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Yittayih Zelalem, Director and Research Associate Professor Heading link

Headshot photo of Yittayih Zelalem; 312-996-6674

Mr. Zelalem has been with the UIC Voorhees Center since 1996 – first as Senior Planner, and as Co-Director since 2004. Prior to that, he worked as Director of Housing Policy Analysis at the Chicago Rehab Network. He also worked for over half a dozen years as Director of Property Development and Executive Director of several CDCs in Chicago. An expert in affordable housing finance and public housing, Yittayih has extensive experience in real estate development and housing finance and policy.  Yittayih was also professor of law at the Addis Ababa University Law School in Ethiopia and currently teaches development financing courses. Mr. Zelalem has law degrees from Addis Ababa University in Ethiopia and the Yale Law School, as well as a Masters Degree in Urban Development.

Pronouns: He/him

Maggie Schafer, Research Specialist Heading link

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Maggie is a Master of Urban Planning and Policy student at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). Her interests lie in housing, spatial planning, and communications. Prior to joining UIC Maggie worked in marketing and advertising as writer and project manager. She also worked briefly in residential real estate, which piqued her interests in placemaking and community development. Maggie received B.A.s in Sociology and English from the University of Madison-Wisconsin in 2013.

Pronouns: She/her

Andy Born, Research Assistant Heading link

Photo of Andy Born; 312.996.4401

Andy has a over 10 years of experience as a community development planner in Chicago.  Since 2009 he has worked in the Austin community, initially as a planner at the Voorhees Center and later as a staff member of Austin Coming Together.  Andy’s research interests are in comprehensive community development initiatives and neighborhood change.

Pronouns: He/him

Aspen Walters, Research Assistant Heading link

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Aspen is a Master of Urban Planning & Public Policy student specializing in environmental planning. While originally from Kansas City, MO, she completed a B.S in International Business and B.A in Environmental Sustainability and Resilience at Drake University in Des Moines, IA. She recently completed an internship with the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) where she conducted research on a wide range of planning topics and assisted with ArcGIS projects. Her interests include environmental sustainability, green infrastructure, and food insecurity.

Pronouns: She/her

Jane Huber, Research Assistant Heading link

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Jane graduated with a Masters of Civic Analytics degree from the University of Illinois at Chicago in 2023. After graduating from the University of Chicago in 2016 with a degree in Public Policy, she spent some time working as a government consultant for the Department of Education in Rajasthan, India before returning to the US to start a new career in software engineering. After 4 1/2 years of working on mobile app and website development, she returned full time to school in hopes of transitioning back to the public sector. Combining data science, software development, and a policy background, Jane is passionate about thoughtfully using digital tools to help government and organizations better serve their communities.
Pronouns: She/her

Claire Costelloe, Research Assistant Heading link

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Claire is a Master of Urban Planning and Policy student at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). She is interested in environmental planning, sustainability, affordable housing, and GIS. Prior to coming to UIC, Claire worked at the environmental nonprofit Delta Institute, in a role focused on research, mapping, and data analysis. She has also previously worked at a community development financial institution. Claire holds bachelor’s degrees in Economics and Environmental Studies from the University of Chicago and attained her LEED Green Associate credential in 2021.

Pronouns: She/her

Mel Langness, Research Assistant Heading link

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Mel is a Master of Urban Planning and Policy student at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). Before coming to UIC, Mel worked as an analyst in the Urban Institute’s Justice Policy (2019-2022) and Metropolitan Housing and Communities Policy (2022-2023) research centers in Washington, D.C. While at Urban, Mel developed extensive mixed-methods research experience across several projects relating to community wellbeing and the built environment while specializing in community-engaged research methods. Originally from North Carolina, Mel earned a B.A. in Political Science from UNC Chapel Hill in 2019, where they graduated with highest distinction and honors as a Morehead-Cain scholar. Their interests include racial and gender equity in development, housing justice, and environmental resiliency in regional transformation.

Pronouns: They/them

Ian Canovi, Research Assistant Heading link

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Ian is currently enrolled in the Master of Urban Planning & Policy and Master of Public Health – Community Health Sciences programs at UIC. He is interested in equitable redevelopment, transportation, health impact assessment, and using principles and data from community health to inform planning and policy. Ian has worked for several years as a community research coordinator with the Milwaukee office of the Wisconsin Alzheimer’s Institute, and is also a community development/planning intern with the Village of Maywood. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2016, where he completed a thesis project on memory testing with the Learning & Transfer Lab.

Pronouns: He/him

Suban Aden, Research Assistant Heading link

Headshot picture of Suban, Research Assistant

Suban is a Master of Urban Planning and Policy student at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). She recently finished an internship with the City of Minneapolis, where she created and researched maps using ArcGIS software, assisted with field research, and analyzed historical data records. Before coming to UIC, Suban graduated from the University of Minnesota Twin Cities with a B.A. in Political Science with a minor in Geographic Information Systems. Her interests include transportation equity, affordable housing, and community development.

Pronouns: She/her

Justin Bologna, Research Assistant Heading link

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Justin is a Master of Urban Planning and Policy student at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). His focus is on housing justice and equitable economic development. He is interested in how community interests can be upheld when urban space is increasingly controlled by global finance capital and corporate interests. Justin earned a B.A. with honors in Environmental & Urban Studies, Public Policy, and Geography from the University of Chicago in 2022. His previous role was an internship with the Metropolitan Planning Council and Civic Projects Architecture.

Pronouns: He/him

Joshua Drucker (Faculty Affiliate Advisor) Heading link

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Joshua Drucker is an Associate Professor of Urban Planning and Policy at the University of Illinois at Chicago. His research interests center around processes of regional economic development and transformation. Recent research efforts include examining the role of industrial competition within regional economies, analyzing the contributions of anchor institutions to economic performance and resilience, and investigating innovation districts as an urban economic development strategy. With the Voorhees Center, Drucker has engaged in research and technical assistance projects for the Office of Economic Adjustment of the U.S. Department of Defense, the Economic Development Administration, and NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center. Drucker has worked as an economic development consultant and researcher for the Technology Partnership Practice of the Battelle Memorial Institute, the North Carolina Department of Commerce, and the Southern Growth Policies Board.

Pronouns: He/him