The Vanguard conference is a gathering of the top young 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.
Fallon is an educator, scholar and practitioner of resilience planning. Her recent appointments—Louisiana Landmarks Society trustee and UNO’s Chair of Historic Preservation—follow decades of teaching, researching and consulting on adaptive reuse of infrastructural heritage. She advances equitable reinvestment advising the public realm projects of cities, conservancies and communities.
Marc Asnis is an Urban Designer with the City of Portland’s Bureau of Planning and Sustainability. He advises on long-range strategic planning projects, focusing on ecological urbanism and telling the story of future cities using emerging forms of media. Marc is LEED accredited and holds degrees in Architecture from Washington University in St. Louis and University of Oregon.
Keith Benjamin is the Director of the Department of Traffic and Transportation for the city of Charleston, South Carolina. His work aims to co-empower a coalition of diverse partners to promote safe access for all modes of transportation, operate at the intersections of community, and unapologetically raise the banner of equity.
Derrick Braziel serves as a Founding Partner and Managing Director of MORTAR, an organization dedicated to helping under-represented entrepreneurs in Cincinnati. Derrick’s work has led to recognition from YES! Magazine, Next City, Politico, the Stanford Social Innovation Review and NBC Nightly News. He is an Echoing Green Fellow and was named to Forbes’ 30 under 30 list for Social Entrepreneurs and the Cincinnati Business Courier’s 2018 40 under 40 list..
Haley Burns leads Fund 17, a nonprofit transforming hustles into sustainable livelihoods. Since founding the organization in 2012, Haley has led multiple community research projects and designed a variety of programs all focused on empowering informal entrepreneurship in the seventeen wards of New Orleans.
Chase L. Cantrell is the executive director and founder of Building Community Value, a Detroit-based non-profit dedicated to implementing and facilitating real estate development projects in underserved Detroit neighborhoods. In collaboration with academic and community partners, Building Community Value serves as a catalyst for sustainable social and economic development that engages distressed communities in creating impactful, resident-led change.
Calli Cenizal is an advocate for sustainable mobility and equitable urban development. With seven years of experience in multimodal planning and transportation policy development, she currently works as the West Coast Transportation Policy Manager for Lyft. Previously, she worked for Nelson\Nygaard, helping cities and agencies advance creative transportation solutions.
Kelvin studied international development, started a charity FoodCycle in the UK that is in 34 cities, ran a social enterprise incubator and now is CEO of Good Lab, a service innovation training and project consultancy. After years in development, he sees integrated change with government is essential for our future.
Shani Christopher serves as the Director of Sales and Operations at EcoLogic Solutions, a green cleaning products manufacturer. She recently launched RePurpose Food Co., using rescued produce to create healthy, affordable baby food in New Orleans. Shani holds a BS in Biological Engineering and is passionate about sustainable, equitable development.
Jessa Ciel is an artist and filmmaker based in Sacramento, CA. Recent projects include directing the short film Like Home, and working on the Oscar-nominated film Lady Bird. Ciel holds an MFA in photography from Cranbrook Academy of Art, and a BA in Film from CSU Los Angeles.
Joseph is a native Angelino who attended Tulane University. At the Tulane School of Architecture, through leadership on campus and studying abroad in Barcelona, Joseph developed a love for urban design and community engagement. After graduating, he was hired at the New Orleans City Planning Commission – after meeting his then-future boss at a community forum.
Ujijji Davis, Brooklyn born, is a landscape architect and urban planner currently living in Detroit. There she focuses on landscape and urban design, master planning, and strategic implementation projects. Her current research regards the importance of arts & culture, race and vernacular landscapes in the urban realm.
Chase works on affordable housing, community development, and creative placemaking projects in Montgomery, Alabama. He is an entrepreneur and problem solver who develops and utilizes innovative financing strategies for low-income community revitalization. Chase is on ULI’s National Creative Placemaking working group and leads an ArtPlace America grantee organization.
Michael Ford is known as The Hip Hop Architect, explores architecture and urban planning through the lens of hip hop culture. Ford’s is the Design Director at BrandNu Design and his work has been featured in a variety of places including The TODAY Show, Rolling Stone, and ESPN’s The Undefeated.
Rachel Frierson is the director of programming for the Detroit RiverFront Conservancy, the non-profit organization responsible for developing the Detroit RiverWalk and the Dequindre Cut. Rachel oversees and implements the diverse program offerings that activate the Detroit Riverfront to create a world-class gathering space for three million visitors annually.
Born and raised in Los Angeles, Kristen Gordon is an urban planner committed to equitable development. She serves as an Economic Development Deputy for LA City Councilmember Marqueece Harris-Dawson. Ms. Gordon holds a B.A. in Urban Studies from UC Irvine and a Certificate in Real Estate from USC Ross.
Gia M. Hamilton is known for her visionary ability to identify and cultivate support systems. A cultural steward, design thinker, and applied anthropologist, Hamilton has spent the last two decades straddling the nonprofit world & corporate America, leveraging her expertise in resource-based economic strategy to move forward new models in capacity building and fundraising.
Darrell Hawks is executive director of Parks at Kimbro Station, an organization dedicated to enhancing and preserving outdoor space in Southeast Nashville for the health, recreation, and cultural enrichment of the community. He puts his business background to work developing and leading innovative programs and social enterprises that serve and empower others.
Ben Helphand is the Executive Director of NeighborSpace, a nonprofit land trust in Chicago that holds space for community stewarded gardens. He is also one of the originators of the Bloomingdale Trail a former rail embankment transformed into an elevated park. Originally from Oregon, he holds a degree in the history of religion from the University of Chicago.
Jasmine C. Humphries is a holistic community development specialist helping build communities from the inside-out and outside-in. Her work ranges from teaching yoga, youth leadership development, to urban planning advocacy and education. She is the founder of Voices In the Built Environment(ViBE), Heal ‘n Build, and the Cincinnati chapter of Red Bike & Green.
Steven is a local elected official in Caddo Parish, Louisiana and Community Healthcare Coordinator for a private community clinic. He is most passionate about creating sustainable policies that improve the socioeconomic plight of working and low-income individuals. Steven is a community health coordinator at David Raines Community Health Centers where he focuses on connecting uninsured and underserved populations to affordable primary care services. Most recently, Steven announced his bid to be mayor of his hometown Shreveport, La (www.electstevenjackson.com).
Grace Kyung is the Special Projects Director at Trailnet, an active living advocacy organization. She is passionate about developing and supporting community-based partnerships that work to eliminate racial and ethnic disparities in transportation. She is planning an interconnected multimodal network to connect minority neighborhoods to key St. Louis civic and community assets.
Jennifer Litwak serves as the Executive Director of Housing on Merit. At the helm of Housing on Merit, Ms. Litwak has successfully managed the closing of over $283 million in multifamily acquisitions and overseen the preservation and renovation of over 2,150 units of affordable housing in California and Washington, D.C.
In 2017, Ms. Litwak was profiled by the Daily Transcript’s Influential Women Report as one of the most influential women in San Diego County. In 2016, Ms. Litwak was chosen as one of the Top 100 Business Professionals in San Diego and in 2015 she was recognized as one of Real Estate Forum’s Fifty Under 40 in the commercial real estate industry.
She has a Bachelor of Arts from Wake Forest University, a Juris Doctor from the University of Denver Sturm College of Law, and is pursuing an Executive Certificate in Nonprofit Leadership from John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.
An award-winning arts manager, Bridget’s work blends her love of culture and cities together. She is the former Events Manager for the City of Hamilton, has held cultural programming and policy leadership positions with the cities of Toronto and Mississauga, is the past producer of the Toronto Fringe Festival and was recognized as a Top 40 Under 40 Hamilton Business Leader. She currently serves as the Vice-President of Festivals & Events Ontario and continues to work on major city-building events such as Nuit Blanche (Toronto).
Kim McKnight is an Environmental Conservation Program Manager for Austin’s Parks and Recreation Department. Her work includes Historic Preservation Planning and Cultural Resource Management. Current projects include the Seaholm Waterfront Redevelopment and the historic Brush Square Master Plan. Past work includes award-winning master plans for Austin’s municipal cemeteries and Pease Park.
Kristen Michaels is the Executive Director of the Congress of Neighboring Communities (CONNECT) which brings together the City of Pittsburgh and 43 surrounding communities to collaboratively address common policy issues. She’s the Co-Founder of For Good PGH which works to promote tolerance and inclusion and support underserved populations, and Free Store Wilkinsburg which serves neighbors in need.
Bethany Miller is a program officer for The Kresge Foundation’s Education Program which aims to increase college attainment in cities. Previously, she led evaluation at the Helios Education Foundation and held positions with MDRC and The American Council on Education. She has an MPA from Princeton University and a BA from Smith College.
Alexandra Mills is a proud former public school educator passionate about uplifting low-income communities of color. She is committed to serving the extraordinary city of Baltimore and works in partnership with schools and leaders across nonprofit and business to develop and implement initiatives that promote purposeful community and economic development.
Sarina Mohan is the Director of Education and Outreach at the Preservation Resource Center of New Orleans. She earned a Master of City and Regional Planning degree with a focus on Community Development from Rutgers University and has been working in the field of historic preservation for over a decade.
Rasheedah Phillips, Esq. is Managing Attorney of the Housing Unit at Community Legal Services of Philadelphia. A recipient of the 2017 NHLP Housing Justice Award and 2017 City & State PA 40 under 40 Rising Star award, Rasheedah is also the co-creator of The AfroFuturist Affair and Community Futures Lab projects.
Studied architecture in Puerto Rico and USA but obtained her PhD in Barcelona. Is the author of a book about participatory processes in the design and construction of collective housing. Works with participatory design and placemaking with the collective “Taller Creando Sin Encargos”, students of architecture and communities in Puerto Rico.
Sandra is a freight transportation planner and advocate. Having spent the last decade working for governmental agencies on solid waste management, emergency logistics and goods movement policies and project implementation, she now supports organizations as an independent consultant. Sandra earned a master’s degree in urban planning, reinforcing her passion for urban sustainability, resiliency and community involvement.
Mansi Sahu is the co-founder of StudioPOD, a multidisciplinary firm in Mumbai, specialized in city planning and urban design, that blends people-oriented design principles in creating community master plans, transportation planning studies, urban landscapes and sustainable architecture. Mansi’s strength lies in working collaboratively with local communities, city governments and stakeholders to create innovative planning strategies for complex urban issues.
Daphany Rose Sanchez is a New York native, who has been passionately working as an energy equity advocate for almost ten years. Daphany founded Kinetic Communities in 2017. Kinetic Communities is a New York social enterprise Benefit Corporation which advocates and implements strategic energy equity market transformations for diverse New York communities. By working with energy and affordable housing industry partners, Daphany connects, educates, and simplifies energy efficiency opportunities for under-served New Yorkers.
L. Anton Seals Jr., a South Shore Chicago native, is a strong cultural voice of his generation. Organizer, educator, community connector, filmmaker and entrepreneur. Anton’s work is dedicated to service and active engagement through the use of media arts, community organizing and empowerment to dismantle oppressive systems impacting divested and oppressed communities. Anton is co-founder and Lead Steward (Executive Director) of Grow Greater Englewood, a social enterprise focusing on building an equitable and resilient local food system that fosters protections of vacant land in divested communities and focuses on connecting those residents with collective community wealth building opportunities.
Rutledge Simmons is Executive Vice President, General Counsel/Secretary of NeighborWorks America, a national nonprofit providing technical and financial assistance to a network of community development organizations. He has served as Chair of an ABA Committee on Community Economic Development, a member of the ABA Commission on Homelessness and Poverty, and on the boards of nonprofits combating homelessness. He is interested in new ways to foster comprehensive community development via social enterprises and public/private partnerships. He is a graduate of Harvard University and Columbia Law School.
Peter Svarzbein is a photographer, curator and disruptive media specialist. Graduate of the renowned Eddie Adams Photojournalism Workshop, Svarzbein earned his MFA from the School of Visual Arts in New York. At SVA, Svarzbein created the El Paso Transnational Trolley Project. This self-created activist/artist project is the impetus for Svarzbein’s current public service. His work with community leaders resulted in TXDOT committing $97 million to construct a intracity trolley route and refurbish the original streetcars that ran between El Paso and Juarez.
Ebrahim is the President & Co-Founder of Patronicity. Based out of Detroit, he recognized a city filled with people passionate about growth, empowerment and change. He believes the cornerstone between a great idea and it coming to life is often times the funding, and started Patronicity as a civic crowdfunding platform to inspire growth and change through cities and towns, both urban and rural across Michigan and the country. Growing Patronicity to be more than just a civic crowdfunding platform, he has led Patronicity to change the way grants are administered and how communities come together to envision, build and create more sustainable and impactful project meaningful to them. Being an entrepreneur coupled with his passion for sustainable community development, he enjoys learning of great new initiatives happening around the country started by other entrepreneurs, innovators, artists, & activists.
Libby Wann is a member of the Future of Work team at the Ford Foundation. She is particularly interested in issues surrounding economic justice, food justice, and regional food systems. Prior to Ford, Libby worked at the Global Volunteer Network in New Zealand. Libby holds a master’s in Public Policy and a bachelor’s degree in Cultural Anthropology and Art.
Adrien A. Weibgen is a founder of, and staff attorney in, the Equitable Neighborhoods practice of the Community Development Project. CDP partners with directly impacted residents organizing to support the self-determination and thriving of low-income New Yorkers. Adrien previously worked at the ACLU Racial Justice Program and Race Forward.
Dan Winston is an entrepreneur and civic leader with a passion for transportation. He’s helped launch transit systems, co-founded a ridesharing startup, and currently leads business development for a tech startup making driving safer. When he’s not working, Dan’s a candidate for Commissioner in his DC neighborhood.
Flynn Zaiger is the Founder and CEO of Online Optimism, a digital marketing agency in New Orleans. Their team of twelve (9 employees + 3 paid interns) is all millennials. Flynn supports the entrepreneurial scene in the city, speaking about advertising, analytics, and the hectic life of managing a startup.