Recent Graduate Profiles

Spring 2011 PhD in Urban Studies Graduate

Ozgur Avci

On Urban Studies at UWM… “I spent about 6 years in the Urban Studies program at UWM. It was a life-changing experience in every respect. I did not only earn a Ph.D. degree, but also gained life-long friends/professors/colleagues as well as a baby girl in Milwaukee. I wrote a dissertation on the symbolic constructions of an urban-poor, "gecekondulu," identity in Turkey in the 1960s and 1970s. I argued that the gecekondulu identity was an "other" to any political ideology, being neither in nor out, because of its incompatibility with all established paradigms explaining social development. Therefore, this marginal identity marked the boundaries of every symbolic system in this period.”

The Future… “I am currently looking for an academic job in Turkey. I am hopeful that my doctoral degree in Urban Studies will help me find a faculty position in a department or program such as political science, sociology, media and cultural studies, or urban studies.”


Spring 2011 Master's in Urban Studies Graduate

Liis Palumets

My Master's paper was titled "The Data Center as a Spatial Data Provider to Milwaukee Community Organizations." The paper was mainly based on my internship experience at the Data Center of the Nonprofit Center of Milwaukee in fall 2010 and complemented by interviews and document analysis. The Data Center is an important source of spatial information for community organization and helps them to make well-informed decisions about the development of the neighborhoods. However, the strength of the Data Center mainly lies in the individuals working there, while the organizational sustainability is rather weak due to limited budget and staff size.

On Urban Studies… Having grown up in a small village in Estonia, I discovered the allure of city life while being an exchange student in Berlin, Germany. I started wondering what makes some cities a wonderful place to live, while the others cause distress and frustration. The Urban Studies Program at UWM provides a wonderful multidisciplinary answer (or rather a key to the answer) to that question. Having studied sociology and political science during my undergrad career, I especially enjoyed learning about the perspectives and research methods of geography and history and was fascinated about the synergy of bringing various disciplines together to study urban affairs.

What I am doing now… I graduated from the Urban Studies Master's program in May 2011 and currently continue my work in the field of urban development in the office of the Minister for Regional Affairs of Estonia, my native country.


Spring 2010 PhD in Urban Studies Graduate

Greg Carman

Greg Carman graduated with a Ph.D. in Urban Studies in May 2010. His major emphasis was race, class, gender, and ethnicity. Greg is a 1972 graduate of UWM, majoring in History. He received a J.D. from Marquette University Law School in 1979 and spent the next 21 years as a local government lawyer in Appleton, Wisconsin. He received his M.A. in History from UWM in 1999 and started his Ph.D. work during the fall semester of 2000. He is married with three grown children, all college graduates. On the Dissertation Greg’s dissertation, “Wall of Exclusion: The Persistence of Residential Racial Segregation in metropolitan Milwaukee” (Major advisor: Amanda I.Seligman), addresses the history of segregation in Milwaukee. Drawing on census data, an overview of suburban zoning codes, an analysis of state laws regarding annexation and incorporation, and oral history interviews, Greg’s dissertation argues that a lethal combination of virulent racism, economic and social discrimination, and institutional barriers contributed to residential racial segregation in metropolitan Milwaukee.

On Urban Studies... I was very happy with the Urban Studies Program because of its interdisciplinary approach to urban issues. For the first time, I was immersed in sociology and geography, especially the spatial analysis that is crucial to understanding the growth and development of cities. While my dissertation is firmly grounded in historical research, it was certainly informed by the other regimens.


Summer 2010 Master’s in Urban Studies Graduate

Jodi Kessel Lyon

Jodi Kessel Lyon completed her Nonprofit Certificate in May 2009 and Urban Studies Master’s Degree in August 2009. Her thesis was entitled “From Marriage to Divorce in the Suburbs: How Are Single Mothers Explaining Their Life Changes?” In it, Jodi questions the suburban ideal of intact families that includes a husband, wife, and children. Her study focused on single mothers living in a specific suburban community, who spent some of their married years in that same suburb but are now divorced and single. The purpose of this paper was to explore the experiences and thoughts of these women and mothers who didn’t meet the definition of the “suburban family” and how they cope with being unlike their neighbors. The research explored questions such as: Are these single suburban mothers more stable than their urban and rural counterparts? Do these women have a higher level of education and consequently greater job opportunities? Are these women recipients of regular spousal and child support? And how are suburban divorced women adapting to their single status?

Where Are You Now? Jodi was hired in a new position of Business Manager with the SOS Center at 4620W. North Avenue in July 2009 and was promoted to Executive Director in March 2010. “UWM and the Urban Studies Program along with the Nonprofit Program prepared me extremely well to work for a nonprofit in Milwaukee. Working for a smaller nonprofit that doesn’t have specialized departments allows me to call on everything I learned in college to do my job, from the accounting classes to the history of Milwaukee to the urban social structure and the internal structure of the city.”

On Urban Studies… “What I like most about the Urban Studies Program is the broad range of areas of study. Going into the program I wasn’t working in a particular field and didn’t have a specific job or field I was trying to get into and the program opened my eyes to all the possibilities before me. I found I thoroughly enjoy archival research and may get into that sometime in the future. And now I know how I can research the history of the approximately 100 year old building the SOS Center owns! Being able to think outside the box and know how to problem solve was just the beginning. The Urban Studies Program was a perfect fit for me and is a hidden gem at UWM.”


Spring 2009 PhD in Urban Studies Graduate

Tammy L Hodo

Tammy was born and reared on the east side of Milwaukee, WI. After graduating from Washington High School in 1989, she enlisted in the United States Navy, where she served as a Personnel Specialist for four years before receiving her honorable discharge in 1993. She attended Albany State University, a historically black university, and majored in Criminal Justice, graduating in 1997. She then earned a master's degree in Public Administration at Columbus State University. Between 1999 and 2005, Tammy lived in Germany and worked for the Department of Defense as a civilian employee providing a variety of social service support to different entities on the military base. In 2005, she entered UWM’s Urban Studies doctoral program. One of her first classes at UWM was Research Methods in Urban Affairs, which was taught by Dr. Joel Rast. The topic (minorities in academia) she selected for her research paper turned into her dissertation topic. She writes, “Being biracial (German, Irish, and half black) and being reared primarily by my German and Irish mother made me aware of race issues at an early age. I continue to have a difficult time grasping why racial distinctions are made and why they continue to affect life chances of people who are considered different.”Her dissertation, "A Critical Analysis of an Urban Research University: Climate, Culture, and Minority Faculty," is a case study that puts race and ethnicity at the center of inquiry by examining the climate and culture of UWM and how it is perceived by minority faculty members. Tammy interviewed 30 minority faculty members out of a possible 65 about their experiences within their departments at UWM and on the campus in general. Using Critical Race Theory, she examined how department climate, area of research interest, and tenure status affect the workplace experiences of black and Latino/a faculty at UWM. Her findings indicate generational differences in perspective between older faculty (50+) and younger minority faculty. Also, the amount of ethnic/racial diversity within departments, tenure status, and research interest affect how Latino/a and black faculty in the study perceived the climate in their department and at UWM in general. The workplace experiences of some minority faculty at UWM contradict the multicultural rhetoric so commonly heard within academia. Tammy hopes the dissertation will open up dialog among university administrators and provide insight into the academic climate and culture. She chose to conduct this study because the existing scholarship on minority faculty in traditional universities documents distinct obstacles encountered by Faculty of Color, but the data offer limited insight regarding this difference beyond merely documenting its existence. Her study attempts to add to scholarship by having black and Latino/a faculty members "name their own reality" as they provide narratives about their experiences at UWM, a traditional university.


Spring 2009 Master’s in Urban Studies Graduate

Melissa Herguth

Melissa did her undergraduate work at Marquette University with a major in Social Welfare and Justice and with minors in Sociology and Theology. As an urban studies Master’s student, she continued a social justice focus, with her Master’s research examining Habitat for Humanity’s efforts in Milwaukee. Melissa has long been committed to affordable housing and working with community development nonprofit organizations. She worked for 2 years as a community organizer with the YMCA and is currently the Development Director at Milwaukee Habitat for Humanity. In this capacity, she oversees all the fundraising efforts for the organization with a $2,500,000 contributions budget. Melissa’s thesis project evaluated the development strategy and the neighborhood effect Habitat houses have had in the Midtown and Walnut Hill neighborhoods on Milwaukee’s north side. The findings of her thesis have allowed her to explore the organization’s history and the economic impact it has had in the community. The four major research questions she investigated in her research were 1) What is Milwaukee Habitat for Humanity’s development strategy? 2) Have MHH houses helped improve the neighborhood?3) Has additional nonprofit, for profit and public investment occurred in the case-study area? 4) How have the perception and quality of life changed in the neighborhood?

Reflections on USP and future directions… In her own words, “USP courses have provided me with a background and academic knowledge of the challenges that face the urban environment. I feel that my education in Urban Studies and the Nonprofit Management programs have provided me with both a practical and an academic foundation to tackle some of the social and economic challenges related to affordable housing. As a fundraising professional, it will be great to use this research on the impact Habitat has had in the Milwaukee community to educate donors. This way donors can see how their investment in the organization is transforming the lives of low-income families and neighborhoods.“My plans after graduation are to continue to work with Habitat for Humanity; I am enjoying my position at Habitat and am committed to living and working in Milwaukee. I also plan on working with Professor Judith Kenny to publish an article from my thesis project as well as possibly continuing on with further research as it pertains to affordable housing and Habitat for Humanity.”