Jeff Michael

Director
UNC Charlotte Urban Institute
704-687-1201

Biography

Jeff Michael is director of the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute.  A planner and attorney by training, his professional experience includes extensive work around land use, sustainable development and land conservation  issues. Prior to coming to the institute in 2003, Jeff served as director of the Wildacres Leadership Initiative and the William C. Friday Fellowship for Human Relations, one of North Carolina’s premier leadership programs.

A native of the Charlotte region (Stanly County), Jeff is often called upon by the news media and policy makers to share his professional and personal knowledge of the region, and to provide commentary on the economic, environmental and social issues confronting its communities. 

Jeff was named a William C. Friday Fellow in 1997 and an American Marshall Memorial Fellow in 2005 and has served on the boards of numerous statewide and regional organizations.

Education

JD, University of North Carolina School of Law
Master of Regional Planning, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
B.S. in Business Administration, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Expertise

Land use law, land conservation, regional planning, sustainable economic development, leadership development, diversity/multicultural training
 

John Chesser

Enterprise Management Analyst
Mecklenburg County government
(704) 687-1192

Biography

Before joining Mecklenburg County government, John was a Senior Analyst at the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute. During his time at the institute, his work included: research and analysis of regional trends in demographics and development; data dashboard development; project management; public process development and facilitation; data systems implementation; remote training and support; and web communications. Until 2008, he managed the institute’s project office for the Transportation Information Management System (TIMS), for western North Carolina. Through the TIMS program, he has extensive operational planning experience in public school transportation, student assignment and redistricting.

John chairs the Davidson, N.C., Planning Board and Board of Adjustment.

Education

M.A. Geography, UNC Charlotte, urban and regional analysis concentration
B.A. Geography, UNC Chapel Hill

Expertise

Urban development and demographic change; geographic information systems (GIS); web communications; school redistricting, pupil assignment; pupil transportation and school operational planning

Bill Graves

Associate Professor John H. Biggs Faculty Fellow Dept. of Geography and Earth Sciences
UNC Charlotte

Biography

William Graves is an associate professor and John H. Biggs Faculty Fellow in the department of geography and earth sciences at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. During 2005-06  Graves was a GlaxoSmithKline Faculty Fellow in the Economic Development of North Carolina at the Institute for Emerging Issues at North Carolina State University. He teaches courses on the geography of North Carolina, the geography of knowledge and information, retail location and business applications of geographic information systems.

Education

Graves has a doctorate in geography from the  University of Georgia (2000); a master of arts in geography from the  University of Georgia (1994);  bachelor of arts in geography from the  University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (1990) and a bachelor of arts in physics from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (1990).

Expertise

Impacts of economic change in the southeastern United States, particularly the development of advanced services within the urban South. A central theme of this research has been the role of financial systems in southern industrial transformation. A secondary line of research examines the impacts of globalization on Charlotte's urban form.  Some of this work appeared in Charlotte, NC: The Global Evolution of a New South City  published by the University of Georgia Press. 

David Walters

Architect and town planner, professor emeritus and former director of Master of Urban Design Program, UNC Charlotte College of Arts + Architecture
UNC Charlotte
Prefers contact by email

Biography

David Walters is a British architect who has four decades of experience as an architect, urban designer and community planner. He is professor emeritus of architecture and urban design at UNC Charlotte, where until he retired he was the program director of the Master of Urban Design program at the College of Arts + Architecture.

Education

Walters earned undergraduate and graduate degrees in architecture from the University of Newcastle-upon-Tyne in the UK, and has practiced and taught in England, Arkansas, Mississippi, Texas, Oklahoma and North Carolina (since 1990).

Expertise

Walters is affiliated with Stantec’s Urban Places Group. Previously with The Lawrence Group, Walters has won state and national awards for urban design master plans, form-based codes and community planning projects based in Carolina communities. Walters is the author or co-author of three books: Design First: Design-based Planning for Communities (with Linda Luise Brown); Designing Community: Charrettes, Masterplans and Form-based Codes; and The Future Office (with Christopher Grech).

Vicki Bott

Grants Development Director
Centralina Council of Governments
(704) 348-2702

Biography

Vicki is the Grants Development Director for the Centralina Council of Governments, the state-designated lead regional organization serving local governments in a nine-county region in the Charlotte area. At CCOG, Vicki is responsible for the organization’s funding strategy for regional planning and other activities. She was with the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute from 1997 to 2011. Her work at the Institute focused on regional sustainability, and included collaborative applied research projects, issues commentary, and service on relevant task forces or boards.

Education

Vicki earned her Bachelor’s degree in biochemistry from Harvard University.  She then spent fifteen years in business management and consulting in the database marketing industry before earning her Master’s degree at UNC Charlotte in Geography with an emphasis in community planning.

Expertise

Previously the division director for Land Use & Environmental Planning, her professional interests are in urban and environmental planning, smart growth, open space, and issues of sustainability. 

Heather Smith

Professor Department of Geography and Earth Sciences Faculty Fellow, UNC Charlotte Urban Institute
UNC Charlotte

Biography

Heather Smith is an Urban Social Geographer and Director the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Urban Studies Minor (http://www.geoearth.uncc.edu/programs/undergrad/urbanminor.htm) which facilitates the interdisciplinary study of cities and urban dynamics through the lenses of sociology; anthropology; history; architecture; political science and geography.  In addition to her teaching and research within the Department of Geography and Earth Sciences, she is involved in several other interdisciplinary programs and initiatives both on and off campus. She is a faculty member in the Latin American Studies (http://latinamericanstudies.uncc.edu/) and Public Policy Ph.D. Program (http://publicpolicy.uncc.edu/).   She also has a longstanding research and advisory position with UNC Charlotte’s Urban Institute (www.ui.uncc.edu) as a Faculty Research Associate where most recently she was one of the lead investigators involved in a comprehensive needs assessment for Mecklenburg County’s diverse and growing Latino communities.  She also serves as a Senior Researcher for RIIM - the Vancouver based Centre of Excellence for Research on Immigration and Integration in the Metropolis (http://riim.metropolis.net/research_policy-housing.html) and a Founding Member and Research Consultant for the Mecklenburg Area Partnership for Primary Care Research (http://mapprnet.org/).
 

Education

Ph.D. (2000) Geography, University of British Columbia CANADA

Expertise

As an Urban Social Geographer her primary research and teaching interests revolve around the intersection between transitioning societies and restructuring cities. In addition to teaching courses such as Introduction to Urban Studies, Urban Social Geography, The Restructuring City and The Geography of Cities and Immigrants,  she has an active research agenda in the areas of immigrant settlement and adjustment and urban revitalization and gentrification.   Her immigrant based research, published in journals such as the Annals of the Association of American Geographers, Urban Studies and the International Journal of Canadian Studies, has focused on intersections between concentrated poverty and immigrant neighborhoods in Canadian urban centers and explorations of the causes, processes and implications of Hispanic “hyper-growth” in Charlotte, NC and the broader US South.  With Owen J. Furuseth, she is co-editor of Latinos in the New South: Transformations of Place (Ashgate, 2006).   Her revitalization and gentrification work has focused on processes of socio-spatial polarization in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside and most recently on the unusual trajectory of corporate-led gentrification in Charlotte’s Fourth Ward and central city core. In collaboration with Bill Graves, this work has been published in Southeastern Geographer and Journal of Urban Affairs and forms the springboard for our co-edited book Charlotte, NC: The Global Evolution of a New South City (University of Georgia Press, 2010).

Stephen Billings

Associate Professor of Economics
UNC Charlotte
704-687-7625

Biography

Stephen Billings is an associate professor of public policy at UNC Charlotte. He joined the faculty in 2008 after completing his Ph.D. in economics from the University of Colorado at Boulder. He holds a master's degree in urban and regional planning from UNC Chapel Hill.  Some of his recent research projects include the role of special district governments in financing residential development; the role of enterprise zone tax credits in firm location decisions; the property value impacts of light rail transit in Charlotte; and nonparametric tests for industrial specialization.

Education

Ph.D. in economics from the University of Colorado at Boulder. Master's degree in urban and regional planning from UNC Chapel Hill.

Expertise

Billings’ research focuses on the nexus between local government and real estate development.

Laura Simmons

Director of Community Indicators
UNC Charlotte Urban Institute
704-687-1207

Biography

Laura serves as the Director of Community Indicators at the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute, where she works to help people find, interpret, and present data. She leads the Institute’s indicator projects including the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Quality of Life Explorer, which provides a wealth of data on neighborhoods across Mecklenburg County, and the Charlotte Regional Indicators, a resource for a variety of data on the region’s 14 counties. She also coordinates the Institute’s mapping and spatial analysis efforts.

Education

Laura holds a masters in geography from UNC Charlotte and a bachelor’s in geography from Macalester College in St. Paul, MN.

Expertise

Laura has expertise in spatial analysis and mapping, data visualization, and applied research focusing on demographic and economic issues.

Brett Loftis

Chief Executive Officer
The Crossnore School

Biography

Brett currently is the Chief Executive Officer for The Crossnore School. Before Crossnore he worked as a child advocate at the Council for Children’s Rights. Brett began his career in advocacy work as a Guardian ad Litem, handling dozens of physical and sexual abuse cases.  He later went to work with Guardian ad Litem in Greenville, SC as the assistant director, where he trained and supervised 165 guardians and eight volunteer attorneys. When he began working with the Council for Children (now the Council for Children’s Rights) in 2000, he advocated for children on a wide range of issues, including special education, abuse/neglect, mental health, healthcare, and other areas of civil legal representation.  He became the Executive Director of the Council for Children’s Rights in 2005 and has worked to build the organization to where it is today - a comprehensive continuum of legal representation and advocacy services for children in Mecklenburg County.  The Council for Children’s Rights staff now includes 15 staff attorneys, 16 professional staff, and over 300 volunteers, all working for children.  In 2009, Brett helped launch the Larry King Center for Building Children’s Futures, an initiative of the Council for Children’s Rights, focused on making lasting, system-wide change for children in Mecklenburg County and North Carolina.  With this new, broader focus, Brett sits on several boards and committees across the state all working to improve the livelihood of North Carolina’s children.  And, he leads the Council for Children’s Rights in their committed mission to stand up for every child’s right to be safe, healthy, and educated.

Education

B.A. in sociology and political science from Furman University and J.D. from Wake Forest University School of Law.  

Expertise

Children's rights