Research Team

CERG Director
Roger Hart
Dr. Hart’s work focuses on the development of theory and research on children’s relationship to the physical environment. He has been particularly concerned with the application of research to the planning and design of children’s environments and to environmental education. In recent years, he has been more broadly concerned with developing theory, research and programs which foster the greater participation of young people in articulating their perspectives and concerns as a way of better fulfilling their rights.

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Research Associates & Affiliates
Ayşenur Ataman
Ayşenur is a Ph.D candidate in Human Development Program at the Graduate Center, CUNY and working as an adjunct instructor at College of Staten Island. She received both her B.A and M.A. from Ankara University in Turkey. Her research interests concern youth civic engagement and political participation among young people with an emphasis on how their development is influenced by their social interactions through different activities within different sociocultural contexts. Her interests gave her the opportunity to work as a research fellow in a cross-national research project entitled Processes Influencing Democratic Ownership and Participation (PIDOP). As part of the project, she worked with Roma youth in Turkey. That research experience brought her another chance to work on a narrative analysis project with Roma Pedagogical Assistants in Serbia with Colette Daiute. Currently she is especially interested in using narrative inquiry to examine variability in the development of children and young people as a function of their specific social, political and national contexts.
Sruthi Atmakur
Sruthi Atmakur hold a Bachelor’s degree in Architecture, a Master’s degree in Landscape Architecture, and is pursuing her Doctoral studies in the Environmental Psychology program at the Graduate Center, City University of New York. Working with Dr. Pamela Wridt, Ms. Atmakur is collaborating with local partners in India – TATA Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai and Shaishav, Bhavnagar – on the Child Friendly Places project. Her work with CERG has led to the development, implementation and evaluation of projects related to community development with a focus on the quality of the physical environment and social climate for children, youth and families. Projects in New York, Haiti and (currently) India have helped formulate Sruthi’s research interests in community development from a children’s rights perspective, urban ecologies of children in the Global South, and development of an ecological framework for children’s assessments and evaluation of their environments. Sruthi’s Second Year Doctoral Research focused on play environments of children with disabilities; and children’s participation in the creation of their inclusive play spaces.

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Lisa Babel
Lisa Babel received her Bachelor’s Degree from Hunter College, with a double major in Political Science and Sociology. As an undergrad, she conducted an independent study on the nation’s Head Start program, and carried out her research at the CUNY Graduate Center. There, she compared Head Start to Montessori preschools and the potential effect(s) various learning environments have on children and their families. She is finishing her Master’s Degree in Childhood and Youth Studies at the CUNY Graduate Center, with plans to pursue a Ph.D. Currently, her Master’s Thesis is on redshirting preschoolers in response to the increasing demands of kindergarten readiness. Areas of interest include universal preschool, the transition from home to preschool and/or kindergarten, as well as alternative schools of thought in today’s society. Her primary concern is children’s right to an education, and a good one at that. In the past, she has worked as a nanny, teaching assistant, and public school tutor for grades K-12.
Sheridan Bartlett
Sheridan Bartlett is a research associate at CERG and a visiting fellow at the International Institute for Environment and Development in London, where she is co-editor of the journal Environment and Urbanization. She works primarily in the area of early childhood education and on issues affecting children in the context of urban poverty in low income countries, attempting to bridge the gaps between the work of child-focused agencies and the broader development context. Recent work has involved research on violence, poverty and early childhood; a meta-review of research on early education; situation assessments on early childhood in Kyrgyzstan, Kenya and Afghanistan; and support to UNICEF on the development of an urban strategy. Publications include working papers, book chapters and contributions to journals such as Development in Practice, Children, Youth and Environments, Journal of the History of Childhood and Youth, Health Policy and Planning and the Merrill Palmer Quarterly.

Caitlin Cahill
Dr. Cahill is an Assistant Professor of Critical & Visual Studies at Pratt Institute. She does participatory action research with young people investigating the everyday intimate experiences of global urban restructuring, specifically as it concerns gentrification, immigration, and education.  Caitlin is interested in creating collective spaces for dialogue, creativity, knowledge production, critical research and action. Previously Caitlin has taught urban studies/planning, environmental psychology, and community development at the City University of New York and the University of Utah. In Salt Lake City, Utah she co-founded the Mestizo Arts & Activism Collective (with Matt Bradley and David Quijada), an intergenerational social justice think tank that engages young people as catalysts of change in a model integrating community-based collective research, arts and activism. Caitlin is on the advisory boards of the Public Science Project and the Centre for Social Justice and Community Action at Durham University, UK.

Bronwyn Cumbo
Bronwyn is a researcher, interaction designer and composer/sound artist who designs experiences to connect people in urban contexts to the natural world. She is currently a Visiting Scholar with the Children Environment’s Research Group (CERG) investigating how the participatory design of digital tools can support children play a more active role in shaping their urban experiences. This research is being conducted in collaboration with CERG members and partner organisations, and is supported through the Australian Government’s Endeavour Scholarship Program. Bronwyn is currently completing her PhD through the University of Technology Sydney. She holds a B. Environmental Science (Hons) from the University of New South Wales, and over the last 15 years has pursued her passion for environmental conservation through marine research, environmental education and interactive public sound art.

Marina Echegaray
Marina is trained as a lawyer from the University of Buenos Aires. She holds a Masters in Public Administration and Management from the University of Alcala, and a Masters in Parliamentary Law, Elections and Legislative Studies from the Complutense University with a major in Legislative Studies. Marina has worked as a lawyer representing children in legal proceedings in Argentina, and in communication and private partnerships for organizations such as Save the Children. Currently, Marina is a Ph.D. candidate in Law at the University of Alcala. She is especially interested in building partnerships to improve children’s quality of life, public policies intended to tackle inequities, and children’s democratic participation in government and media.
Scott Fisher
Scott Fisher holds a degree in Psychology from Presbyterian College in South Carolina and is currently a graduate student and researcher in the Environmental Psychology doctoral program at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. His research focuses on young people’s engagement in climate activism, with a particular focus on the routes/roots of engagement. His other interests center on the role and function of education in solving the multifaceted problems of climate change and on the political geographies of young climate activists. His research attempts to be participatory and emancipatory, with the purpose of translating research/theory into practice and practice into theory.

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Yvonne Hung
Dr. Hung received a B.Sc. in Psychology from McGill University (1996) and a Ph.D. in Environmental Psychology from City University of New York (2010). Her areas of specialization are youth geography, environmental education, social justice youth organizations, and community development. For the last ten years, she has accumulated experience conducting research, program evaluation and training with ethnically diverse young people, community groups and professionals in New York City and Los Angeles. Several of her projects have focused on how participation in improving their neighborhood affects young people's identity and sense of place. During graduate school, she worked to train faculty in writing across the curriculum pedagogy and was awarded the German Chancellor Fellowship from the Humboldt Foundation to study youth participation in Berlin. After completing her PhD, she worked as the Training and Evaluation Lead for the Institutional Review Board of a large healthcare organization in Southern California. She is currently back at McGill University as the Writing Centre's Graduate Program Coordinator where she develops and coordinates the courses, workshops and peer writing groups that strengthen scholarly communication skills for graduate students and postdocs.

Selim Iltus (1955 - 2015)
Dr. Selim Iltus passed away on July 12th, 2015, but his contributions to CERG over the years remain as critical components of our current work. Please follow the links below to read more about his impressive career.

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Aida Izadphanah
Dr. Izadpanah completed her PhD in Environmental Psychology at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York (CUNYGC). Her dissertation is entitled “Analysis of Visual Representation of Children’s Experience of War by Humanitarian Organizations”. She holds a Master’s degree in Urban Planning(2002, valedictorian), and a Bachelor’s in Theoretical Economics (1999), both from the University of Tehran in Iran. She authored a book in Farsi entitled Child, Play and City: Process, Principles and Criteria for Planning and Design of Children’s Play Spaces, published in 2004 by Shahrdariha Organization, Tehran. Since 2005 Aida has been a research associate with the Children’s Environment Research Group at CUNYGC. She taught from 2007-2009 in the Children’s Studies Department at Brooklyn College. In the summer of 2007, Aida interned for the Midday Workshops Committee-DPI/NGO 60th Annual Conference at the United Nations inNew York.
Cindi Katz
Dr. Katz is Professor of Geography in Environmental Psychology and Women’s Studies at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. Her work concerns social reproduction and the production of space, place and nature; children and the environment, and the consequences of global economic restructuring for everyday life. She has published widely on these themes as well as on social theory and the politics of knowledge in edited collections and in journals such as Society and Space, Social Text, Signs, Feminist Studies, Annals of the Association of American Geographers, Social Justice, and Antipode. She is the editor (with Janice Monk) of Full Circles: Geographies of Gender over the Life Course (Routledge 1993) and of Life’s Work: Geographies of Social Reproduction (with Sallie Marston and Katharyne Mitchell) (Blackwell 2004). She recently completed Growing up Global: Economic Restructuring and Children’s Everyday Lives with University of Minnesota Press in 2004.
Bijan Kimiagar
Dr. Kimiagar uses a critical and participatory approach to research and strengthen young people’s engagement in resolving global social and environmental injustices. He has collaborated on several CERG projects including directing the Article 15 Project Resource Kit development and research in Latin America, West and North Africa, South Asia, and Europe. He also co-directed the development of a blended learning course on Young Citizens' Score Cards, an inclusive, gender-sensitive, and child-centered approach to community score cards in partnership with Plan International and country offices in India and Benin. Through his work with CERG, he has also collaborated with partners at ECPAT International, Save the Children, UNICEF, and World Vision International on multiple topics related to children's rights, such as education in emergencies and children's participation in the governance of organizations that serve them.

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Eleanor Luken
Eleanor is currently a doctoral student in Environmental Psychology at the CUNY Graduate Center. Her current project is analyzing the material environment of preschool classrooms. Past research has included the study of playscapes, natural play environments, and implementing principles from Reggio Emilia pedagogy into a  preschool art studio. Eleanor was a founding member of the Nature Playscape Initiative in Ohio and was formerly the coordinator of research for the University of Cincinnati laboratory preschool.
Anupama Nallari
Dr. Nallari completed her doctorate in Environmental Psychology at the Graduate Center, City University of New York and is a CERG Research Associate.  Anu’s research interests include the design of play environments for early childhood and participatory research in international development.  Examples of her research include the evaluation of different methods for engaging children aged 5 and under in the design of play environments, and the participatory engagement of the community in urban redevelopment processes in the slums of India.
Claire O’Kane
Claire O’Kane is a child rights researcher and practitioner. She is a qualified social worker with a Masters in Applied Social Studies from Wales, UK. She has more than 18 years of international experience in child rights, children’s participation, association, citizenship, protection, care and peace building work in development and emergency contexts around the world. Claire worked with Save the Children for many years, but since early 2011 has beenworking as a freelance child rights consultant with the CERG and other child focused agencies. Claire is committed to rights based work to increase the care and protection of children from all forms of violence; and to empowering children and young people as active citizens to claim their human rights and to contribute to development and peace processes. She has written more than 40 publications (1998-2013) relating to child rights, children’s participation, children’s association, child protection, street and working children, and peace building.
Blair Osler
Blair Osler holds a Master’s Degree in Social Work from Columbia University where she specialized in the program development and evaluation of child and youth organizations, with an emphasis on participatory practice. Mrs. Osler has since immersed herself not only in participatory evaluation, but also in the field of the participatory rights of young people as outlined in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child as an Associate Project Director of the Article 15 Project. Her work centers around the participatory structures of groups and organizations self-managed by young people.
Martin Ruck
Dr. Ruck is an Associate Professor of Developmental Psychology at The Graduate Center, CUNY. His work examines the overall process of cognitive socialization – at the intersection of race, ethnicity and class – in terms of children’s and adolescents’ thinking about human rights, educational opportunity and social justice. Over the past few years he has been examining the influence of social contexts on the development of children’s and young people’s understanding of nurturance and self-determination rights. Currently, he is investigating how children’s perceptions of racial exclusion and discrimination are influenced by their social experiences and interpretations of rights and justice.
Kim Sabo-Flores
Dr. Sabo Flores recently joined the Thrive Foundation as Associate Director and has expertise in program evaluation, organizational development, and positive youth development. Dr. Flores has conducted international research and evaluation projects that focus on youth development, children’s rights, post conflict, protection, international development, and a variety of social issues. Specifically, she has worked with government, UN Agencies, and non government agencies to explore the implementation of strategies and impacts of the Convention on the Rights Of The Child. Kim has authored several books and publications on evaluation, and organizational learning and youth development. Kim has recently relocated to San Francisco from New York City and is soaking up the beauty of the Pacific Cost. She also loves speed skating with her husband, and working with and learning from young people.

Jennifer Tang
Jennifer Tang is a Ph.D. candidate in the Environmental Psychology program, working on issues related to the promotion of children’s participation and participatory democracy. She holds a Master’s Degree in Human Security and Peacebuilding from Royal Roads University in Canada. Currently, her work is focused on children’s participation in community and municipal level governance. Her areas of interest also include: children as democratic agents, promoting democracy through participatory governance, children in urban settings, tools/methods/technologies that democratize young people’s participation, and the development of structures and systems with children to promote their rights. Spurred by her work in East and West Africa, the challenge of working in ways that respect and support community-generated and contextually cognizant approaches and systems is integral to her approach.

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Reilly Bergin Wilson
Reilly Bergin Wilson is a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow in the Environmental Psychology doctoral program at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. She was awarded a Masters by Research with Distinction in Geography from the University of Leeds for her thesis, Who Owns the Playground: Space and Power at Lollard Adventure Playground (1954-1961), funded through a US-UK Fulbright Commission University of Leeds Partnership Award. She also holds an Honors B.A. in Geography from Temple University, for which she conducted funded research in Bosnia-Herzegovina on playground privatization. Currently, Reilly’s research interests include play environments built for/with children, social reproduction, childcare, children’s mobilities, the production of space, and geographies of the recent past.
Pamela Wridt
Dr. Wridt has a background in education, geography, and environmental psychology and served as Co-Director of CERG from 2005-2010 after instructing in the Department of Urban Planning & Design at the University of Colorado. For the last 15 years, she has developed and implemented numerous projects, programs and resources that focus on children’s rights and community development. Her research interests and areas of expertise include children’s participation, children’s geographies, community mapping, early childhood development, urban planning, and community development. She has directed or participated in child rights research and evaluation in emergency contexts in Haiti, Bangladesh and Angola and has managed global projects in over a dozen other countries on behalf of UNICEF.

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