Meet the Researchers

Cathy J. Cohen

Principal Investigator/Founder

Cathy J. Cohen is the David and Mary Winton Green Professor of Political Science and former Chair of the Department of Political Science at the University of Chicago. She has served as the Deputy Provost for Graduate Education and is the Director of the Center for the Study of Race, Politics, and Culture. Cohen is the author of two books: Democracy Remixed: Black Youth and the Future of American Politics (Oxford University Press 2010) and The Boundaries of Blackness: AIDS and the Breakdown of Black Politics (University of Chicago Press 1999), and co-editor with Kathleen Jones and Joan Tronto of Women Transforming Politics: An Alternative Reader (New York University 1997).

Cathy’s work has been published in numerous journals and edited volumes including the American Political Science Review, GLQ, NOMOS, and Social Text. Her general field of specialization is American politics, although her research interests include African-American politics, women and politics, lesbian and gay politics, and social movements. She is also the founder and Director of the Black Youth Project.

Jonathan Lykes

Partnerships Lead

Jonathan Lykes is a Black queer artist, activist and academic. His interdisciplinary approach to art, activism and anti-oppression work, merges policy change, artistic expression and activism. Combining these forms of social transformation—and harnessing their synergy—Jonathan works to create awareness, promote personal healing, surmount institutional barriers and generate systemic change. Jonathan’s current position as Founder/Executive Director of Liberation House situates him to merge his multidisciplinary artistic background with public policy reform, community engagement and systems change work to teach liberation praxis by pushing the revolutionary edge of radical transformative movement work. Lykes is also a founding member of Black Youth Project 100 (BYP100), a movement of young adults using a Black Queer Feminist lens to advocate for community and institutional change. Jonathan is also the curator of BYP100’s freedom song and chant album, The Black Joy Experience, helping to teach holistic energy through the Black radical tradition. He earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Chicago, where he also received his master’s degree from the School for Social Service Administration.

Bianca DiGiovanni

Graduate Research Assistant

Bianca DiGiovanni is a PhD student of Political Science at the University of Chicago. Bianca’s interests include Race and Ethnic Politics, topics of incarceration, and game theoretic models. She is currently is focusing on models of plea-bargaining incorporating race and bail reform. Bianca received her BSE in Environmental Engineering from Princeton University.

For the GenForward Survey, Bianca works with the team on the production and analysis of our bimonthly surveys.

Vladimir Medenica

Research Consultant

Vladimir Medenica is Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science & International Relations and affiliated faculty member of the Center for Political Communication and the Program in Latin American and Iberian Studies at the University of Delaware. His work focuses broadly on the relationship between social identity and systemic inequities in political participation and representation in American politics and has appeared in peer-reviewed journals including Political Research Quarterly, The Journal of Race, Ethnicity, and Politics, and The Forum, as well as popular outlets like The Washington Post and The Hill. A native of San Diego, Vlad received dual B.A. degrees in Psychology and Political Science as a first-generation college student at the University of Southern California (USC) where he was first introduced to research as a McNair Scholar. He earned M.A. and Ph.D. in Politics and Social Policy from Princeton University.

Terri Smith

Pre-doctoral Scholar

Terri Smith is a PhD student in the Department of Political Science at the University of Chicago. She is also an APSA Minority Fellow. Terri received a BA in Political Science from Louisiana State University where she was a Ronald E. McNair Scholar.

Her research interests include Black politics, gender and sexuality, and social movements. Terri currently studies Black Queer Feminism — a political praxis within radical Black-led social movements — and the dynamics of power that exist within movement work and community organizing. In particular, she is interested in how Black Queer Feminist politics of care and accountability shape activist’s interaction with the state.

Prior to attending the University of Chicago, Terri was a scholar-activist who conducted research and community-based activism surrounding racial attitudes and state-sanctioned violence against Black and Brown communities. For GenForward, Terri is a pre-doctoral scholar for public-facing data and serves as the director of the Data Liberation project. Here, she bridges connections between the academy and activist communities by managing and conducting webinars, panel discussions, and seminars that think with community organizers about how they might operationalize GenForward data. The Data Liberation project seeks to prevent the use of data from being siloed within the academy and also to promote the use of data as a tool within liberation-focused movement work.

Jenn Jackson

Research Consultant

Jenn M. Jackson (they/them) is a queer androgynous Black woman, an abolitionist, a lover of all Black people, and an Assistant Professor at Syracuse University in the Department of Political Science. Jackson’s research is in Black Politics with a focus on group threat, gender and sexuality, political behavior, and social movements. Jackson is a columnist at Teen Vogue, the author of peer-reviewed articles at Public Culture, Politics, Groups, and Identities, and the Journal of Women, Politics, and Policy, and the author of several forthcoming book chapters on the intersections of race, gender, class, and politics. Jackson received their doctoral degree in Political Science at the University of Chicago in 2019.

Diane Wong

Research Consultant

Diane Wong is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science at Rutgers University, Newark. She holds a Ph.D. in American Politics and M.A. in Comparative Race, Ethnicity, and Immigration from the Department of Government at Cornell University. Her interests include American politics, Asian American activism, gender and sexuality, urban governance, comparative immigration, race and ethnicity, cultural and media studies, and community rooted research. As a first-generation Chinese American born, raised, and based in Flushing, Queens in New York City, her research is intimately tied to the Asian diaspora and urban immigrant experience. Her work has appeared in Urban Affairs Review, Women's Studies Quarterly, Amerasia Journal, Asian American Policy Review, and a variety of edited book volumes, journals, anthologies, podcasts, and exhibitions. Diane is a socially engaged artist and organizer, working closely with groups including CAAAV: Organizing Asian Communities, Chinatown Art Brigade, and Asian American Feminist Collective. She is co-founder of The W.O.W. Project, a youth-led initiative based out of Wing On Wo & Co. the oldest store in Manhattan's Chinatown that uses art activism to combat gentrification.

Laura Chen

Undergraduate Research Assistant

Laura Chen is a second year at the University of Chicago. She is a former Milgrom Education Impact Fellow planning to major in Public Policy and Biology. Before coming to Chicago, she went to school in Taipei, Taiwan. Laura currently assists with data visualization, memos, and more for GenForward.

Samhitha Krishnan

Researcher/Website Coordinator

Samhitha Krishnan is a researcher and writer based in Chicago, IL. She received an M.A. in Sociology from the University of Chicago, where her research focused on burnout and relational care frameworks for organizers of color involved in racial justice work. Samhitha is interested in the intersection of race, education and community-based organizing and currently works as the project manager of Crown School Beyond Schools Lab directed by Dr. Eve Ewing. She manages the website for the GenForward survey and works on various research projects including Reimagining Public Safety. Along with her research, Samhitha is involved in food justice and mutual aid projects across the city of Chicago.

Matt Nelsen

Postdoctoral Researcher

Matt Nelsen is Postdoctoral Scholar affiliated with the Department of Political Science and the GenForward Survey at the University of Chicago. He received his Ph.D. in political science from Northwestern University in June 2020. Matt's research examines how local-level institutions, especially schools and neighborhoods, act as microcosms of democracy and has been featured within Perspectives on Politics, Political Behavior, The Journal of Race, Ethnicity, and Politics, Psychological Inquiry, and the Washington Post. His forthcoming book explores the ways in which civic education courses shape the political attitudes and behaviors of high schoolers along the lines of race and ethnicity. More specifically, he finds that content and teaching practices that center the local knowledge and grassroots political action of marginalized groups have the ability to forge more empowering civic learning experiences for young people.

A native of St. Paul, Minnesota, Matt received dual bachelor's degrees in political science and Asian Studies as a first-generation college student at St. Olaf College and holds a M.A. in social sciences from the University of Chicago. He is also a lecturer in the School of Education and Social Policy at Northwestern University and teaches American Politics at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Patricia Posey

Research Consultant

Patricia Posey received her PhD in Political Science from the University of Pennsylvania in 2019 and a double BA in Political Science and Sociology from the University of Florida in 2013. Prior to joining the Political Science Department at the University of Chicago, Posey was a pre-doctoral fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and an Andrew W. Mellon Fellow in Digital Humanities at the University of Pennsylvania. Her research examines the relationship between American political economy and race, with a focus on the links among capitalism, urban space, technology, and political behavior. She is developing a manuscript that examines the effects of different banking and loan institutions on the political attitudes and political participation of marginalized communities. Posey is particularly interested in the effects of check cashing institutions, pay-day loan companies, pawn shops, and the like on the attitudes of poor, black, and brown communities toward the state.

Former Affiliates

Matthew Fowler

Postdoctoral Scholar

Matthew Fowler is a Postdoctoral Scholar at the University of Chicago. He received his Ph.D. in political science from Indiana University in August 2017. His research examines the politics of race and ethnicity, political polarization, and ideology in American politics. He has published articles in PS: Political Science & Politics, American Review of Politics, and Indiana Journal of Global Legal Studies.

Jon Rogowski

Research Consultant

Jon Rogowski is an associate professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Chicago. His research interests are in American politics, where he studies representation and accountability, political institutions, and American political history. Jon has written two books on the American presidency and published articles in journals including the American Political Science Review, American Journal of Political Science, Journal of Politics, British Journal of Political Science, and Presidential Studies Quarterly. Jon’s current research projects study the growth of bureaucratic institutions and the use of presidential power in the contemporary and historical periods. He regularly teaches undergraduate and graduate courses on presidential and congressional elections, the American presidency, executive branch politics, and research methods.
Jon received his Ph.D. in political science from the University of Chicago in 2012. Before returning to Chicago, he held faculty positions in the Department of Political Science at Washington University in St. Louis and the Department of Government at Harvard University.

Paola Del Toro

Research Assistant/Web Coordinator

Paola Del Toro graduated from the University of Chicago with a BA in English Language and Literature, focusing on contemporary US literature and culture. She graduated as a Mellon Mays Fellow and currently provides consultant work for the Fellowship at UChicago. Her academic interests include critical theory, media related to financial crises, and diaspora & race studies.

Paola manages GenForward’s website and social media, and assists with other writing, communication, and administrative duties.

Jordie Davies

Graduate Research Assistant

Jordie Davies is a doctoral candidate at the University of Chicago, studying American political behavior. She is a Pre-Doctoral Fellow at the GenForward Survey of Millennials.

Jordie’s research interests include Black politics, social movements, political participation, and political communication. Specifically, she focuses on the influence of social movements and new media on political attitudes and participation. For GenForward, Davies does work on the Movement for Black Lives and on the politics of racial redress (with Jenn Jackson and David Knight), considering millennial understandings of structural racism and potential forms of justice.

Davies received a BA in Political Science from Emory University, in Atlanta, GA, with a minor in Educational Studies.

Margaret Brower

Graduate Research Assistant

Margaret Brower is a PhD student studying American and Comparative politics at the University of Chicago. She is also a UChicago Urban fellow. She has a Master of Arts degree in higher education and public policy from the University of Michigan and a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science and education from Colgate University. Prior to joining the program at the University of Chicago, she led a series of qualitative and qualitative research projects at the the National Forum for Higher Education and the Public Good and the Institute for Higher Education and Democracy (IDHE) focused on urban challenges, participatory action, policy feedback, immigration, college student voting, and youth political development. At the University of Chicago, as a student and as a researcher for GenForward, she focuses on the political socialization of young people, especially youth of color, and the ways in which urban settings contextualize and shape this experience.

David J. Knight

Graduate Research Assistant

David J. Knight is a PhD student in the Department of Political Science at the University of Chicago. Before coming to Chicago, David was a certified high school teacher in San Francisco and Boston. This experience teaching and working in urban communities profoundly informs his research. David is particularly interested in demographic change, urban politics, intergroup coalition building, and the political lives of urban young people. A native of the New Orleans area, David received his AB in history from Dartmouth, trained as a teacher at Stanford, and began his research career as a master’s student at Harvard.

Urvi Kumbhat

Website Coordinator

Urvi Kumbhat holds a BA from the University of Chicago and is currently an MFA candidate in fiction at the Helen Zell Writers’ Program. Her work appears or is forthcoming in Lit Hub, The Margins, Poet Lore, Protean Magazine, and elsewhere. She is currently at work on a collection of short stories set in Calcutta, where she grew up.