Faculty, alumni and student achievements

Wilder School faculty produce outstanding scholarship, service, and leadership locally and nationally


Dean Susan T. Gooden, Ph.D., offered the keynote address at the 2022 Equity Summit hosted by the Journal of Social Equity and Public Administration (JSEPA) and the University of Virginia’s Frank Batten School of Leadership in Montpelier, Virginia, Oct. 6-8. The event featured contributing authors to the inaugural edition of JSEPA, a peer-reviewed, multidisciplinary, open-access journal sponsored by the American Society for Public Administration Section on Democracy and Social Justice, which is dedicated to “all issues related to social equity in the pursuit of public purposes.” Published twice a year, the first volume will appear in 2023. 

Benjamin Teresa, Ph.D., was promoted to the rank of associate with tenure in July. Teresa, who serves as assistant chair of the urban and regional planning program and co-director of the RVA Eviction Lab, a nationally recognized community-responsive research hub, was recognized by the Virginia Chapter of the American Planning Association for his dedication to community-engaged research and teaching in 2018. 

Wilder School alumni dominate VCU’s 10 Under 10 Awards

Three Wilder School alumni are among VCU’s 10 Under 10 this year. The awards program honors alumni who earned their first degree — undergraduate, graduate or professional — from the university within the past decade and who have made important contributions to their community and loyally supported the university.

Dhara Amin (M.S.’14/GPA, Ph.D.’19/GPA & Wilder Fellow) is a senior research analyst and coordinator of external research at the Virginia Department of Juvenile Justice, where she designs and evaluates supportive programs for youth and families involved in the juvenile justice system. In her spare time, Amin serves as an appointed member of the Institutional Review Board of the Virginia Department of Social Services helping to safeguard the rights of vulnerable populations who volunteer to participate in research.  

Curtis Brown (Cert.’09/GPA; MA’11/GPA) is a nationally recognized emergency management professional. His previous roles have included state coordinator for the Virginia Department of Emergency Management, deputy secretary of public safety and homeland security, regional emergency management administrator for the Hampton Roads Planning District Commission and professional staff on the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Homeland Security. Brown is the co-founder of the Institute for Diversity and Inclusion in Emergency Management (IDIEM), a data-driven nonprofit dedicated to increasing the diversity of emergency managers and the promotion of practices that improve disaster outcomes among vulnerable communities. He is a senior practitioner in residence at the Wilder School.  

Darrion Holloway, Esq. (B.S.’13/GPA), is an associate attorney at Shane Smith Law in Charlotte, North Carolina, where he represents clients in actions for personal injury and property damage. While at VCU, he served as president of the Theta Rho chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc. Following graduation, Holloway attended North Carolina Central University School of Law and graduated magna cum laude in 2017. He was admitted to the North Carolina Bar and began his legal career in Charlotte as an assistant public defender, representing indigent individuals who faced criminal charges in Mecklenburg County. As a public defender, he tried over 100 criminal trials and became an experienced litigator. 

Demetrios ‘Mitch’ Melis (BA’03/GPA; MPA’05; Cert’05/GPA) has been appointed the director of the Virginia Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation (DPOR). The agency issues professional credentials — licenses, certificates or registrations — through 18 regulatory boards serving more than 300,000 individuals and businesses. Melis, who served most recently as the director of regulatory compliance for the Virginia State Bar, has worked in the occupational licensing field for over 16 years. He is a 2011 alumnus of the Commonwealth Management Institute. 

Shelley Smith (B.S.’04/N; M.S.’05), a doctoral candidate in public policy and administration, has been appointed to the Virginia Health Workforce Development Authority (VHWDA) by Gov. Glenn Youngkin. Smith, an associate professor of nursing, will contribute her expertise in facilitating the development of a statewide health professions pipeline that educates and retains a diverse, culturally competent and geographically distributed workforce for all Virginians. Smith is an alumna of the Translational Research Fellows program. 

Shajuana Isom-Payne, Ph.D. (B.A.’98/H&S/M.Ed.’03/E, Ph.D.’22/E), assistant dean of student success, received the 2022 Outstanding Advocate for Academic Advising Award for Region 2. Presented by the National Academic Advising Association (NACADA), the award recognizes extraordinary commitment to student success among academic advisors and administrators in the Mid-Atlantic. Isom-Payne, who has served in her current role since 2018, was selected for her leadership in driving significant counseling and structural changes in advising at the Wilder School.

Keandra Davis, a doctoral candidate in public policy and administration, received an inaugural Kijakazi Research Fellowship with the National Academy for Social Insurance (NASI) this past summer. NASI is a Policy Think Tank centered around social insurance policy, with a strong focus on race and wealth inequality. The fellowship is named for Kilolo Kijakazi, an acting commissioner for the Social Security Administration. 

Bradley Corallo (MPA’17/GPA) is the co-author of a recent study that explores how enrollment in Medicaid changed during the pandemic and lays out the stakes for the impact of an expiration requirement that prevented states from disenrolling recipients. The report, “Fiscal and Enrollment Implications of Medicaid Continuous Coverage Requirement During and After the PHE Ends,” estimates between 5.3 million and 14.2 million Americans could lose coverage. Corallo is a senior policy analyst at the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation’s Program on Medicaid and the Uninsured (KPMU). He conducts quantitative analyses of Medicaid administrative data and assists on projects related to community health centers. 

Wilder School alumna Sesha Joi Moon heads U.S. House diversity office 

Sesha Joi Moon

Wilder School alumna Sesha Joi Moon, Ph.D. (B.A. ’02/H&S, M.S. ’08/GPA), has been named the director of the U.S. House of Representatives Office of Diversity and Inclusion. Moon, who served previously as the chief diversity officer and director of diversity, equity and inclusion at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, will lead the recruitment, retention and development of the House workforce and efforts to increase awareness of diversity issues among House staff. Congress established the nonpartisan, independent office in 2019. 

Moon is a native of Richmond, Virginia, and the co-creator of The JXN Project, a nonprofit dedicated to contextualizing the origin story of Jackson Ward, a National Historic Landmark District and early hub of Black entrepreneurship after the Emancipation. The project seeks to leverage historic preservation “through restorative truth-telling and redemptive storytelling in order to excavate, elevate, and educate.” (WC:136)

Plan-Off 2022: Wilder School Master of Urban and Regional Studies and Planning students envision the future of communities

Plan-Off finalists (left to right): Annie Weidhaas (Overall Best Plan Award), Charlie Wilson, Gabrielle Dean (Grand Prize) and Neal Friedman
Plan-Off finalists (left to right): Annie Weidhaas (Overall Best Plan Award), Charlie Wilson, Gabrielle Dean (Grand Prize) and Neal Friedman

More than a hundred students, faculty, planning professionals, and friends and family gathered for the 2022 Plan-Off annual competition for Master of Urban and Regional Planning students on May 1. A perennial favorite, the event featured second-year students pitching their solution to a real-world planning problem before a panel of professional planners. Finalists were selected in progressive presentation rounds coordinated by associate professors Meghan Gough and Ben Teresa. 

Gabrielle Dean won first place with her presentation, “Revitalization Strategies for Downtown Elkton, Virginia.” Dean, who hails from Elkton, focused her presentation on analyzing existing conditions and highlighted the need to mitigate business vacancies, adjust zoning codes to increase walkability and use placemaking strategies to create a sense of community. 

Other finalists: Charlie Wilson (“Growing Small: Design Overlay District Planning for Highland County and the Town of Monterey, Virginia”), Neal Friedman (“Bowling Green Main Street Revitalization Plan”) and Annie Weidhaas (“Northern Neck Economic Development Plan: Improving Regional Connectivity Within the Food Industry”), who received the Overall Best Plan Award. The event was made possible by the generous support of sponsors: HDAdvisors Partnership for Housing Affordability, Richmond Association of REALTORS, Kim Chen and Lory Markham.

More than a hundred students, faculty, planning professionals, and friends and family gathered for the 2022 Plan-Off annual competition for Master of Urban and Regional Planning students on May 1. A perennial favorite, the event featured second-year students pitching their solution to a real-world planning problem before a panel of professional planners. Finalists were selected in progressive presentation rounds coordinated by associate professors Meghan Gough and Ben Teresa. 

Gabrielle Dean won first place with her presentation, “Revitalization Strategies for Downtown Elkton, Virginia.” Dean, who hails from Elkton, focused her presentation on analyzing existing conditions and highlighted the need to mitigate business vacancies, adjust zoning codes to increase walkability and use placemaking strategies to create a sense of community. 

Other finalists: Charlie Wilson (“Growing Small: Design Overlay District Planning for Highland County and the Town of Monterey, Virginia”), Neal Friedman (“Bowling Green Main Street Revitalization Plan”) and Annie Weidhaas (“Northern Neck Economic Development Plan: Improving Regional Connectivity Within the Food Industry”), who received the Overall Best Plan Award. The event was made possible by the generous support of sponsors: HDAdvisors Partnership for Housing Affordability, Richmond Association of REALTORS, Kim Chen and Lory Markham.