Master of Urban Planning and Development

Alumni Profiles


Alumni Profiles

 Watch Alumni share their stories.
Jason Russell - Van Aken District

 Jason's story
Jason Russell, an Ohio native, received a Master’s degree in Urban Planning, Design, and Development at Cleveland State University with a concentration in Neighborhood Development. Through his studies he has become an advocate for social equity and affordable housing. During his time at CSU, Jason served as president of the student chapter of the American Planning Association. Under his leadership, the group has increased membership from about 10 members to 30, while implementing new programs for greater community involvement, including an urban garden project at Jane Addams High School. In 2009, Jason was awarded the American Institute of Certified Planners Outstanding Student Award. Jason is committed to Northeast Ohio and revitalization of its older communities.

Gregory Soltis - Senior Designer/ Planner with RDL Architects

 Greg's story
Gregory earned a master’s degree in Urban Planning, Design, & Development from Cleveland State University in 2013. Throughout his education at Cleveland State University, he held a graduate assistantship for Dr. Mark Salling as a researcher, cartographer, and graphic designer at the Northern Ohio Data & Information Service (NODIS). In addition he worked on various other projects at CSU including “Linking Land Use and Ohio’s Waters: Best Local Land Use Practices”, a document produced for the State of Ohio by CSU’s Community Planning Program. He was honored as the 2013 American Institute of Certified Planners Outstanding Student, and also presented with the Wallace G. Teare Prize. Before attending CSU, Gregory worked as an architectural designer in Las Vegas and Washington, DC for TAL Studio, a leader in the world of hospitality design. After his return home to Cleveland he quickly became active in volunteer and advocacy work, furthering historic preservation, thoughtful planning and urban design.

Bryce Sylvester - Director of Planning and Development, City of Lakewood, OH

Bryce's story
"As a city planner in Lakewood I serve as Secretary to the Architectural Board of Review, work closely on the city’s housing and entrepreneurship initiatives, along with implementing the city’s bicycle master plan. In December 2011 I graduated from Cleveland State University’s Maxine Goodman Levin School of Urban Affairs with a Master’s in Urban Planning and Development. Recently, I helped lead a Residential Housing Survey in Lakewood to gain a better understanding of the state of housing in Lakewood, which will play a significant role in the city’s future planning and residential development. Additionally, I co-run Lakewood’s entrepreneurship organization Startup Lakewood, which is geared toward making Lakewood a more appealing place for entrepreneurs to build and grow ideas into legitimate businesses."

Alumni Bios

Karen Averell - Associate Development Project Manager, PIRHL)
“My coursework further developed my critical thinking skills and increased my knowledge of the neighborhoods of the City of Cleveland. As a development associate with The Coral Company, I manage multiple commercial and residential and development projects, and I research potential development projects.”

Hands-on learning is the predominant feature of the curriculum at the Maxine Goodman Levin School of Urban Affairs. Professors involve students in finding solutions to real problems faced by local agencies and governments.

Andrea BrunoAndrea Bruno - Real Estate Officer at the Cuyahoga County Land Reutilization Corporation

“Andrea Bruno serves as the Real Estate Officer at the Cuyahoga County Land Reutilization Corporation (CCLRC). Andrea analyzes potential real estate transactions and determines whether the proposed transactions are a good investment for the land bank consistent with its mission. Andrea reviews and assembles real estate transaction documents pertinent to a real estate transaction. Prior to her time at CCLRC, Andrea was the Director of Residential Real Estate at St Clair Superior Development Corporation. Andrea helped with the implementation of reutilization projects pertaining to vacant land and vacant housing reuse. Andrea sits on the Board of The Fair Housing Center for Rights and Research, the Western Reserve Community Development Corporation, and the Arts Commission for the City of Mentor. In 2012, Andrea completed her Master’s in Urban Planning, Design and Development at Cleveland State University. In the same year, she also completed her Master’s in Business Administration at Lake Erie College. Andrea received her Bachelors of Arts from Mount Union College in Business Administration in 2009.”

Chris Bongorno
I was able to make connections and grow my network of peers and professional contacts through the courses I took and the other various college events I attended. The ongoing research and interaction I had through the MUPDD program helped me to expand my areas of expertise and stay up-to-date on current issues and trends in the world of planning and development. 

I started working at University Circle Inc. (UCI), as an intern, during my second year in the MUPDD program and was eventually promoted to Director of Planning.  Nearly 10 years later, I still work with UCI on a regular basis, but now as a transportation planning consultant.  My work there, and in other parts of Ohio, is focused on multi-modal transportation, with an emphasis on pedestrian, bicycle and transit-oriented development.  I have been able to sustain many of the relationships I developed while at Levin and they have benefited my work and professional development ever since."

Christine Dersi Davis - Planner with APA Ohio
Chris Dersi Davis is the Executive Director of APA Ohio. Christine Dersi Davis received her Master’s degree in Urban Planning and Development at Cleveland State University with a concentration in Neighborhood Development with a strong interest in regionalism. During her graduate studies, Christine worked as a graduate assistant for the Center for Neighborhood Development at CSU, interned for ParkWorks, a local nonprofit, and served as membership chair of the student chapter of the American Planning Association (APA). She also served a national position with APA as the Region IV Student Representative Council Executive Member and was elected Treasurer/Secretary for the New Urbanism Division of APA. Christine was awarded the Wallace G. Teare Prize, an award presented to a graduating student by the Maxine Goodman Levin School of Urban Affairs. Christine completed her undergraduate work at Allegheny College in Meadville, Pennsylvania as an Environmental Studies major and attended high school at Saint Joseph Academy on the west side of Cleveland.
Sheri Dozier 1.jpgSheri Dozier - Cleveland Neighborhood Progress
Sheri Dozier joined Cleveland Neighborhood Progress as senior program officer in July 2011. As the Director of Economic Opportunity / Community Financial Centers, she oversees the implementation of asset-building strategies that improve the economic security and advance the economic mobility of Cleveland residents.

Dozier earned a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science at Central State University in Wilberforce, Ohio. Sheri went on to graduate school at Cleveland State University, completing a degree in Urban Planning Design and Development. She comes to Neighborhood Progress with infinite professional experience in community development with an emphasis on financial capability, workforce development, community engagement, and integrated service delivery.

She has held positions at Ohio City Near West (now Ohio City, Inc.), Greater Cleveland Partnership, Cleveland Housing Network and Famicos Foundation. Sheri is most proud of her work in Ohio City where she assisted in the creation of the Cuyahoga Community Land Trust Program, which created permanently affordable housing for income restricted households.  Dozier and her family reside in Shaker Heights, Ohio.  
Julia Ferguson - Sustainability Coordinator for Adams County 
Julia Ferguson graduated with a Masters of Urban Planning, Design and Development from the Maxine Goodman Levin School of Urban Affairs in May of 2010 and currently serves as the Sustainability Coordinator for Adams County. She previously worked as the Director of Green Corps at the Cleveland Botanical Garden. During her time at CSU Julia served as Secretary and later Vice President of the American Planning Association Student Chapter, Founder and President of Campus Net Impact, and Co-founder and Steering Committee member of the Campus Sustainability Coalition. Her interests in neighborhood development and sustainable planning initiatives have led her to continue to support programs related to environmentally, economically, and socially sustainable community development and education.

HeinenDeborah Heinen - Fellow at HafenCity University, Hamburg, Germany 
Deborah Heinen is currently working as a doctoral fellow at HafenCity University in Hamburg, Germany where she is examining how climate action plans are implemented regionally in the US and in Germany. Through her work experience, she brings a unique organizational development and policy perspective to urban issues.  Her semester abroad at Cleveland State University in Fall 2010 turned into a five year stay in Northeast Ohio with wonderful study and work experiences. While getting her Masters in Urban Planning, Design, and Development at the Maxine Goodman Levin School of Urban Affairs, she had the opportunity to work with Dr. Zingale and Dr. Liggett as a graduate assistant on several publications about shrinking cities. After graduating from CSU in 2013, she worked for Cuyahoga County Planning Commission on a complete streets toolkit for the 59 communities in the county. She has also worked as a regional planner for the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency (NOACA), where she helped facilitate moving the 12-county “Vibrant NEO 2040 – Framework Report” from plan to action. In her spare time she volunteered for Heights Bicycle Coalition promoting cycling in the Heights. Her current research interest in climate change mitigation, regional planning, and sustainable transportation funding policy has brought her to Hamburg, Germany. Her time in Cleveland will always be an important part of her life.

Joyce HuangJoyce Pan Huang - Director of Planning and Placemaking at MidTown Cleveland, Inc.
Joyce Pan Huang is the Director of Planning and Placemaking at MidTown Cleveland, Inc., an economic and community development organization that serves the area between downtown Cleveland and University Circle. In her role with MidTown, she is responsible for overseeing the urban planning, community development and placemaking efforts in the neighborhood.

Joyce holds a Master of Urban Planning, Design and Development from Cleveland State University’s Maxine Goodman Levin School of Urban Affairs and a B.S. in Sociology with a minor in Program in the Environment from the University of Michigan.  In 2017, Joyce received the AICP Outstanding Planning Student award.

Joyce is a transplant with roots in the Rochester, NY area. Since coming to Cleveland, she participated in The Cleveland Foundation’s Internship Program with a placement at the Cuyahoga Land Bank and contributed to CSU’s Center for Community Planning as a Graduate Assistant. She is the board secretary of an affordable housing initiative on the near west side called Nehemiah Collaborative, contributes to Cleveland’s Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) community’s civic engagement efforts and sits on the City of Cleveland’s East Region Design Review Advisory Committee.

Michelle Johnson - Senior Planner and Project Manager with Environmental Design Group
Michelle Johnson is a Senior Planner and Project Manager with Environmental Design Group, a planning, landscape architecture, engineering and design firm located in Akron and Cleveland. Ms. Johnson has a Masters Degree in Urban Planning, Design and Development from Cleveland State University and a Bachelor of Arts in Urban and Regional Planning and a Minor in Landscape Architecture from Miami University. Ms. Johnson’s prior work experience includes Continuing Planning & Sustainability Team Manager and Transportation Planner for NOACA, Planner and GIS Specialist positions for Butler County, Ohio, Planner for the New York City Department of City Planning, and private Planning Consultant in Cleveland, Ohio. Ms. Johnson has served on the APA Cleveland (American Planning Association) Executive Board since 2006, currently as the Vice-Director of programming, and is an active member of WTS (Women in Transportation Seminar). She lives next to the Cuyahoga Valley National Park with her husband Dan and two rescue dogs, Madison and Buddy.
Ann Klavora, AICP - Principal Planner for the City of Shaker Heights
Ann Klavora, AICP, is Principal Planner for the City of Shaker Heights, where she is project manager for long-term planning projects, primary grant writer and staff to the Landmark Commission. Prior to joining Shaker Heights, Ms. Klavora worked for the Summit County (Ohio) Planning Commission and D. B. Hartt, Inc., Planning and Development Consultants. She has been active in the American Planning Association (APA) for over 15 years, currently serving as President of the American Planning Association (APA) Ohio Board of Trustees and Immediate Past Director of the APA Cleveland Section.  Ms. Klavora received a Master of Urban Planning, Design and Development degree from the Maxine Goodman Levin School of Urban Affairs at Cleveland State University, and a bachelor's degree from the Miami University (OH) School of Interdisciplinary Studies.

Kelly La Rosa - Executive Director, Habitat for Humanity
“I went into the MUPD program with 10 years of local government experience, specifically in planning and zoning. Much of what I was exposed to as a student directly correlated with what I was doing on the job, which reinforces the fact that students learn the tools and framework necessary to be adequately prepared for the workforce.”

I wear multiple hats in my position as Supervisor for Residential and Housing Service at the Nord Center. The Nord Center is a comprehensive behavioral health care center with a 60-year history of providing services to persons with mental illness. One role is to coordinate housing for persons who have both a severe mental illness and are homeless through the Shelter Plus Care and Supportive Housing Programs of the McKinney Vento Act. I also direct the Housing Service Program of Lorain County (HSP), a program that the Nord Center has fiscal oversight of and is open to all residents in Lorain County. The HSP provides placement assistance for the homeless, emergency rental assistance for individuals and families experiencing a temporary inability to pay rent, and foreclosure loss mitigation. I oversee the homeless shelter liaison and peer mentor, who conduct mental health assessments at the day shelter, overnight shelter, and the 24-hour shelter in Lorain County. I am the Vice Chair of the Homeless Task Force of Lorain County, co-chair of the Continuum of Care Committee, board member of Lorain County Habitat for Humanity and Lorain County Furniture Bank, and a member of the Lorain County Foreclosure Task Force. I am also a licensed Realtor with Russell Real Estate Services in Amherst.”

Christina Lincoln (MUPDD, '12) is the Housing Rehab Program Manager at the Matt Urban Center in Buffalo, New York. She is also an Advisor to the National Trust for Historic Preservation, on the leadership team of Buffalo’s Young Preservationists and is the co-chair of the Fillmore Forward Design Committee. While living in Cleveland, she was a founding member of City Beautiful, a young professional organization in Cleveland that advocated for preservation and good design. More recently, she has published a chapter in the Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative’s Urban Infill: Historic Preservation edition, has spearheaded two buildings listed on the NYS Preservation League’s Seven to Save list, and wrote a successful nomination for the Chautauqua Amphitheater’s listing as a National Treasure. In July of 2018, she brought the Legacy City Preservation conference to Buffalo, a convening that began in Cleveland in 2014. Community advocates from across the country shared their ideas and innovative approaches to historic preservation in terms of equity, diversity, and sustainability.

Rachel OscarRachel Oscar -  Director of Programming and Community Engagement for Campus District, Inc., (CDI)
Campus District, Inc. is a non-profit, community development corporation (CDC), representing the eastern edge of Downtown Cleveland from E. 18th to E. 30th, north to the lake and south to Orange Ave (this includes CSU!). We are physically located in the Maxine Goodman Levin School of Urban Affairs building and partner with the Maxine Goodman Levin School of Urban Affairs and Cleveland State on a number of initiatives.

As the Director of Programming and Community Engagement, I work to build programming that improves the way our stakeholders experience the District and create connections between members of our community who probably wouldn't otherwise meet. A good example of this is the Bridge that Bridges--a community building and mural project that brings a cohort of fifteen stakeholders together to learn about race and equity in our neighborhood and then design a mural inspired by their shared experiences and conversations. The Bridge that Bridges is located at E. 22nd Street and Cedar Avenue. Read more about Rachel. »

Ricard PiiparinenRichey Piiparinen - Director of the Center for Population Dynamics
Richey Piiparinen (MUPDD, '12) is the Director of the Center for Population Dynamics at the Maxine Goodman Levin School of Urban Affairs at Cleveland State University. His research on economic restructuring, demographics, and psychosocial trends have been featured in numerous national media outlets, including NPR's Morning Edition, the Los Angeles Times, the Washington Post, the Atlantic, Forbes, and the Globe and Mail. His op-eds and essays have appeared in Cleveland Magazine, the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Crain's Cleveland, the Daily Beast, and the Atlantic. Richey is co-editor of Rust Belt Chic: A Cleveland Anthology. He was selected as one of Cleveland Magazine's "Most Interesting People" in 2014 and is a member of "Crain's 40 Under 40" class for 2015. Richey is a Cleveland native and resides in the city.

Arthur SchmidtArthur Schmidt IV - Senior Planner with OHM Advisors
Arthur Schmidt is a 2013 graduate of the Master’s in Urban Planning, Design & Development degree specializing in Urban Design. He also earned is Master’s Degree in Urban Design from Kent State University’s Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative in 2013. Arthur is currently a Senior Planner with OHM Advisors, an architecture, planning and engineering firm in their Cleveland office where he looks to bring a collaborative and placed based approach to each one of his project in community and transportation planning, urban design, public policy, zoning, economic development and public engagement. Prior to OHM, Arthur worked for the City of Cleveland Planning Commission as an Urban Designer and Planner, coordinating all streetscape related projects, managed for the city the NOACA Transportation for Livable Communities Initiative (TLCI), and was the administrator for both the Mayor’s Infrastructure and Streetscape Committee, and the Downtown Flats Design Review Committee. Additionally, he is a part time instructor at the Maxine Goodman Levin School of Urban Affairs at Cleveland State where he teaches an undergraduate Urban Studies course and serves on the Executive Committee of the Cleveland section of the American Planning Association as their Vice Director of Programming.

SheftonKhrys Shefton - Housing Development Manager for Famicos Foundation
Khrys Shefton is a 2013 graduate of the (MUPD) program with a specialization in Real Estate Development and Finance.  She is currently working as the Housing Development Manager for Famicos Foundation, a local community development corporation which serves the Glenville neighborhood in Cleveland, OH.  While attending CSU Khrys was able to hold an internship with Neighborhood Progress, Inc. (now Cleveland Neighborhood Progress) as well as participate in Urban Land Institute’s Gerald D. Hines’ Development Competition.  She currently serves on the executive team for the Cleveland Young Professional Senate, as well as having a seat on the Southeast Regional Design Review committee for the City of Cleveland, displaying her passion for the city not only through her day to day work but in her personal commitments.  Shefton holds degrees from Xavier University in Information Systems as well as a Master of Business Administration with a focus in entrepreneurship from Baldwin-Wallace University.  Before beginning her career in urban planning she worked for 11 years for Key Bank as a project and functional manager in information technology. While at Key she also obtained a Project Management Professional (PMP) certification.

Jeffrey Sugalski - Director, Real Estate Development at Burten, Bell, Carr Development, Inc.
“The College of Urban Affairs helped lay the foundation for me to become an effective young professional in the field of community development. Through my courses and employment at the College, I learned how to approach problems both creatively and analytically. My college experience also afforded me the opportunity to build a network of skilled professionals to support me in my current and future career endeavors.

Hands-on learning is the predominant feature of the curriculum at the Maxine Goodman Levin School of Urban Affairs. Professors involve students in finding solutions to real problems faced by local agencies and governments."

Hasani Wheat - Cuyahoga County Board of Elections
Hasani Wheat received a Master's degree in Urban Planning and Development at the Maxine Goodman Levin School of Urban Affairs along with a Graduate Certificate in Geographic Information Systems. During his time at Maxine Goodman Levin School of Urban Affairs, Hasani served as the Secretary of the student chapter of the American Planning Association, where he ran the social media outlets such as Twitter, Facebook and the CSU/APA website among other various responsibilities and interned at Policy Matters Ohio.In 2011, Hasani was awarded the Ohio APA Cleveland Section Scholarship. A long time resident of the Lee-Miles neighborhood in Cleveland, Hasani completed his undergraduate studies at Ohio Wesleyan University in Delaware, OH as a History, Urban Studies, and Geography triple major.