Heather Smith

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


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/).


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


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).


  • ui.uncc.edu
    Mar 20, 2014
    Charlotte attracts new residents, both domestic and international, from across the socioeconomic spectrum. The data do not bear out the popular image of immigrants as poor and confined to low-wage jobs. As a result, policies are shifting from facilitating access to city services to educating the community about the ways immigrant communities help move the city forward. (Photo: Nancy Pierce)
  • ui.uncc.edu
    Apr 15, 2011
    In 2005 and 2006 researchers from the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute partnered with the Latin American Coalition, our region’s largest Latino outreach and advocacy organization, to conduct a comprehensive needs assessment of Mecklenburg County’s rapidly growing and transitioning Latino population.