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The Vanguard conference is a gathering of rising urban innovators working to make change in cities. Designed to bring together professionals working across disciplines and sectors, each Vanguard class includes policymakers and politicians, architects and urban planners, artists and mediamakers, all selected through a competitive application process. After more than a decade of Vanguard conferences, the Vanguards number more than 400. Learn more about Vanguards past and present on this page, where you can search for Vanguards and Vanguard alumni by discipline, geographic area and more. Find your next collaborator or just learn about these rising leaders.
Racheal Allen is an Operations Strategist who serves as COO for Marygrove Conservancy, a non-profit that stewards the 53-acre former Marygrove College in Detroit. Allen oversees P-20 partnerships, operations, external engagement, and programs. Allen is also CEO of Operations School, a firm that helps startups and nonprofits build operational capacity.
Elysse Delia Alvarado is passionate about building healthier and more equitable cities by leading thoughtful community outreach and engagement as well as creating strategic partnerships to further community impact. In her most recent role as Program Manager at the Trust for Public Land, she led community engagement for the “Cool Schools Community Parks” program which aims to increase park access by transforming schoolyards into public parks across Dallas, TX. She holds a BA in International Relations from UT Austin.
Vanessa’s aspiration is to serve her cultural community through the design of shared spaces and experiences. Being a part of the COLLABO Planning + Design team, Vanessa aims to continue being a community steward, building relationships and sharing experiences with communities to create sustainable and equitable change.
Dan Baisden is the Director of Neighborhood Planning and Activation for the City of Fort Wayne and facilitates neighborhood plans and projects. Prior to joining the City, he was a Main Street Director, and Public Art Manager, and spent twenty years in radio. He is also Chair of CNU Midwest.
Baldwin’s a brand creative director. His creative magic helped turn Motel 6 into an iconic brand and made Corona a #1import. Jimmy is also a top-40 Americana artist with three first round Grammy nominations. His song “Peace, Love, and Chicken Fried Steak” made him a part of Texas history.
Brian is a community development and sustainability professional with 14 years of experience working alongside neighborhood stakeholders to build relationships and strengthen communities.
Brian lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where he most recently worked with the City Planning Department’s Urban Design and Development Division. He is currently preparing to return to school, to pursue a Masters in Resilient and Sustainable Community from Prescott College, in Arizona.
Aaron is a community organizer and political consultant working at the intersections of housing, climate, and transportation policy and politics in his hometown of Portland, Oregon. He’s a co-founder of No More Freeways to oppose freeway expansions across the state of Oregon and most recently co-hosted the 2022 YIMBYtown conference.
Durell Coleman is the founder and CEO of DC Design, a social impact design consultancy that co-designs solutions to social problems alongside governments, foundations, non-profits, and the communities they serve. He has worked to reduce homelessness, develop new approaches to criminal justice reform, reimagine healthcare service models, and more.
Cinthia De La Rosa is a Senior Project Manager at Hester Street where she manages various public health, resiliency, and community engagement projects. She has over 10 years of public health and community engagement experience and is committed to working alongside low-income communities to create opportunities where people can thrive.
Margaret Decker is passionate about effective, accessible, and equity-focused government. In the Chicago Mayor’s Office, she works on projects related to land access and community development. Margaret holds a Master’s in Public Policy from the University of Chicago and a Bachelor’s in Engineering from the University of Michigan.
Nicole Eigbrett is a queer, Asian American adoptee and community organizer in the housing justice movement. She brings her experiences and passion for public service, progressive policy making, and radical organizing to build the collective power of working-class, BIPOC, and immigrant residents in Somerville, Massachusetts.
Proudly born and raised in San Bernardino, Chuy is an interdisciplinary urban planner with expertise in community economic development and environmental policy. He works across sectors managing applied research studies, stakeholder engagement processes, and technical assistance programs. He enjoys bringing folks together to uplift and advance community driven policy solutions.
Emma Freedman is the Community Impact Manager of the Camden Community Food Fund. Prior to this role she was working to support corner store owners in Camden to collectively purchase goods and services. Freedman works to strengthen the communities she works in through building connections between residents and stakeholders.
Philip is a civic engagement pro with passions for public art, outdoor recreation, and writing. As the City of Charlotte’s Neighborhood and Community Partnerships Manager, he oversees community grants, environmental programs, and leadership + training opportunities that equip residents to build successful lives. Philip graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill, where he majored in English and minored in Entrepreneurship. He earned a Master of Public Affairs at UNC-Greensboro, and he completed graduate coursework at Fuller Theological Seminary in Colorado Springs.
Ashley Garcia is the Regional Leasing & Marketing manager at local real estate property management firm BGPM and board president at Fund 17. Originally from New York City, Ashley believes real estate and community engagement are key factors to healthier cities for the livelihoods of our future generations.
Paul Gleye is a city planner specializing in historic preservation and urban design, with a focus on bringing vitality to city centers. In addition to his commitment to civic affairs in North Dakota, he is a professor of architecture at North Dakota State University and lives in downtown Fargo.
Andy Goddeeris is an attorney, urbanist, and lifelong Detroiter currently serving as Senior Policy Counsel to Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib. His work focuses on developing radical policy and supporting grassroots movements for social change and intersectional justice. He lives in Northwest Detroit with his partner and a whole bunch of cats.
Breyonne Golding is a senior city planner with the City of Minneapolis, passionate in helping marginalized communities envision and shape their neighborhoods over the past 10 years. She holds a Masters in City & Regional Planning (The Ohio State University) and Masters in Ecological Design (Conway School of Landscape Design).
Yonina is a Chicago native with over a decade of experience building strategies and institutional change management practices to mobilize underserved communities to improve their quality of life. Today, working in external relations, Yonina drives national business development objectives to establish new market presence and relationships that pave the way for corporate growth. Yonina’s principal goal is to drive strategic partnerships that honor local leadership and lived experiences for harmonious social and economic impact.
Brandon Greene is director of the racial and economic justice program at the ACLU of Northern California. In this capacity, Brandon provides programmatic vision and leadership for advancing racial and economic justice in the state.
Previously, Brandon managed the Civic Design Lab in Oakland and was an attorney and clinical supervisor at the East Bay Community Law Center, where he helped create and lead the decriminalization of poverty clinic.
Brandon has also worked as public defender in Contra Costa County and as a fellow at Public Advocates in San Francisco.
Brandon is a graduate of Boston University Law School, where he was a public interest scholar and Martin Luther King Social Justice Fellow.
Mike Grote is a real estate developer and registered architect in New Orleans, focusing on community development projects in the city and regionally. He is always striving to make the projects he works on equitable and anti-racist in their processes and outcomes. He also makes mean guacamole.
Originally from Nebraska with a background in Public Policy and Urban Placemaking, Gudenrath relocated to El Paso, Texas to run the El Paso Downtown Management District (DMD) $1 million budget and over a dozen full and part time staff.
He’s recognized as an Emerging Leader by the International Downtown Association.
The pleasure he has for the culinary arts started when he was young, by 2004 he formed an alliance with his brothers in the project that was Maria Chuchena. It was there that he developed a career in the culinary arts and naturally developed the tendency of leading the kitchen, a dream he had since he was young.
Oscar considers himself an empirical chef, even though his career started as a cook he decided that for his situation what contributed the most was traveling, going to workshops, taking courses, and specific themes which he wanted to develop, focusing on Mexican cuisine and its history.
Oscar is the Funder Chef of:
Flor de Nogal – Located in Juarez, Chihuahua. This has been the first and only restaurant in the city that forms part of the “Top 120 Restaurants in Mexico”, a list by Culinaria Mexicana/ Nespresso/ San Pellegrino. Flor de Nogal has formed part of this list for three years in a row 2017-2022
Taft-Diaz – Located in El Paso, Texas inside of the first boutique hotel of the city. This establishment works to shed light on the rooting of the border through its recipes.
He is also a founding partner of Cook Culinary Institute, which offers a 2 year technical career, approved by the SEP and a 4 year Degree Certification Program.
Taylor Holloway is a designer, architect, and educator who uses design-driven approaches to promote equity in the built environment. Her work is focused on developing new and radical uses of public space, advancing collective capacities for social impact, and championing the preservation of shared cultural legacies.
Taylor is the inaugural Manager of Programs and Audience Engagement for Prospect New Orleans, a contemporary art triennial that invites artists from around the globe to engage with New Orleans and raises the voices of artists who represent the Global South. Taylor is also an Organizer with Design As Protest, a 2019 ACD Fellow, an AIA Jason Pettigrew Memorial ARE Scholar, and the Founder of Public Design Agency.
Alex Horton born in Albuquerque; NM spent his time working to serve underserved communities. Supporting local initiatives to break down the barriers for entrepreneurs of color.
Laura Janka, architect and urban designer, has focused her professional and personal interests on civic space and creative planning processes, especially in Mexico City and São Paulo, with interscalar experiences involving public policies and social local initiatives.
Ersela Kripa is a registered architect and founding partner of AGENCY, a design and research practice leveraging spatial design and information to counteract forms of global and urban inequality. Located on the US–Mexico border, AGENCY develops methods to identify and subvert subperceptual urban and atmospheric events that violate human rights.
Stephany Lin is an urban planner focused on the role of anchor institutions in communities. At U3 Advisors, Stephany works with universities, foundations, and non-profits to advance mission-aligned real estate and community development strategies. She is passionate about aligning educational and neighborhood-based investments to support young people in our cities.
Allison is a licensed Architect, certified City Planner and urbanist at heart. Prior to joining Greater Cleveland Partnership, Allison was the Director of Planning and Development at the City of Euclid and a Project Manager in Cleveland, Pittsburgh and Shanghai, China. Allison is a graduate of Carnegie Mellon University.
Lizzie MacWillie is a Director at buildingcommunityWORKSHOP in Dallas, TX. She is an urban designer who works across project types. Recent work includes community engagement for the City of Dallas’ Cultural Plan; and El Sonido del Agua, an arts and advocacy project in the Rio Grande Valley.
Nidhi Madan is an architect and landscape architect based in New Delhi, India. Her current work in the public domain includes community-driven projects -streetscapes, parks and greenways, with a focus on accessibility, resource-consciousness and equity through nature-based solutions. She is also Director and Access Consultant at Samarthyam, National Centre for Accessible Environments.
Alec Martinez is a city planner and community organizer from Laredo, Texas. They are currently writing their thesis on the development of cooperatives in the context of climate change/migration at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. They work on community projects on the border and with development firm CoEverything.
Kasi has cultivated a career focused on activating people, activating spaces, and activating change. She practices landscape architecture to work with communities to build healthy neighborhoods and gathering places that inetgrate art, play and nature. She is passionate about shifting current development practices to be more equitable and resilient.
Aditi is a design consultant and urbanist with background architecture and planning. Aditi addresses
critical design related urban challenges for sustainable innovation. Aditi has advanced applied research capabilities with experience in designing tools to co-create people-based solutions embedded in social justice, inclusion, diversity, and economic equity.
Ivan Niño was born in El Paso, Texas. Currently, is a member of the TxDMV Title and Registration Division board, City of El Paso Museum and Cultural affairs board, Public Art committee, El Paso County Democratic Party, State Bar of Texas Paralegal Division, and the Texas Court Administration.
As Stantec’s behavioral health planner, Stephen is a proponent of “architect as advocate” for colleague, client, and community alike, and he believes strongly in leadership through service. Conducting design research and developing best practices in collaboration with stakeholders helps drive positive patient outcomes and advance behavioral health treatment through design.
Nydia has held various roles in government, consulting, and advocacy focused on financing affordable housing for low-income families or working with housing providers to improve the quality of their services and the housing they provide. She is passionate about transforming formerly redlined neighborhoods and serving the families who live in them.
Born and raised abroad, Natalia is passionate about economic development and advocating for underserved communities. As a Program Officer at LISC, she is focused on supporting small businesses, managing funds focused on closing the racial wealth gap, supporting business support organizations, and creating more access within the Latinx community.
Ben is the Vice President, Director of Real Estate + Economic Development, for the Memphis Medical District Collaborative (MMDC), where he oversees a team and suite of tools and funds that rewrite the rules of community development. Prior to joining MMDC, he helped build, launch, and voice an equity crowdfunding platform with a focus on impact-oriented real estate, and served as the communications director for the Chicago chapter of the American Institute of Architects, and the Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU).
Anisha Steephen is a leader in community investing with experience in successful multi-sector partnerships that drive capital to build assets for low-wealth communities. They currently work in federal-level racial and economic justice policy. They are a first generation American.
Howard Tam is a Strategic Designer. He is the founder of ThinkFresh Group, a consultancy in Toronto, Canada that has helped urban organizations with their business strategies and models. Howard is also founder of Dragon Centre Stories, an urban heritage commemoration project for North America’s first indoor Chinese mall.
Jessica employs a transdisciplinary approach to her work, leveraging her expertise in policy, urban design, storytelling, and visual communication. After the birth of her daughter, she founded Storyboard, an independent planning and design practice that specializes in crafting strategic solutions and compelling narratives for complex urban issues.
Zen Trenholm is the Director of Employee Ownership Cities and Policy with the Democracy at Work Institute (DAWI), equipping cities with tools and support to build equitable economies through worker ownership. He informs state and federal employee ownership legislation and develops policy agendas, reports, and toolkits for lawmakers and advocates.
I’m Quinton Ward, a multidiscipline artist, designer, and connector. My passions and work is at the intersection of art, design, community, and relationship. I’m currently the Senior Manger of the MetroMarket at Operation Food Search a metro bus turned into a farmer market on wheels.