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.
George Abbott leads the Knight Cities Challenge, an annual $5m call for ideas to make the 26 cities that Knight Foundation invests in more vibrant places to live and work. Abbott is also currently serving as Knight’s program director in St. Paul, Minn. Abbott previously worked in creative placemaking and political campaigns.
Scott Allen is the Vice President of Design and Development for the family and private investment office of Zhang Xin and Pan Shiyi (Soho China). Through a series of award winning projects and publications Scott has developed an international reputation for work that challenge the status quo pushing for new limits in design and innovation. His experience spans over fifty million square feet of new construction and has won over two dozen global design distinctions. He has spoken at events hosted by TEDx, The World Architecture Festival and the American Institute of Architect’s National convention to name a few.
Stonly Baptiste is co-founder and principal at Urban.Us, the venture fund for startups that make cities better. Stonly also helped create and teach the first Urban focused Entrepreneurship course at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. Stonly previously founded 5 companies, speaks 3 languages, and programs in 2.
Dana is an experienced community development and housing professional, currently serving as Vice President for Citi Inclusive Finance. Prior, she worked as a Program Specialist for the DC Department of Housing and Community Development. She has a Master of Science in Public Policy and Management from Carnegie Mellon University, and a B.A. in Political Science from University of Delaware.
Matt is an Urbanist, Designer, and Lecturer. He is passionate about creating sustainable urbanism[s] in both practice and research. Matt is a Senior Urban Designer at Washington University in Saint Louis where he focuses on projects that engage civic and institutional partnerships in the St. Louis region. As a lecturer, Matt lectures in the Urban Design Graduate program at the Sam Fox School and Brown School of Social Work on sustainability, informality, and community development. Previous to WashU, Matt worked in the private sector as a Designer and Planner in St. Louis, New York City, San Francisco, and Charlottesville. Most recently, Matt was the project manager for one of the winning designs in the Van Alan Changing Course International Design Competition.
Architect and urban planner with 16 years’ experience in governmental institutions at local and national levels, especially in housing and urban development public policies, governance, strategic planning, social inclusion and citizen participation; more than 5 years of international experience (UK, Latin American and the Caribbean), including an UN agency, with specific interdisciplinary skills, working with heterogeneous teams in the most diverse environments and cultures. Currently working as Project Director for the Urban Development Strategic Plan of the Metropolitan Area of Rio de Janeiro.
Tre Borden is Principal of the placemaking and creative consultancy Tre Borden / Co. His team curates events, public art projects, community-based programming and space activations with an eye towards equity and engagement.
A planner and former diplomat, Raabia serves as an Innovation Program Manager at the U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development where she advances international and philanthropic partnerships to create sustainable and equitable communities. Previously, she led a federal place-based team to launch the White House Strong Cities, Strong Communities (SC2) Initiative engagement Macon-Bibb County, GA and support community goals through cross-sectoral and interagency collaboration.
Straddling domestic and international work, Jackie designs strategy and acts as the coordinator of Ford’s New York City and New Orleans grant portfolios and also supports the foundation’s engagement in the UN SDG and Habitat III processes. She speaks Spanish and holds an MUP in International Development from NYU.
Howard Conyers works to increase minority participation in STEM education, historic home ownership & preservation, and southern food history preservation. These activities are a dichotomy from his career as an engineer with NASA. Howard holds a BS in Bioenvironmental Engineering and MS/PhD in Mechanical Engineering.
Gerald S. Dickinson is a law professor and lawyer focusing his advocacy and writing on the intersection between constitutional property, land use law, housing and urban development. A former Fulbright Scholar, he advocated on behalf of inner-city squatters in unlawful removals in South Africa and, while practicing at Reed Smith LLP in Pittsburgh, he founded and coordinated the firm’s Housing Rights Project representing indigent tenants in eviction proceedings.
Ifeoma Ebo is an experienced Urban Designer, Strategist and Founding Director of Creative Urban Alchemy where she consults on equitable design and sustainable development strategy for city governments and civic institutions internationally. The diversity of her 20-year career emphasizes a commitment to social justice and design excellence. She has held leadership roles in NYC government striving to advance a more equitable city through housing, open space and neighborhood development. She serves on Advisory Boards for the Mayor of Helsingborg, Sweden H22 Smart City Initiative, Association for Community Design and the BlackSpace Urbanist Collective. She serves as an Adjunct Professor at Syracuse University and Columbia University GSAPP. Ifeoma holds a Bachelor of Architecture from Cornell University and a Master in City Design and Development from MIT.
As a specialist in urban revitalization and real estate development, Julie Favreau leverage real estate and urban planning to create shared value that benefits citizens, businesses, and cities alike. Her goal is to transform the way we live together through real estate. With her background as a lawyer and in strategic management, she currently works as a project manager at Société d’habitation et de développement de Montréal, a non-profit para-municipal corporation devoted to social and economic revitalization.
Taz George is committed to developing public policies that support sustainable access to credit in underserved communities, especially for affordable housing. A native of Baltimore, he recently joined the Community Development and Policy Studies division of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago as a research analyst.
Crystal German works with communities to develop innovative solutions to support women and people of color as assets for healthy sustainable communities. Her career spans finance, economic development, and inclusion positions within private and public sectors. In 2014, her work building a national minority business development program earned her the distinction as a BALLE fellow.
Ingrid Haftel manages Community Education programs at the Center for Urban Pedagogy (CUP), a Brooklyn-based nonprofit that uses design and art to increase meaningful civic engagement, particularly among historically underrepresented communities. Before joining CUP, Ingrid was Curator of Exhibitions at the Chicago Architecture Foundation, where she developed creative public projects on urban planning and design.
A third generation Angeleno and proud Spelman College alumna, Gabrielle “Gabie” Horton is an outspoken advocate for urban communities of color. As a Rackham Merit Fellow, she is currently pursuing a Master in Public Policy (MPP.) at the University Michigan – Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy. Gabrielle is passionate about the intersection of public policy, storytelling and urban communities of color, with her most recent research focused on the juvenile/criminal justice systems and Detroit’s restaurant industry. Prior to graduate school, she worked at the nexus of community organizing and politics, most notably on President Obama’s re-election campaign and inauguration, Cory Booker’s U.S. Senate campaign, and in the Office of Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.
Adele leverages her interdisciplinary background as architect, green building consultant, and public health professional to bring a health-based approach to green building design and climate change policy. Her consulting company, Biositu, LLC, uses spatial analysis of community health data to develop actionable recommendations tailored to their social and physical context.
Ms. Idemudia, a native from Detroit, holds a Masters of Planning from the USC and an undergraduate degree from the University of Michigan. She has multiple planning honors, including two APA Los Angeles Awards for her public outreach work with youth. Currently she works as a Planning Assistant with the City of Los Angeles.
Garrett is the Executive Director of the Open Architecture Collaborative and the Development and Operations Manager for Designing Justice Designing Spaces. He previously worked with Code for America coordinating the Peer Network and Fellowship programs. Trained as an architect in post Katrina New Orleans, Garrett strives to understand the holistic implications of design decisions and how our built environment comes together.
Laura is an urban planner with ten years of experience in development and activation of urban open space. She is currently the Executive Director of the Charles River Conservancy and previously held the positions of Associate Director of the Boston Waterfront Initiative for The Trustees of Reservations and the Director of Programs and Planning for the Rose Kennedy Greenway Conservancy.
Kindy is an experienced urban planner focused on building quality of life programs that ensure access, equity and excellence in government including workforce development, land use, open space and sustainability. Kindy recently launched an Apprenticeship Navigator program for a 10-county region in northeast Illinois to connect employers, education institutions and job seekers with resources to ensure access to high-skilled, high-paying jobs.
James Llamas is a transportation planner and engineer (PE) at Traffic Engineers, Inc. (TEI) in Houston where he works primarily on the firm’s transit, street, sidewalk, and bike planning and engineering projects. James also serves on the boards of directors of Houston Bike Share and the Midtown Management District.
Katharine leads an academic research center focused on advancing transformative mayoral leadership, catalyzing city/university partnerships and closing the gap between research and practice. She was a brand strategist and researcher for Fortune 500 companies, before serving as a mayoral advisor where she launched Boston’s citywide pay equity initiative, 100% Talent.
Rohit Malhotra is the Founder and Executive Director of the Center for Civic Innovation in Atlanta, his hometown city. His background is in social entrepreneurship, digital communications, open data and community organizing. Most recently, he served as an Ash Innovation Fellow in the White House Office of Management and Budget.
Danicia Malone is a lifelong student, embarking on her PhD to research the User-Experience of Race. Danicia’s work investigates the context of Race & Space – Growing Critical Cultural Capacity in the Built Environment.
She is a creative director, interaction designer and planner based in Indianapolis, IN. Daniciamonet.com
Raj Mankad is Editor of Cite: The Architecture + Design Review of Houston. His writing helped bring about the launch of Sunday Streets HTX and the planned integration of commuter bus systems from Houston to Galveston. He completed a PhD in Literature and Creative Writing from the University of Houston.
Steven D. Marcus is Building Commissioner at the City of Gary, Indiana, where he leads several initiatives addressing the plight of the urban community. He is program manager for the My Brothers Keeper-Gary Federal Initiative, Board Chair for the Gary Commission on the Social Status of Black Males, Fellow of the Indiana Democratic Party Emerging Leaders program, and currently holds position as President of the Urban League of NW Indiana Young Professionals. Steven holds an MA in Architecture from Hampton University.
David McGhee leads The Skillman Foundation’s youth development portfolio. Prior to joining the Foundation, McGhee served as congressional liaison for U.S. Representative Dan Kildee, and as a program director for Big Brothers Big Sisters. Born and raised in Flint, Michigan, David’s work with youth and communities and role as a thought-leader has been recognized across the state and beyond.
Alice Mizrachi is a New York based interdisciplinary artist and educator. Her work explores the interconnectedness of community through the lens of compassion and empathy. She has been commissioned as a mural and installation artist by nonprofits and private clients globally, and her paintings have been featured in galleries and museums.
Titus Moolathara is a Branch Manager at the Free Library of Philadelphia. He initiated the Free Library’s Prison & Reentry Services program that reaches out to incarcerated patrons, their children and families. He is passionate about engaging this vulnerable population with their neighborhood libraries to provide them with a range of critical programs and services based on the wealth of the neighborhood library resources.
Chelina Odbert is co-founder and Executive Director of the award-winning design and community development firm, Kounkuey Design Initiative. She leads urban and rural development projects in underserved communities throughout Africa and the US. Her research, writing, and practice focus on the intersection of participatory planning and design, and economic development. Chelina holds an MA in Urban Planning from Harvard University.
Chrishelle Palay is the Houston Co-Director at Texas Low Income Housing Information Service, where she provides fair housing policy expertise to local community organizations. She facilitates dialogue between various interests to address ongoing concerns in historically underserved communities. Chrishelle holds a Bachelors of Architecture from Prairie View A&M University and practiced architecture for 10 years prior to becoming a housing advocate.
Tara is founder and CEO of CTY, an urban data company. Prior to civic technology, Tara had previously worked in public health/urban design research, music media, and arts administration. She is also an organizer of Sloup, a monthly soup dinner that crowdfunds grassroots creative projects, one bowl of soup at a time.
artist in residence
Johnica Rivers is a writer, editor, and curator currently exploring creative projects in-residence at the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University. While at CDS, she is taking a deep dive into the peripatetic life of visual artist Elizabeth Catlett and the tradition of Black women’s travel. When she’s not in the stacks at Duke, she lives and works itinerantly between Los Angeles and her hometown of Fort Worth, Texas.
Colin Robertson is the director of communications and strategy for The Don Clark Group, an architect-led impact (re)development company in Reno, Nevada. He leads communications efforts related to academic and policy-based conversations and defines the company’s triple bottom line-oriented impact strategies. Colin was formerly the Curator of Education at the Nevada Museum of Art, and 2015 Vanguard Conference host committee member.
Molly is a Planning Manager for Salt Lake City’s Planning Division. Emerging from a background in environmental conservation, she believes that good urban design can inspire public life, cultivate ecological consciousness, and enliven the pedestrian experience. Utilizing meaningful public engagement techniques, her work is dedicated to connecting people to place.
Jim Sanders is the former Deputy Director of Operations for the City of Philadelphia’s public safety and community development platform under Mayor Michael Nutter. He has over 10 years of successful management and operational leadership in public and private sector entities.
Justin Scheid is Senior Advisor for Policy and Partnerships in the NYC Mayor’s Office of Strategic Partnerships. Justin previously served as Deputy Director for International and Philanthropic Innovation at HUD. Justin collaborates with philanthropy, nonprofits, and the private sector to generate lessons, evidence, best practices and partnerships for social impact, while seekin creative solutions to improve and scale outcomes.
Dr. John Joe Schlichtman is an urban sociologist who is motivated by the potential of equitable, just, and productive community development. His research has focused on understanding the dynamics of macro-level processes such as globalization and gentrification. His co-authored book GENTRIFIER (2017), according to CityLab, provides “tools and rules of engagement for deploying this…fully loaded and weaponized word.” He is currently developing a global ethnography with University of Minnesota Press. Follow him on Twitter at @JJSchlichtman.
S. Surface is Program Director at Design in Public, organizing the Seattle Design Festival and curating civic programs and exhibitions at the Center for Architecture and Design. Surface previously worked as an architect with super-interesting!, an organizer with Architecture for Humanity and Artist Studio Affordability Project, and a researcher with C-LAB and NetLab at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation.
Anjali Taneja is a family physician and DJ who is passionate about community based healing, shifting power in healthcare, and achieving collective liberation. She is the Executive Director of Casa de Salud — a culturally humble, anti-racist organization providing accessible integrative healthcare and advocacy in Albuquerque. She also works as an ER doctor at a rural hospital in Navajo Nation. She founded CureThis – an online platform for healing justice discussions, and was a founding member of the National Physicians Alliance.
Chris Valdez leads strategy and creative at Houston brand consultancy, Primer Grey where he and a team develop work with a people-first approach, helping to make words and Design solve human problems. Chris has most recently contributed work to campaigns for the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance and First Lady Michelle Obama, and works daily with entrepreneurs and leaders across a variety of industries and sectors. Chris is a Court-appointed Special Advocate working with youth in the care of the state of Texas. (photo credit: @LaurenMarek)
Matt is an Obama appointee in the U.S. Small Business Administration, where he serves as a Special Advisor in the Office of Investment and Innovation. He works on federal programs aimed at commercializing early-stage technology and fostering startup growth across the country. Prior to SBA, Matt worked for the City of New York where he managed city-wide programs focused on developing New York’s technology sector.