of the Western Cape, Cape Town, South Africa | 2017

Headshot of Sajedeh Goudarzi with water and cityscape in background.

Sajedeh Goudarzi



MA, Diplomacy and International Relations, Seton Hall University
MA, Urban Management, Allameh Tabataba’i University


Sajedeh is a PhD student of Global Urban Studies. She holds a master’s degree in diplomacy and international relations and another master’s degree in urban management. Her research is centered on political theory, contentious politics, religion, and gender in the Middle East. She aims at applying urbanity as a lens to question basic concepts in contentious politics through critical theory epistemologies.

She is also interested in early Islamic philosophy and has taken multiple courses on the intellectual history of political thought around authority and gender in Shia Islam.

Maryam Hosseini



Maryam Hosseini is a Ph.D. student in the Urban Systems program at Rutgers University and a research associate at NYU Tandon School of Engineering, Visualization and Data Analytics (VIDA) lab. Standing on the intersection of urban planning, urban economics and computer science, her research aims at addressing the existing gaps between the real needs of urban planners and researchers and the urban analysis tools currently being developed.

Research Interests: Her main research interests are pedestrian mobility infrastructure and planning, assessing the impact of the built environment on walkability and accessibility of public spaces, and human-focused design of cities using computer vision techniques, spatial analysis, and agent-based modeling.

Tolu Lanrewaju-Kadri



Rutgers University-Newark, MPH, Urban Administration
Princeton University, A.B., Anthropology

Research Interests: Tolu’s research interests are housed within urban sociology and legal geography. Tolu focuses on the spatiality of illegal and legal processes of displacement, and the consequential city-making. Focusing on refugees facing evictions in Cape Town, she uses mapping and ethnographic methods to make visible the effects of the displacement and dispossession of vulnerable urbanites in South Africa, a country that affords residents a right to housing. Tolu breaks from familiar neo-Marxists narratives to bring attention to dispossession beyond land and territory.

Title of Dissertation: Refugees’ Right to the City & Beyond: Housing Strategies and Resettlement Activism in Cape Town, South Africa­­

Ang Liu



Master of Science in Real Estate and Infrastructure, Johns Hopkins University, Washington DC
Bachelor of Engineering in Engineering & Management, Harbin Institute of Technology, Harbin, Taipei, China; Melbourne, Australia


Ang Liu holds a Master’s degree in Real Estate/Infrastructure from Johns Hopkins University and a Bachelor’s in Engineering, Harbin Institute of Technology. He has worked as an investment manager and finance researcher for three years in PERE (private equity in real estate) for financial instruments designing and modeling, real estate investment, financing, and market analysis. Through his work, he has witnessed housing injustice, urban inequality, and the disjuncture between financial instruments he designed. These studies and observations lead him to his broad interest in connecting urban inequality, housing, and finance.

Research Interests: Urban Redevelopment; Inequality; Housing Justice; Urbanization; Gentrification; Finance and Economy

Anticipated Graduation: 2025

Mary Malyska

Mary Malyska



B.A. Women’s Studies and English, Georgetown University, Washington D.C.
M.A. Secondary Teaching with a concentration in English, Montclair State University, NJ
M.A. Educational Leadership, Montclair State University, NJ


Mary Flora Malyska earned her undergraduate degree in English and Women’s Studies from Georgetown University. Born and raised in New Jersey, she returned home after college to work at a children’s program in a transitional living facility for survivors of domestic violence. Unknowingly, this position was the start of her career in education. Mary went on to receive Master’s Degrees in Teaching Secondary English and Educational Leadership from Montclair State University. She worked as a high school English teacher in the Paterson Public Schools as well as in the Union Township Public Schools prior to becoming Union Township’s English Department Supervisor for Grades 6 – 12. Mary was then the Vice Principal of Washington Elementary School in Union Township. Currently, she is the Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction in the South Plainfield Public Schools. Mary is a part time student in the Global Urban Studies, Urban Education Ph. D. program. Her research is focused on the educational ramifications of the digital divide with a special interest in school-based technology one to one programs.

Research Interests: Educational ramifications of the digital divide and school-based technology one to one programs

Headshot of Joshua McWhirter

Joshua McWhirter



Joshua McWhirter is a PhD student in the Global Urban Studies program at Rutgers-Newark, where his work explores social and economic issues relating to adaptive reuse and decommodification of non-residential spaces. He holds an MA in Theories of Urban Practice from The New School, and a BA in Political Science from the University of North Texas. Joshua is an editor for Failed Architecture, a global media collective focused on spatial politics; previously, he was managing editor for Urban Omnibus, The Architectural League of New York’s digital publication examining the collective work of citymaking.

Kristina Micu



Saint Peter’s University, Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and Urban Studies
New School University, Master of Arts in International Affairs


Kristina’s research is a nexus of collective action, religion, and global civil society. Kristina’s research investigates network formation and how collective action is constructed and sustained despite contextual differences. Focused on local Christian churches in the Philippines and the United States, Kristina uses ethnographic methods to trace the process and causal mechanisms of how churches multiply and mobilize within certain communities and across transnational boundaries. Kristina departs from the structural perspective of understanding collective action by systematically analyzing the role of faith and religious beliefs in shaping how Christian churches multiply, mobilize, and engage with other Christian churches and with secular institutions.

Research Interests: Social movements, collective action framework, identity and culture

Title of Dissertation Research: “What’s Faith Got to Do With it? The Role of Local Christian Churches in the ‘Interconnected’ Global Society.”


Headshot of Hyacinth miller in front of a pond. She stands in a scarlet blazer and pearls next to a bench with blurry trees appearing on the other side of the water in the background.

Hyacinth Miller



B.A. Political Science and Africana Studies, Brooklyn College, CUNY
M.A.  Political Science with a concentration in Women’s and Gender Studies, Rutgers University
Ph.D. Global Urban Studies (in progress), Rutgers University


Hyacinth Miller is a PhD student in the joint Global Urban Studies/Urban Systems program. Her dissertation will explore Black women’s local, state, and federal candidate emergence in New Jersey. She has presented conference papers on subjects including West Indians in elected office in New Jersey and the U.S., the Haitian Diaspora in the U.S., and on multiple citizenship policies in the Caribbean. Hyacinth is also an Assistant Teaching Professor with Rutgers in the departments of Africana Studies and Political Science [Newark campus] and a Lecturer in Latino and Caribbean Studies [New Brunswick campus]. Prior to joining Rutgers, she worked in the philanthropic, government and private sectors.

Research Interests: Black women in elected leadership in the U.S. and globally and Black immigrant political incorporation in global cities

Anticipated Graduation: 2025

Publication: “Black, Foreign-Born and Elected: West Indians in New Jersey’s Political Offices,” in the National Political Science Review, Volume 19.1.
Headshot of Ehsan Lotfi. with a bridge and people in the background.

Ehsan Lotfi Mokri



Ehsan was born and raised in Sardasht, Kurdistan, Iran. Based upon his lived experience, he was drawn to study sociology to pursue his questions regarding ethnicity. However, as he studied sociology, his research drew him to more interdisciplinary methods; accordingly, he earned an MA in Cultural Studies at Allameh Tabataba’i University, Tehran. His master’s dissertation on the Social Life of Mobile Phone in Sardasht, allowed him to address ethnicity, everyday life, material culture, diaspora, and the interconnection of the digital and material world.

Based upon his own experiences, on the one hand, and encountering a significant number of Iranian Kurdish refugees living in the UK/Europe, on the other, he plans to center his PhD research on Kurdish and Iranian refugees, drawing upon interdisciplinary perspective, sociological thought, and urban policy scholarship.

Headshot of Jayati Narain stading in front of black background

Jayati Narain



MA Interdisciplinary Studies, New York University
MA Sociology, Delhi School of Economics, Delhi University
BA Sociology, Miranda House, Delhi University

Research Interests: Right to the City, Practices of claiming space, Citizenship, Informality, Southern Urban Theory, Relationship between theory and practice

Publications & Fellowships:

Urban Fellows Program, Indian Institute of Human Settlements (2016-17)
In Pictures: How a Power Plant Devastated the Pristine Beauty of a Creek near Chennai Narain, Jayati; Singh, Tejinder, 2017., 26 January 2017
Cities: Planning and Democracy Narain, Jayati, 2016. Souvenir: Survival, Identity and People’s Movement, 11th Biennial National Convention, Patna, Bihar. National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM), 2016.
Cleaning the Air and Enabling Commuter Movement Narain, Jayati; Jayaram, Pradipti, 2016. Economic & Political Weekly, Volume 51, Issue No. 9, 27 February 2016

Joshua Musicant



Josh grew up on the Jersey Shore. After graduating from the University of Michigan–B.A. in Philosophy, Politics, & Economics (PPE) and Women’s Studies–he facilitated a place-based environmental education program in Detroit Public Schools where his work focused on the development of historical context building.

Research Interests: Place-based interventions in critical education, differentially applied history pedagogy across demographics, development of capitalist and nationalist ideology in young people

Marie-Jeanne Ndimbira-Rosner



Bachelor of Accounting, University of Namibia


Marie-Jeanne Ndimbira-Rosner is a 6th year PhD candidate from Windhoek, Namibia. Prior to her doctoral studies she co-founded the Physically Active Youth Programme (PAY), a holistic afterschool program in Windhoek. She led PAY for more than 13 years, building a youth development model that effectively closes the gaps facing young people in low income urban communities.

Marie-Jeanne presented a TEDx talk, It Matters Where You Plant the Seed, discussing the youth program model she created to eliminate the barriers to quality education for young people. She has also been a featured Changemaker on CNN International’s African Voices series for her youth development work.

Through her doctoral studies and beyond, Marie-Jeanne seeks to integrate her practical knowledge and deep grassroots experience with theory and pedagogy in order to best serve youth in Africa and globally.

Research Interests: Marie-Jeanne’s research interests are in youth development, particularly urban youth. As an action researcher, Marie-Jeanne is focused on research that improves afterschool program delivery to youth in economically disadvantaged communities.

Anticipated Graduation: 2022

Justine Braby, Johannes Mulunga, Namene Nekwaya, Jessica Jane Lavelle, Marie-Jeanne Muhoza Ndimbira, Reinhold Mangundu, Angula Angula, Towards Well-being Indicators in Africa: A Case Study from Namibia, The Solutions Journal, Volume 8, Issue 3, May 2017

Title of Dissertation: How do Holistic Afterschool Programs Improve the Readiness of Poor Black Learners in Urban Namibia and South Africa to Enter Tertiary Education? Case Studies Examining Two Successful Afterschool Programs Operating in the Post-Apartheid Context.

Kevin Rogan



Kevin Rogan’s work focuses on the built environment in its particularly capitalist aspects and its tendency towards crisis, focusing particularly on urban ground rent and regional capital devalorization. He graduated from Drury University in Springfield, MO with a Masters in Architecture and from The New School with a Masters in Urban Studies. He writes regularly for Architect’s Newspaper, The Baffler, and Failed Architecture, where he is also an editor.

Anticipated Graduation: 2024

Headshot of Ana Sondoval. Greenery sits in the blurry background. Sandoval is wearing a red and white floral top and some gold necklaces.

Ana Sandoval



Baylor University, BBA
University of Texas at El Paso, MPA

Ana is a 5th-year PhD candidate originally from the border city of El Paso, Texas. She earned a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Texas at El Paso and a bachelor’s degree in marketing from Baylor University. Additionally, she was a part of the Teach For America 2015 corps in Memphis, Tennessee where she taught dual language Kindergarten. Her borderlands background and teaching experience have shaped her research interests in borderlands, immigration, and education.


Dissertation Research Question: How and why do border children interpret, contest, and re-enforce the borders constructed by governmental and educational discourses about citizenship, immigrants and violence in the US-Mexico borderlands?

Ana is examining state and educational discourses about citizenship, immigrants and violence in the US-Mexico borderlands and assessing how border children interact with these discourses. She aims to understand how they construct their own diverse meanings these topics based on their lived experiences and the narratives they encounter in school and their communities which complicate—and ultimately challenge—state-promulgated narratives.
Research Interests: Border Studies, Chicana/o Studies, US-Mexico Borderlands History, Urban Studies, Education Studies, Latinx Geography, Children’s Geography, Feminist Visual Methods

Adam Straub



Adam Straub is a PhD student in the Global Urban Studies program at Rutgers-Newark. He holds a master’s degree from the CUNY School of Labor and Urban Studies and a bachelor’s degree from Vassar College. His research interests include housing problems and advocacy as well as urban policy and governance. His dissertation explores affordable housing policy feedback and housing justice activism in the NY/NJ region.

Headshot of Fatma Zisan Tokac standing in front of a white sculpted fence. Greenery and a building stand blurry in the background.

Fatma Zişan Tokaç



MPA in Environmental Science and Policy, Columbia University, New York, 2017
BA in Environmental Engineering, Yıldız Technical University, İstanbul, 2013


Zişan is an environmental engineer who received her bachelor’s degree from Yıldız Technical University and later on obtained a Masters of Public Administration in Environmental Science and Policy from Columbia University. She has professional work experience for over 5 years with environmental NGOs and public sector both in the US and her home country Turkey. She was lucky to call two significant metropolises of the world -İstanbul and New York- “home” and get to work on their environmental challenges.

Anticipated Graduation: 2026

Research Interests: Zişan’s main research interest is urban sustainability in the context of climate change and environmental justice. She aims to utilize remote sensing and geospatial data analysis to study İstanbul’s recent urban development, and map out models for a sustainable and just development strategy for cities alike in the developing world.

Tamara Velasquez Leiferman



Tamara Velasquez Leiferman is a First-year PhD student at the Rutgers GUS program. She was born and raised in Mexico City, and has a background working within Mexican civil society. She holds a BA in International Relations from the Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México and an MS in International Affairs from The New School, with a minor in Global Urban Futures. After completing her undergraduate degree, Tamara worked at the US-Mexico Foundation in Mexico City, and subsequently joined the team at Transparency International-Mexico where she worked on researching issues related to open government and anti-corruption. She has been published in The Huffington Post Latino Voices, Sopitas, Nación 321, and Foreign Affairs Latinoamérica, and also co-authored a chapter in a book about Open Contracting. Her research interests include gentrification, public space, smart cities, urban mobility, and urban informality.

Vania Villanueva



Her research focuses on migration and immigrant integration, and quantitative methods. Recent work examines the experiences and economic integration of Mexican immigrants in Los Angeles and New York City. She holds an MA in Sociology from City University of New York and a BA in law from Pontificia Universidad Católica del Peru.