PROJECTUrban Institute Equity Scholars


The Urban Institute’s equity scholars program provides emerging and established scholars the opportunity to deepen their own policy-oriented research on race, equity, and structural racism. Equity scholars partner with our Office of Race and Equity Research to produce and support research on race and equity across Urban’s policy centers and our Racial Equity Analytics Lab. Over the two-year program, scholars develop research that interrogates the effects of structural racism on people and places, offer evidence-based solutions to advance racial equity, and share their insights with decisionmakers best positioned to act. Their work contributes to an existing and growing body of equity-focused research at Urban.

For more information about our equity scholars program, contact [email protected].

Introducing the 2022–24 Equity Scholars

Urban’s inaugural cohort of scholars began in January 2022.

Shauna M. Cooper
Shauna M. Cooper is an associate professor and director of diversity initiatives in the department of psychology and neuroscience at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her research program examines cultural and contextual factors that contribute to positive youth development, with a specific focus on African American adolescents and families. Her work spans multiple areas, including parental involvement, ethnic-racial socialization, gender-related processes, and youth community involvement, and has been published in various scientific journals, including Journal of Research on Adolescence, Journal of Youth and Adolescence, Psychology of Men and Masculinities, Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, Family Relations, and Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review. Cooper also is committed to the translation of her research, including the development of culturally specific, family-focused prevention programming. Cooper’s service leadership reflects a commitment to equity and the promotion of positive development among racial and ethnic minority children and families.

Dawn Dow
Dawn Marie Dow is an associate professor in the department of sociology at the University of Maryland, College Park. Dow is the faculty director of the Critical Race Initiative, which annually holds the Parren J. Mitchell Symposium, when scholars examine systemic inequality in contemporary society. She is also a faculty associate in the Maryland Population Research Center. Dow’s research uses a range of qualitative methods to examine intersections of race, class, and gender within the context of the family, educational settings, the workplace, the law, and political mobilization. She is particularly interested in how these intersections complicate long-standing debates regarding the relative influence of economic and cultural resources on the experiences and life trajectories of members of the expanding African American middle and upper-middle class.

John M. Eason
John M. Eason is an associate professor in the department of sociology at the University of Wisconsin–Madison and author of Big House on the Prairie: Rise of the Rural Ghetto and Prison Proliferation. He is a mixed-methods researcher specializing in ethnography and rare events and research interests in rural and urban communities, punishment, and race. He is founder and director of the UW–Madison Justice Lab and a founding member of the UW pancreas cancer data group with oncologist Noelle LoConte. Before graduate school, Eason was a church-based community organizer focused on housing and criminal justice issues. He also served as a political organizer for previous Illinois state senator Barack Obama. His work on COVID-19 in prisons is funded by the National Science Foundation.

Karishma Furtado
Karishma Furtado is the data and research catalyst and a founding staff member of Forward Through Ferguson. In her position, she leads the use of human-centered data, research, and reporting to facilitate accountability, measure impact, deepen understanding, and imagine what’s possible on the path to racial equity. Before Forward Through Ferguson, Furtado served as staff to the Ferguson Commission. She has completed a doctoral degree in public health sciences, and her research at the intersection of race, racism, and health is in the service of closing the school discipline gap, or the disproportionate rate at which Black students are suspended from school and pushed out of the classroom.

Luisa Godinez-Puig
Luisa Godinez-Puig has a master’s degree in arts and science from Boston University, an LLM from the University of Chicago, and a law degree (JD equivalent) from Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México. She is expected to complete her PhD in political science at Boston University in fall 2021. Godinez-Puig’s research focuses on studying instances of local power restriction and examples of local empowerment of municipal governments with a perspective on race and ethnicity.

Diana Guelespe
Diana Guelespe has a doctorate and more than 20 years of experience working with immigrant and refugee communities at the local, state, and national levels. She is committed to using her skills and training in community-based participatory research and intersectionality to address inequities and identify policies that improve the quality of life of marginalized groups. She has worked with community partners on research and evaluation projects in the areas of health, homelessness, education, and immigration. Her qualitative research on mixed-status families and their daily challenge of driving led to subsequent changes in state and local policies to improve access to driver’s licenses for immigrants in Illinois and Washington, DC, and has served as a resource to community groups in other states seeking similar policy changes. Guelespe’s previous academic work includes serving as the assistant director of the Consortium on Race, Gender and Ethnicity at the University of Maryland, where she oversaw research which examined the lived experiences of historically underrepresented minorities in the academic pipeline and implemented programs to increase the retention and promotion of graduate students and faculty.

Michael Neal
Michael Neal is a senior research associate in the Housing Finance Policy Center at the Urban Institute. Previously, he worked at Fannie Mae where he was a director of economics in the Economic and Strategic Research division. Before his service at Fannie, Neal was the assistant vice president at the National Association of Home Builder’s Economic and Housing Policy department. As a housing economist, Neal has an in-depth knowledge of housing market trends and has provided expert analysis and commentary on housing to media outlets around the country. Previously, Neal worked at Congress’s Joint Economic Committee, the Federal Reverse System, the Congressional Budget Office, and Goldman Sachs. Neal has a bachelor’s degree in economics from Morehouse College and a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Pennsylvania.

Brian Smedley
Brian Smedley is chief of psychology in the public interest at the American Psychological Association (APA), where he leads APA’s efforts to apply the science and practice of psychology to the fundamental problems of human welfare and social justice. He was cofounder and executive director of the National Collaborative for Health Equity, a project that connects research, policy analysis, and communications with on-the-ground activism to advance health equity. He was also codirector of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Culture of Health Leaders national program center. Previously, Smedley was vice president and director of the Health Policy Institute of the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies in Washington, DC, a research and policy organization focused on addressing the needs of communities of color.

Research Areas Race and equity
Tags Racial equity in education
Policy Centers Office of Race and Equity Research