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Current Instructors

 Read about past instructors here. 
Core Session 1: Introduction to City Planning, April 14 
  • mindy watts

Mindy Watts, Principal, Interface Studio LLC

Mindy is a Principal at Interface Studio, a planning and urban design firm based in Philadelphia that has won national awards for excellence in grassroots initiatives and public outreach. In her 15 years at Interface, Mindy has worked on many Philadelphia projects ranging from citywide policy strategies to neighborhood and corridor plans, as well as research projects for community-driven advocacy efforts.

Her recent local projects include an update of the Philadelphia Land Bank's strategic plan, ongoing work with Philadelphia Parks and Recreation to develop Philadelphia’s first urban agriculture plan, a plan for a public art program along the Delaware River waterfront, and land use planning in the Grays Ferry neighborhood. With a background in printmaking, Mindy brings an artistic sensibility to her planning work and the graphic communication and public engagement that Interface Studio emphasizes. She taught a practice-based workshop for first-year city planning graduate students at the University of Pennsylvania School of Design for five years and serves on the board of The Village of Arts and Humanities in North Philadelphia.

  • headshot nicole

Nicole Ozdemir, Senior Planner, Philadelphia City Planning Commission

Nicole Ozdemir joined the Philadelphia City Planning Commission (PCPC) in 2014. At PCPC, she is a community-focused planner who concentrates her work efforts on public engagement and equitable development. Nicole is passionate about public service and strives to improve the lives of Philadelphians with her work. In her previous life, Nicole worked in the private sector, focusing on public engagement for capital infrastructure projects. She received a Bachelor’s degree in Urban Planning and Studies from SUNY University at Albany, and a Master’s degree in City and Regional Planning from University of Pennsylvania. Nicole enjoys exploring Philadelphia’s many small streets on foot, usually with her husband and their preschooler in tow.

Nicole Ozdemir is a community-focused urban planner who concentrates her work efforts on public engagement and equitable development. Nicole enjoys exploring Philadelphia’s many small streets on foot, usually with her husband and their preschooler in tow.

Ayse Unver, Community Planner, Philadelphia City Planning Commission

Ayse Unver is newly the district planner for the Lower Southwest District, and was formerly the South District planner and the RCO Coordinator at PCPC. Ayse’s goal as a district planner is to build strong relationships with constituents, community groups, political representatives and other city agencies, and to continually keep lines of communication open. Prior to PCPC, Ayse worked at the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society helping to green Philadelphia’s diverse neighborhoods. She received a Bachelor’s degree in Urban Studies from Vassar College, and a Master’s degree in City Planning from University of Pennsylvania. She is an avid walker, hiker, and traveler and welcomed a pandemic baby to her crew in late 2020. 

Core Session 2: Zoning - April 21
  • dojo

Donna J. Carney, Citizens Planning Institute Director, Philadelphia City Planning Commission

Donna is the founding Director of the Philadelphia Citizens Planning Institute, the education and outreach arm of the Philadelphia City Planning Commission.  She brings to this role years of project management and design experience as an architect specializing in historic preservation and sustainable design. Her goal is to guide the development of educational tools to empower communities of people within Philadelphia to learn, grow, and improve the quality of their neighborhoods.

Donna is a graduate of Fielding University’s Organization Management & Development program (MA), Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning & Preservation (MS Historic Preservation), New Jersey Institute of Technology College of Architecture & Design (MArch) and Iowa State University's College of Design (BA). She is a Certified Charrette Planner (National Charrette Institute, 2006) and a registered architect in the state of Pennsylvania. She was recognized by the Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Planning Association (APA) with its 2014 “Planning Leadership Award for Professional Planner”. She is a Board member of MALT (Mt Airy Learning Tree) and excited to help support neighbors teaching neighbors!

  • ian h

 Ian Hegarty, AICP, Community Planner, Philadelphia City Planning Commission

Ian Hegarty, AICP is a City Planner on the Legislative team at the Philadelphia City Planning Commission. He also serves as the District Planner for Upper Northwest Philadelphia, including Germantown, Mount Airy, Chestnut Hill. Ian was the lead author of the Philadelphia 2035 District Plan for these neighborhoods. He’s also led the revitalization of the corner bus stop plaza at Chelten Avenue and Greene Street. Prior to joining PCPC, Ian was a Community Planner for the New York City Department of City Planning. 

  • darnetta arce

Darnetta Arce, President, Wynnefield Residents Association, Citizen Planner

Darnetta Arce became the Executive Director for the Brewerytown Sharswood Community Civic Association (BSCCA) in October ​2015. As the Executive Director, Darnetta has made it a priority to serve the Brewerytown Sharswood section of Philadelphia. She has used her extensive background in social working, housing, volunteerism, consulting service and outreach to bring the Neighborhood Advisory Committee (NAC) Program to the people. The NAC program is funded by the City of Philadelphia through the Division of Housing and Community Development. Neighborhood Advisory Committee (NAC) organizations help residents learn about City programs that could benefit them. Darnetta is passionate about working with residents and especially seniors.  

Core Session 3: Real Estate Development: Understand & Influencing the Project Cycle  -April 28
  • mondlak head shot

John Mondlak, Deputy Director of Development Services, Office of Planning and Development

John Mondlak is the Deputy Director of Development Services in the City of Philadelphia’s Department of Planning and Development. The Development Services Division works with developers, government and institutions to understand the approval process for real estate development in the City of Philadelphia.

Before leading the Development Services Division in 2011, John worked for eleven years in the City of Philadelphia’s Solicitor’s Office.  While there, he was the Divisional Deputy City Solicitor for Real Estate & Economic Development where he regularly represented the Commerce Department in economic development projects, the Public Property Department in real estate transactions, the Streets Department in City Plan changes and right-of-way issues, and the Records Department in recording issues.  John also represented the Philadelphia City Planning Commission, the Art Commission, the Zoning Code Commission and other various departments, boards and commissions with real estate issues.

John periodically lectures law school graduates preparing for the bar examination and has taught as an adjunct professor at Peirce College in the areas of real estate, intellectual property, research and writing. Prior to joining the City, John practiced civil litigation in Philadelphia.  Before attending law school, John worked in telecom, printing and the service industry.  Most notably, John is the father to three young children and resides with them and his wife in the Fairmount section of Philadelphia.  John is also a founding member of the Philadelphia Ukulele Orchestra, where his musical genius is frequently overlooked.

  • angela steele

Angela Steele, Senior Project Manager, Stone Sherick Consulting Group, Citizen Planner

Angela Steele works on all phases of housing development including financial underwriting, funding applications, investor relations, entitlements, permits, construction administration, community engagement, and consultant management.  

Angela began her career in housing development as a Project Management Intern for Habitat for Humanity Greater San Francisco.  In this role she completed a draft design standard manual, developed a standard pro forma for financial analysis and conducted a study of the operational and financial inefficiencies of the volunteer construction model.  Angela went on to work for BRIDGE Housing Corporation as Project Manager. At BRIDGE, she worked on the refinancing of a portfolio property and construction administration for three occupied rehabs in the Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) conversion program. At NewCourtland Elder Services in Philadelphia, Angela closed $31MM in Low Income Housing Tax Credit deals and $37MM in New Market Tax Credit deals.

Angela was born and raised in northwestern New Jersey.  She received her BA in Cultural and Social Anthropology from Stanford University and her MBA from UC Berkeley Haas School of Business where she completed the Interdisciplinary Certificate in Real Estate.

  • kimberly washington

Kimberly Washington, Esq, Executive Director, Frankford Community Development Corporation; Board member, PACDC

Kimberly Washington, Esq. is Executive Director of Frankford Community Development Corporation, which is focused on providing residents with affordable housing resources, employment, and entrepreneurial opportunities.  Prior to joining Frankford CDC, she served as Community Engagement Coordinator for the Northeast EPIC Stakeholder Group, where she worked to addressed quality of life issues in Frankford through prevention-based programing, and as a Consultant for the Frankford Neighborhood Advisory Committee.  She has also served as attorney for children and families involved in the Philadelphia child welfare system and families involved in child custody and support matters. 

Kimberly was raised in the Frankford section of Philadelphia and is a proud graduate of Frankford High School.   She graduated with honors from Temple University’s Fox School of Business & Management and obtained her Juris Doctorate degree from Temple University’s Beasley School of Law.  She also serves as an at-large member of the PACDC Board and is a member of the Philadelphia Historical Commission.

Special Topic #1: Historic and Cultural Resources, May 5
  • maya thomas

Maya Thomas, Dox Thrash House Project

Maya Thomas Maya Thomas attended the University of Pennsylvania in 2016. While there she began researching the redevelopment of the Sharswood neighborhood and how it may impact the neighborhood. That work led to a five-year engagement with the Sharswood community to seek out new strategies that did not exclude grassroots community assets such as North Philly Peace Park and Historic resources like the Dox Thrash House. 

In 2021 the education Pavilion at the North Philly Peace Park will be constructed and The Dox Thrash House Project has entered into a deal with a local development firm to revitalize the historic home of African American artist Dox Thrash.  Maya is a Los Angeles native interested in the intersections of the built environment, the future, history, and art. 

  • shannon garrison

Shannon Garrison, Preservation Planner, Philadelphia Historical Commission

Shannon Garrison is a Preservation Planner at the Philadelphia Historical Commission where she oversees reviews of federally funded projects to assess their impact on historic properties. She also co-manages the department’s city-wide historic and cultural resources survey, which is in its initial planning stages, and set to launch in Summer of 2021. Prior to working for the City, Shannon consulted on various projects with the University of Pennsylvania and National Park Service. She graduated from the Citizens Planning Institute in Spring of 2017. 

Megan Cross Schmitt, Preservation Planner, Philadelphia Historical Commission

Megan Cross Schmitt has worked in the field of historic preservation for several different local governments. She joined the staff of the Philadelphia Historical Commission in 2017.  Megan is excited to help expand the work of the Historical Commission across all corners of the beautiful city of Philadelphia.

  • mandarano facultyphoto 2019 sml

Lynn Mandarano, PhD, Associate Professor, Planning and Community Development, Department of Architecture and Environmental Design, Tyler School of Art and Architecture, Temple University

Dr. Mandarano is an expert in community engagement and capacity building for collective action to address complex social and environmental concerns.  Her research explores how individuals to regional collaborative institutions develop capacities such as, knowledge, relationships, and political will to plan and implement projects that have positive long-term impacts. Her work in Philadelphia assists communities with capacity building and engages students through community-based service learning projects. 

She has conducted over $1,000,000 in externally funded research and has been published in leading planning journals including the, Journal of Planning Literature, Journal of Environmental Planning and Management, Journal of Planning, Education and Research, Local Environment, Planning Practice and Research, and Society and Natural Resources among others.

Prior to becoming a professor, Dr. Mandarano worked for more than 20 years as a professional consultant in the fields of environmental engineering and environmental policy for US municipal, county and state governments, private business, and international clients. In 1998, Mandarano started her own consulting practice, The Natural Resource, which is a certified as a woman-owned business enterprise in Pennsylvania and Philadelphia.

Special Topic #2:  Broad, Germantown and Erie, May 12
  • andrew simpson

Andrew Simpson, Transit Policy Planner, Office of Transportation, Infrastructure, and Sustainability (OTIS)

I grew up in Knoxville, Tennessee, before moving to Philadelphia for college in 2013. After falling in love with the city, I decided to stay and get my graduate degree in City Planning from Penn, with a focus on sustainable transportation. Today, my main job is to coordinate policy and planning work between the City, SEPTA, and other agencies. In addition, I manage projects such as the transformation of Broad, Germantown, and Erie. I was also the coauthor of the recently released "Philadelphia Transit Plan - A Vision for 2045".

  • ariel diliberto

Ariel Diliberto, City Planner, Philadelphia City Planning Commission

Ariel is a Citizen Planner (Spring 2012) who has worked as the city planner for the North District since June 2019. Prior to that, she was the CPI Program Manager for four years, and before that worked as a Neighborhood Advisory Committee (NAC) Manager, first at New Kensington CDC and second at People’s Emergency Center CDC. She has a BA in Urban Studies and Ecology from Vassar College. Outside of work, Ariel is a member of the Philadelphia Tenants Union, Philly Workers for Dignity, and Philly Socialists. She is an organizer with AFSCME Unity, a caucus in AFSCME Philadelphia (the municipal workers’ union) that is building solidarity across departments and job classes to fight for the changes needed for City workers and the city as a whole

  • alex smith

Alex Smith, Landscape Architect, Philadelphia City Planning Commission

Alex Smith has worked at the Department of Planning and Development for 7 years. As Art & Design Division’s landscape architect, Alex is drawn to the potential of spaces between buildings. He focuses on creating public spaces that are inviting, vibrant, and safe for everyone. Alex is the project manager on a number of community-based placemaking projects throughout several neighborhoods in the City. His role also includes project reviews for a series of regulatory processes including Civic Design Review, Art Commission, and Neighborhood Conservation Overlays. Alex lives in East Mt. Airy with his wife and puppy (Applesauce) and loves going on hikes along the Cresheim Creek on weekends!  

  • javier mojica

Javier, Mojica, Business Services Manager, Department of Commerce's Office of Business Services

Javier Mojica serves as the Bi-lingual (Spanish - English) Business Services Manager for the Philadelphia Department of Commerce's Office of Business Services.  Javier’s extensive experience delivers remarkable outcomes in economic and community development throughout the North Philadelphia Region, including zip codes 19121,19122,19124,19133, 19134 & 19140. 
The Office of Business Services is the gateway between small businesses and the City, providing vital resources to drive economic growth.  As the Business Services Manager, Javier connects business owners and entrepreneurs with services, programs and resources provided by the City of Philadelphia.

Javier enthusiastically supports economic development efforts throughout North Philadelphia, by applying both his professional and educational experience to foster positive economic opportunities.  

Community Representatives, TBD

Special Topic #3: Reducing Risk in Philadelphia, May 19
  • emma giardina

Emma Giardina, Hazard Planning Coordinator, Philadelphia Office of Emergency Management

As the Hazard Planning Coordinator for the Philadelphia Office of Emergency Management (OEM), Emma is responsible for working with a variety of city, state and federal partners to update and maintain the Philadelphia’s Hazard Mitigation Plan. She works with other City partners to identify and implement projects that reduce the City’s risk to hazards. Emma also serves as a Response Team Leader, supporting interagency coordination in the field and in Philadelphia’s Emergency Operation Center (EOC) during large incidents and disasters.

Emma was previously the Community Resilience Coordinator for OEM, focusing her efforts on building Philadelphia’s resilience to disasters at the neighborhood level and planning for community long term recovery. She worked with local organizations, faith-based organizations, businesses, and schools to build a network of resources for communities to prepare for and recover from emergencies.  Prior to joining OEM, Emma was a middle school science teacher and spent a considerable amount of time working at environmental education centers in the eastern Pennsylvania and southern New Jersey region. She holds a BS in Environmental Science and a BA in Education from Stockton University.

  • olivia gillison

Olivia N. Gillison, Community Preparedness Program Manager, Philadelphia Office of Emergency Management

Olivia is the Community Preparedness Program Manager for the Office of Emergency Management (OEM). She focuses on the ways in which communities foster relationships with the local City government and plan for potential disasters in their homes and neighborhoods. In this position she is responsible for coordinating a variety of special events and exhibits; developing and maintaining working relationships with the media, corporate sponsors, the public, and other key stakeholders. Olivia also represents OEM at conferences, community meetings, civic associations, other public meetings, and professional associations.  

Prior to joining OEM, Olivia was the Director of Constituent Services and Social Media in the City’s Office of Special Events (OSE). While in this role she facilitated the coordination and logistics for street festivals and community block parties; built and maintained the public information strategy and social media outreach program; and supported upper level supervisors with onsite event management before and during major events such as the 2015 World Meeting of Families, 2016 Democratic National Convention, 2017 NFL Draft, 2018 NFL Kickoff, and 2019 Kappa Conclave Philly Fest. 

Olivia received her undergraduate degree in Geography, Environmental Studies and Urban Planning from Ohio Wesleyan University, and received the Event Leadership Executive Certificate from Temple University School of Sport, Tourism and Hospitality Management. As a Philadelphia native, she resides in the Overbrook Hills (West Philadelphia) neighborhood.