Mission & History


URBAN aspires to create a community of scholars and change-makers who engage and explore big questions now emerging in cities–the future of governance and democracy, the role of markets, stewardship of nature and the environment and the role of race and identity in constructing communities, to name a few– and break through the barriers that have stymied collaborative problem solving. We aspire to learn across academic disciplines, across institutions, across geographies, and other boundaries that can limit the reach of important theoretical and policy breakthroughs, and to do so while helping legitimize an under-recognized and highly  promising path of scholarship and knowledge creation. We aspire to study  transformative models of local innovation in cities, both in the US and around the world. We hope to reinvigorate urban disciplines and create opportunities for creative and collaborative scholarship to be recognized and rewarded, judged on its contributions both to theory and to more vital, prosperous, and sustainable urban communities.

Read more URBAN’s mission and processes in the URBAN concept paper.


Honoring the Legacy of Marilyn Jacobs Gittell

Marilyn Jacobs Gittell (1931–2010), in whose memory URBAN was launched, was a scholar-activist from New York City fiercely committed to racial, gender, and educational justice, and especially known for her dedication to school decentralization. Joining with the black community’s school decentralization movement of the 1960s, Marilyn threw herself into one of the most polarizing and important matters of the day: New York City’s  “Ocean-Hill Brownsville controversy” – a Brooklyn-based social experiment that moved the control of neighborhood schools to the socially marginalized African American communities whom the schools purported to serve.

A small group of doctoral students in Critical Social/Personality Psychology at CUNY Graduate Center have been charged with the privilege of constructing the Marilyn Gittell Archive. They are working through boxes of materials from Marilyn’s life, as well as collecting both official records and everyday details “beyond the storage unit,” to create two, intersecting exhibitions – one digital, and one material – that honor Marilyn’s work as it speaks with/in the collective struggles and radical potentials of education in NYC – past and present.

Founding Members

  • Caitlin Cahill, Assistant Professor, Environmental Psychology, City University of New York and Assistant Professor, Urban Sociology, Kingsborough Community College
  • José Z. Calderón, Professor Emeritus of Sociology and Chicano/a-Latino/a Studies, Pitzer College
  • Cathy Cohen, David and Mary Winton Green Professor of Political Science and Chair, Department of Political Science, University of Chicago
  • Michael Dawson, John D. MacArthur Professor of Political Science and the College, University of Chicago
  • Ruth Wilson Gilmore, Professor of Geography, Doctoral Program in Earth and Environmental Sciences, City University of New York
  • Ross Gittell, Chancellor, Community College System of New Hampshire
  • Lani Guinier, Bennett Boskey Professor of Law, Harvard University
  • Lorlene Hoyt, Director of Programs and Research, Talloires Network, Tufts University
  • Kathe Newman, Associate Professor and Director, Ralph W. Voohees Center for Civic Engagement, Urban Planning, and Policy Development, Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy, Rutgers University
  • Beth Richie, Professor of African American Studies, Gender and Women’s Studies, Criminology, Law and Justice, and Sociology, Director, Institute for Research on Race and Public Policy, University of Illinois at Chicago
  • J. Phillip Thompson, Associate Professor, Department of Urban Studies and Planning, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Abel Valenzuela Jr., Chair, Professor of Chicana/o Studies, Urban Planning, University of California, Los Angeles
  • Mark R. Warren, Associate Professor, Department of Public Policy and Public Affairs, McCormack Graduate School, Graduate Program Director, University of Massachusetts Boston

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