Kreisman Graduate Fellows: 2019-2020

Meet the 2019-2020 class of the Kreisman Graduate Fellows Program, a cohort of University of Chicago graduate students from across fields of study who are committed to pursuing careers in housing research or practice. Read more about the Kreisman Initiative on Housing Law and Policy.

Jennifer Bisgaier

Jennifer Bisgaier

J.D., Law School

Jen Bisgaier is a law student focused on real estate and housing law. She is part of the University of Chicago Law School’s Housing Initiative Clinic and has taken coursework at the Law School pertaining to real estate transactions, state and local finance, land use, and the fourteenth amendment. In summer 2019, Jen worked as a summer associate in Goulston & Storrs’s DC office, where she performed numerous assignments for the firm’s real estate transactions and land use groups. The previous summer, she interned for the Poverty and Race Research Action Council, where she wrote a memo to support litigation strategies related to changes in HUD’s approach to disparate impact, supported an Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing assessment in Contra Costa County, and co-authored a research and advocacy guide on environmental justice. Jen currently performs foreclosure intake services for Chicago Volunteer Legal Services. She also enjoys traveling with fellow law students to learn about legal and housing issues in other parts of the country. This past spring break, she worked with public defenders in Knoxville, Tennessee. During her first year of law school at George Washington University, Jen spent part of her winter break volunteering in New Orleans with the housing unit of Southeast Louisiana Legal Services. Outside of her studies, Jen enjoys training for triathlons with UChicago’s triathlon club, doing yoga, listening to podcasts, trying new recipes of baked goods, and volunteering.

Laurel Chen

Laurel Chen

M.A., School of Social Service Administration

Laurel Chen is a Social Service Administration graduate student focused on affordable housing and neighborhood development. She is interested in community-driven decision making in urban planning and community-controlled housing models. Before attending graduate school, Laurel worked for Vermont Coalition to End Homelessness, focusing on a range of homelessness prevention strategies, including the expansion of affordable housing through a $37 million bond, the improvement of employment services for the homeless population, and the development of a statewide inventory of affordable housing units. During her first year of graduate school, Laurel interned with Lawyers’ Committee for Better Housing. Working in collaboration with attorneys and eviction court judges, Laurel was integral in the development of the city’s first Eviction Diversion Program, allowing tenants to access funding to prevent eviction. During the summer between her first and second year of graduate school, Laurel was awarded a Graduate Global Internship with the East Bay Permanent Real Estate Cooperative (EB PREC) in Oakland, CA. There, she immersed herself in learning and creating materials about EB PREC’s innovative housing model, which leverages community investment to purchase community-controlled housing. Laurel enjoys storytelling through film and writing. She has produced short videos, including one on the experiences of students of color in predominantly white schools.

Stephen Crano

Stephen Crano

M.P.P., Harris School of Public Policy

Stephen Crano is pursuing an M.P.P. at the Harris School of Public Policy with a focus on organizational management, data analytics, and public finance. Prior to attending Harris, Stephen worked as Director of Basic Needs Services at Community Action Network, a small nonprofit organization in Ann Arbor, Michigan. There, he managed multiple teams across a range of service areas, including after school programs, county-wide food distributions, and eviction prevention programs for residents of subsidized housing. Interested in working at the intersection of housing, social service delivery systems, and education, Stephen has been an AmeriCorps VISTA, Teach For America corps member, and an Education Pioneers Summer Fellow. In the latter position, he worked with Chicago-based Education Systems Center to build workforce development pipelines across Illinois, targeting high needs employment areas. As a Kreisman Fellow, Stephen is working on an independent study project examining accessibility to public resources for residents of Chicago Housing Authority properties. When he isn’t working on evidence-based policy solutions, Stephen is usually cooking, rock climbing, playing piano, or biking along Lake Michigan (weather permitting).

Bhargavi Ganesh

Bhargavi Ganesh

MS-CAPP, Harris School of Public Policy

Bhargavi Ganesh is a graduate student focused on understanding the impact of data and technology on housing outcomes for working families. This past summer, she interned at the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, within the Division of Consumer and Community Affairs. While at the Fed, she worked on projects in a number of policy areas, including student loans, housing, and fintech. At the University of Chicago, she has been applying statistical and machine learning methods, creating databases, and learning how to use data science to both highlight issues in public policy and build solutions to these problems. For example, last year, she worked with a team to build an affordable housing locator to help individuals with housing vouchers more easily find properties that accept these vouchers. In her machine learning class, she worked on a group project to predict recidivism in the state of North Carolina. Prior to joining the University of Chicago, she was a research analyst at the Urban Institute’s Housing Finance Policy Center, where she contributed research and data visualization on a number of projects related to minority and low-income housing outcomes and disparities. Outside of school and work, Bhargavi is a passionate musician and loves performing vocal concerts in a range of genres including Indian classical music, jazz, and soul.

Keyira D Jones

Keyira D Jones

M.A., School of Social Service Administration

Keyira Jones is a third-year graduate student at the University of Chicago’s School of Social Service Administration, with a concentration in Social Administration. Her interest is in using a clinical approach to policy and program development to promote population wellbeing. She has an academic focus on studying spirituality, resilience, and mental health among those most impacted by criminal justice and public benefits policies. She is trained in Trauma Informed Care from SSA and certified in Mental Health First Aid. Keyira is a full-time Research Specialist at the University of Chicago’s Center for HIV Elimination (CCHE), as well as a Quality Assurance intern there. In this capacity, she serves as a case manager and interventionist for various research projects. She is also responsible for conducting needs assessments, developing protocols/manuals, and central databases for CCHE’s data management team. Keyira has also developed and implemented a quality improvement project to understand barriers to transplant evaluation in UCMC’s Nephrology Clinic and there conducted research on enhancing communication and CKD (chronic kidney disease) outcomes. Keyira has volunteered as a Skilled Assessor to enroll various shelter residents in Chicago’s Coordinated Entry System. Currently, she is a member of the HIV Housing Task Force, a committee of service providers advocating for housing for people living with HIV or AIDS. For fun she likes reading books on dystopian societies, mental health, and esoteric spirituality.

Virginia Murillo

Virginia Murillo

M.P.P., Harris School of Public Policy

Virginia Murillo is a public policy graduate student at the Harris School of Public Policy focused on municipal finance, social policy and policy analysis. At Harris, Virginia serves as the Director of Finance for the Urban Policy Student Association and the Inter-Policy School Summit. Recently, she was a Community Development and Policy Studies Intern with the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, where she drafted a memo on policies for economically distressed areas in Cook County and researched opportunities for banks and non-profit hospitals to collaborate in community development activities. Prior to Harris, Virginia worked as a transportation planner for the Transportation Agency for Monterey County. There she administered the County’s bus funding programs, and she served as project manager for the development of a regional 28-mile trail. She was involved in the Women’s Transportation Seminar Monterey Bay Chapter and helped organize several professional events focused on the region’s transportation and affordable housing issues. Virginia is a first-generation college graduate, and now the first person in her family to be in a professional graduate program. She is passionate about urban planning, social policy and being a mentor for other first-generation students. She enjoys admiring Chicago’s architecture, and cooking for her family and friends.

Nicholas Olsen

Nicholas Olsen

M.P.P., Harris School of Public Policy

Nick Olsen is a Master of Public Policy Candidate at the University of Chicago Harris School focused on city and regional planning and housing affordability. His experience in housing policy began as an undergraduate at Vassar College, where he worked with the Hudson Valley activist organization Nobody Leaves Mid-Hudson, fighting foreclosures and organizing for increased utilities access. Following graduation, he served two consecutive terms as an AmeriCorps VISTA with NeighborWorks Blackstone River Valley, a non-profit community development corporation focused on affordable housing construction in northern Rhode Island. In the summer of 2019, he worked as an Executive Intern with the Housing Authority of Champaign County, working on Re-Entry housing for formerly incarcerated individuals, and as a Community Planning intern with Coles County Regional Planning and Development Commission, administering rehabilitation grants for low-income homeowners. He received a B.A. from Vassar College in Film Studies and continues to utilize his video production background to tell the stories of communities.

Seongjin Park

Seongjin Park

Ph.D. in Finance, Booth School of Business

Seongjin Park is a graduate student in the finance doctoral program at the Booth School of Business. Motivated by the Great Recession that started from the expansion of residential mortgage credits, his research focuses on housing market policies that prevent excessive mortgage-credit buildups and the housing market collapses. Seongjin’s most recent research studies unique natural experimental settings induced by the macroprudential policy in South Korea and identifies the causal impact of the regulation on growth in residential mortgage credits and house prices. He is currently interested in how macroprudential policy interacts with mortgage delinquency, homeownership, and housing speculation. Before attending the Chicago Booth, Seongjin received a master’s degree in economics from Duke University, where he broadened his interest in housing markets through advanced coursework and research assistantship. He also worked as a research professional at the Initiative on Global Markets and engaged in a wide range of research on household finance and consumption. The research includes mortgage credit and business cycles, fraudulent mortgage lending, gasoline consumption, and unemployment during the Great Recession. Seongjin is originally from South Korea. Beyond the academy, he is interested in the poverty transition and education of disadvantaged younger generations. He once served a non-profit institution in South Korea as a volunteer math teacher for middle and high school students who needed educational assistance and mentorship.

Grey Pierce

Grey Pierce

Ph.D. Program in Sociology

Grey Pierce is a doctoral student in the Department of Sociology at the University of Chicago. Grey’s primary focus is on aging, health, urban studies, and gender and sexuality. Stemming from earlier work in American history, built environment, and activism, his attention is drawn to work that combines both theoretical and applied realms. Grey’s most recent work focused on a study with clinicians to examine the impact of the built environment on clinical care for transgender populations in urban underserved settings. He is currently interested in the relationship between social networks, health, and issues related to aging. Prior to attending the University of Chicago, Grey received his undergraduate degree in history from Oberlin College. There he focused on the urban history of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) communities. As a college student he interned with the American Civil Liberties Union and Habitat for Humanity. In 2015, he earned a Master of Science in Historic Preservation from the University of Pennsylvania’s Weitzman School of Design. He wrote a thesis on the history and preservation of gay bathhouses. Working with the National Park Service, Pierce co-authored the second-ever LGBT related National Historic Landmark that was confirmed in 2016. Pierce’s volunteer work includes community projects related to the built environment. Grey also trains for mid-distance races with his wife and recently ventured into CrossFit.

Emma Sperry

Emma Sperry

J.D., Law School; M.P.P., Harris School of Public Policy

Emma Sperry is a law student and public policy graduate student focused on the ways in which the legal system can address social injustices caused by harmful environmental conditions. More specifically, Emma studies the ways in which environmental degradation from climate change, polluted water, air, and soil, and failing infrastructure, adversely and disproportionately affect low-income individuals. Before coming to the University of Chicago, Emma improved campus recycling and composting as an intern with the Indiana University Office of Sustainability. At the University of Chicago, Emma works in the Abrams Environmental Law Clinic at the Law School where she helps a group of individuals living on lead-contaminated property in a Superfund site advocate for the EPA to complete a more thorough cleanup of their properties. She also works with a nonprofit that aims to increase the prevalence of community solar programs in low-income communities in Detroit. In addition to her work in the clinic, Emma interned at the Natural Resources Defense Council where she wrote a policy memo on regulating pesticides and assisted with a public comment related to national energy policy and regulation. She also interned at the Shriver Center where she assisted with a housing eviction case and wrote a policy memo on the effect of traffic fines on low-income individuals in Chicago. In her spare time, Emma enjoys biking, playing the piano, and seeing comedy.

View the Kreisman Graduate Fellows brochure to learn more about the 2018-2019 class.