Smarter Cities: Leveraging Graduate Student Skills


The University of Chicago is in one of the largest cities in the country. Many of our graduate students and postdocs stay, make the city their home, and follow career paths that contribute to making Chicago an even greater place to live.  Postdocs, PhD and Masters students use their degrees and training to go on and become thought leaders and change makers across Chicago and in cities around the world. This panel explores those who connect, innovate, fund, and program for spatial, social, and technological change in Chicago.


Ana Ramic, Director of the Chicago Forum on Global Studies (MA'10, International Relations), joined the Chicago Council on Global Affairs in 2012 and is director of the Chicago Forum on Global Cities. Prior to joining The Chicago Council, she worked for the British Consulate in Chicago, the US Embassy in Athens, Greece, and the National Democratic Institute in Washington, DC, and Sarajevo, Bosnia. Ramic is a member of the board of directors of the American Southeast European Chamber of Commerce, the Ambassadors Board of the Chicago Children's Choir, and the junior board of the British American Business Council. She has a double BA in international studies and French language and literature from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana and a MA in international relations from the University of Chicago.

Marisa Novara (MS'11, Urban Planning, Istituto Politecnico di Milano; MA'00, SSA) directs the Metropolitan Planning Council's housing and community development work, and manages technical assistance and support to communities facing development challenges related to housing, transportation, environment and economic development. Prior to MPC, Marisa spent a year in Milan, Italy, completing her master’s degree in urban planning with a focus on international community development. Her studies were informed by years of work on the ground in Chicago, most recently as the senior project manager for Lawndale Christian Development Corporation. There, she directed more than $30 million in affordable rental and for-sale housing development in the North Lawndale neighborhood. She also worked in community development at the Steans Family Foundation and Carole Robertson Center for Learning. Marisa serves on the Community Development Committee of The Resurrection Project, the Public Policy Committee of the Urban Land Institute, was a 2014 Marshall Memorial Fellow and is in the 2016 class of Leadership Greater Chicago.

Moira Zellner (PhD'05, Urban and Regional Planning, University of Michigan) is an Associate Professor in the Department of Urban Planning and Policy and a research associate professor in the Institute for Environmental Science and Policy at the University of Illinois-Chicago. Having completed her undergraduate degree in ecology in Argentina, she pursued graduate studies in urban and regional planning and in complex systems at the University of Michigan. In her position at UIC, Dr. Zellner has served as Principal Investigator and Co-Investigator in interdisciplinary projects examining how specific policy, technological and behavioral factors influence the emergence and impacts of a range of complex environmental problems, where interaction effects make responsibilities and burdens unclear. Her research also examines the value of complexity-based modeling for participatory policy exploration and social learning with stakeholders and decision-makers. Dr. Zellner teaches a variety of workshops on complexity-based modelling of socio-ecological systems, for training of both scientists and decision-makers.

Tom Plagge, Co-Founder and Principal at The Impact Lab (PhD'09, Physics, University of California-Berkeley)  is a co-founder of The Impact Lab, a data analytics consulting and product development company for the social sector. He has worked with government, nonprofit, and NGO clients on analytics problems related to energy and sustainability, health, and economic development. He was previously a researcher at the University of Chicago's Center for Data Science and Public Policy, a mentor and co-organizer of the Data Science for Social Good summer fellowship, and a postdoc in the Department of Astronomy and Astrophysics.


Anne Dodge, Executive Director of UChicagoUrban (MCP, Urban Planning and Design, MIT) holds a Master's in City Planning from MIT (2006), where her master's thesis won the Ralph Adams Cram Award for the best thesis in the School of Architecture and Planning, and BA from Harvard with a joint concentration in Visual and Environmental Studies and History (1999).