Press Releases Urban Institute Welcomes Equity Scholars to New Program
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WASHINGTON, DC, September 3, 2021 – The Urban Institute announced today the selection of eight researchers to join the Equity Scholars program, a new initiative that will expand the institution’s capacity to address structural racism and improve racial equity. The new program will also grow the field of researchers building evidence to accelerate racial justice and strengthen equity across society.

Joining Urban in a full-time capacity on January 10, 2022, the eight scholars will partner with Urban’s soon-to-be launched Office of Race and Equity Research to produce and support research on race and equity across Urban’s policy centers and through programs like its Racial Equity Analytics Lab. In addition to publishing research throughout the two-year program, scholars will build bodies of work in areas of specific interest to them, write for Urban’s blog Urban Wire, organize events, and more. Their work will contribute to the existing and growing body of equity-focused research at Urban.

“Our senior leaders and trustees are thrilled to welcome the first cohort of scholars to our program. These researchers have each demonstrated a commitment to understanding how equity, justice, and race intersect with current governance and social systems,” said Kimberlyn Leary, senior vice president at the Urban Institute. “We’re looking forward to the important work these scholars will produce and how their findings will become a resource to better inform evidence-based decisionmaking across the country.”

The eight scholars are as follows:

Shauna Cooper, Metropolitan Housing and Communities Policy Center. “My areas of research and professional expertise are in direct alignment with the mission and goals of Urban, providing an unmatched opportunity to contribute to several initiatives and projects,” said Cooper, an associate professor and director of diversity initiatives in the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Dawn Dow, Center on Labor, Human Services, and Population. “Over my career, I have sought opportunities to conduct research in spaces where my findings can be readily used to address racial or gender inequality within the workplace and educational institutions,” said Dow, an associate professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of Maryland, College Park. “I have also shared my research with educators, politicians, activists, and everyday people seeking to better understand the challenges they or others face in their lives. For these reasons, I believe Urban’s Equity Scholars program and the resources, community, and support it will provide would be an ideal opportunity and propel me to further public engagement as I continue to produce research examining social inequality.”

John Eason, Justice Policy Center. “I am honored to be in the inaugural class of Urban’s Equity Scholars. This provides a dynamic, engaging space to meet the challenges of prison reform and fight for racial equity across rural and urban communities,” said Eason, associate professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

Karishma Furtado, Center on Education Data and Policy and Health Policy Center. “With this next leg of my professional journey, I want to further define my research interests, grow my methodological and storytelling skills, and apply all of the above to deepen my impact and advance racial equity,” said Furtado, the data and research catalyst at Forward through Ferguson. “Urban’s Equity Scholars program will be an exceptional opportunity to do just that.”

Luisa Godinez-Puig, Tax Policy CenterandCenter on Labor, Human Services, and Population. “Ever since I moved to Washington, DC, 10 years ago, I have had a keen interest in working for Urban,” said Godinez-Puig, a doctoral student in political science at Boston University, who is expected to graduate in the fall. “I am certain this position is a great fit for me for many reasons. I am determined to work for an organization that shares my values and passion for defending the basic rights of those most vulnerable.”

Diana Guelespe, Income and Benefits Policy Center. “Addressing inequities by examining structural racism is necessary for marginalized communities of color to obtain access to opportunities that will lead to upward mobility,” said Guelespe, who has more than 20 years of experience working with immigrant and refugee communities at the local, state, and national levels. “I believe my scholarship will contribute to Urban’s efforts in identifying patterns of structural racism through data and analyses and providing timely information to decisionmakers that can promote policy changes. The Equity Scholars program will allow me to deepen my research on immigrant populations, which are complexly tied to racial and ethnic diversity, while providing community and government stakeholders the information to strengthen equity across society.”

Michael Neal, Housing Finance Policy Center and Center on Labor, Human Services, and Population. “The program will give me the opportunity to explore topics in racial equity that extend beyond homeownership and into the macro economy generally,” said Neal, a senior research associate in Urban’s Housing Finance Policy Center. “It will provide the chance to meet and collaborate with other researchers interested in racial equity as well. Additionally, it will give me the opportunity to find my place as an Urban researcher and contribute to an emerging and important topic—macroeconomics and its intersection with racial equity.”

Brian Smedley, Health Policy Center. “I am extremely excited to join Urban. I’ve long admired Urban’s policy impact and look forward to contributing to its equity-focused research and policy analysis. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to help key audiences understand how racism in all its forms—particularly structural and institutional racism—damages the health and well-being of African Americans and other people of color,” said Smedley, chief of psychology in the public interest at the American Psychological Association. “This has been the focus of my work for over 25 years, and I welcome a chance to help deepen our knowledge and contribute to corrective action.”

The Equity Scholars were selected through a rigorous application and review process that sought out scholars who have demonstrated commitment to policies, practices, or research methods that affect communities of color; improve the well-being of families with low to moderate incomes; and address racial justice and mitigate injustice.


About the Urban Institute

The nonprofit Urban Institute is a leading research organization dedicated to developing evidence-based insights that improve people’s lives and strengthen communities. For 50 years, Urban has been the trusted source for rigorous analysis of complex social and economic issues; strategic advice to policymakers, philanthropists, and practitioners; and new, promising ideas that expand opportunities for all. Our work inspires effective decisions that advance fairness and enhance the well-being of people and places.

Research Areas Race and equity Education Health and health care Taxes and budgets Housing finance Crime, justice, and safety
Policy Centers Metropolitan Housing and Communities Policy Center Center on Labor, Human Services, and Population Justice Policy Center Center on Education Data and Policy Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center Income and Benefits Policy Center Housing Finance Policy Center Health Policy Center