robert-s-smith-bioRobert S. Smith, PhD

Dr. Robert S. Smith is the Director of the Center for Urban Research, Teaching & Outreach and Harry G. John Professor of History at Marquette University. His research and teaching interests include African American history, civil rights history, and exploring the intersections of race and law. Rob is the author of Black Liberation from Reconstruction to Black Lives Matter in the Debating American History Series, and Race, Labor & Civil Rights: Griggs v. Duke Power and the Struggle for Equal Employment Opportunity. Rob also serves on the Board of Curators for the Wisconsin Historical Society, is the Resident Historian for America’s Black Holocaust Museum, and is Chair of the Milwaukee County Human Rights Commission.

Angie Sandoval, MA

benjamin-linzy-bioBenjamin Linzy, ABD

Benjamin Linzy is the Senior Researcher at the Center for Urban Research, Teaching & Outreach at Marquette University. In this role, he assists the Director with CURTO’s primary research agendas. He also serves as the host and producer of CURTO Conversations, the Center’s podcast, and he is the Video Editor & Producer for the Institute for Women’s Leadership at Marquette University. His research through CURTO centers around the topics of community policing, white nationalism, and state violence. Ben works as the Program Coordinator for Humanities Without Walls (HWW) in support of the $1.3 Million HWW grant project at Marquette University jointly developed between the HWW Consortium based at the Humanities Research Institute at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and Marquette University. In his spare time, Ben volunteers as the Editor-in-Chief for the Milwaukee Turner’s The Owl newsletter. He received his MA in global history with an emphasis on Middle East North African history from Marquette University in 2017 and is currently finishing an MS in Criminal Justice at the University of Cincinnati. His pending dissertation is entitled, “By Badge, Bullet, and Baton: Police Use of Force in the Progressive Era.”



theresa-tobin-bioTheresa W. Tobin, PhD

Dr. Theresa W. Tobin is the Director of the Education Preparedness Program (EPP) at the Center for Urban Research, Teaching & Outreach and Associate Professor of Philosophy. She is also the Associate Dean for Student Development at Marquette University. Theresa's academic research focuses on contemporary ethics with a special focus on ethical questions that arise at the intersections of gender, sexuality, religion and culture. She has written articles on themes related to gender, moral trust, and the nature and moral significance of spiritual violence for Hypatia, Metaphilosophy, Social Theory and Practice, and Human Rights Review.

darren-wheelock-bioDarren Wheelock, PhD

Dr. Darren Wheelock is the Director for the McNeely Prison Education Consortium (MPEC) at the Center for Urban Research, Teaching & Outreach and a member of the EPP leadership team. He is also an Associate Professor of Criminology and Law Studies in the Department of Social and Cultural Sciences and the Director for the Criminal Justice Data Analytics MS program at Marquette University. Darren's research interests include examining the intersection of racial/ethnic inequality and criminal punishment, survey research methods, evaluating the effectiveness of "rehabilitative" criminal legal intervention for the reentry process, multi-level modeling, and censored and categorical dependent variables. He teaches classes on reentry; race, crime and punishment; and social statistics. 

shar-ron buie headshotShar-Ron Buie

Shar-Ron Buie serves as the Community Liaison for the Education Preparedness Program (EPP) at the Center for Urban Research, Teaching & Outreach. Shar-Ron is a member of the Board of Directors for the Federal Defender Service Board of the Eastern and Western District. He is a justice impacted 100% Service-Connected Veteran who has engaged in significant activities representing veterans and justice impacted persons in criminal and civil cases. He is also an author who has had three short stories published. Shar-Ron is pursuing an MA in Criminal Justice at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville. He holds a paralegal degree, an associates degree in Electronics, and a BS in Business Administration from UW Platteville. Shar-Ron also served with honor and distinction in the United States Marine Corps and in 2001, founded American Legion Post 1998 and served as its first elected Commander.

alex-gambacorta-bioAlexandra Gambacorta

Alexandra Gambacorta is a Teaching Assistant for the Education Preparedness Program (EPP) at the Center for Urban Research, Teaching & Outreach. In this role, she supports course management for the "inside" course, Creative Writing: Poetry. She is also conducting research on Trauma-Informed Pedagogy under the direction of Marisola Xhelili Ciaccio, the Associate Director of EPP. Alex is pursuing an MA in English at Marquette University, prior to which she earned her BA at Marquette University in Social Welfare & Justice and Writing Intensive English. Alex co-founded a student-athlete mental health organization, Student Health Allies and Peer Educators (SHAPE), to help connect students to resources on campus and break the stigma surrounding mental health. She is also a member of Marquette’s chapter of The Community, a nonprofit that addresses the effects of the criminal legal system through Pre-entry and Correcting the Narrative, and a member of Narrative 4, an organization that uses a story exchange model to cultivate radical empathy while empowering students to improve their communities and the world.



gabriel-velez-bioGabriel Velez, PhD

Dr. Gabriel Velez is the Faculty Director of the Black and Latino/a Ecosystem and Support Transition (BLEST) Hub at the Center for Urban Research, Teaching & Outreach. He is also an Assistant Professor and Developmental Psychologist in the Department of Educational Policy and Leadership (EDPL) in the College of Education at Marquette University. Gabe studies identity development in adolescents, particularly in relation to citizenship, human rights, and peace, including young people’s understandings and responses to peace education and restorative justice in educational contexts. In his work at CURTO, Gabe contributes to building better understandings and synergies to support Milwaukee-area Black and Latino/a young people’s thriving and college and career success. 

troy-washington-bioTroy D. Washington, PhD

Dr. Troy Washington serves as the Director of Restorative Justice and Educational Equity for the Black and Latino/a Ecosystem and Support Transition (BLEST) Hub at the Center for Urban Research, Teaching & Outreach. He is also a Visiting Assistant Professor at Marquette University. Troy was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and received his PhD from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee where his research focused on urban education with a concentration in community-based nonprofit leadership. He began training in restorative justice in 1995 as a practitioner at a youth facility. While learning the tenets of restorative justice and the practices of peacekeeping circles, Troy developed a passion for restorative practices. In the pursuit of this passion, he has traveled extensively to countries where restorative practices thrive, participating in circles in Tokyo, Dominican Republic, and Brazil, developing skills and learning application policies of restorative justice. As a dedicated practitioner Troy acts as a liaison between the integrating tenets of restorative justice, and building prospective through an alternative approach to punitive discipline. He also conducts restorative justice workshops throughout the United States and abroad.




Melissa Gibson, PhD

Dr. Melissa Gibson is the faculty Director for the MKE Roots Project at the Center for Urban Research, Teaching & Outreach. Currently, she is piloting a social studies course she designed called "Explore MKE" at St. Joan Antida High School. Melissa is an Associate Professor and Teacher Educator in the Department of Educational Policy & Leadership (EDPL) in the College of Education at Marquette University. She studies how diverse schools work to enact educational justice, particularly in relation to liberatory and anti-racist pedagogies and through social studies and citizenship education. Prior to joining the Marquette University faculty, Melissa was a middle and high school social studies and English teacher in the US and Mexico.

Lauren Instenes, MA

Lauren Instenes is the Project Coordinator for the MKE Roots Project. In this role, she supports the creation of an online ecosystem which will be used to bring local histories of social change movements to Milwaukee K-12 classrooms. Lauren has an MA in Oral History from Columbia University and her personal research centers on queer Midwest spaces and communities. Lauren is passionate about using digital media and art to share underrepresented stories. Past projects include:  Fifty Years of Pride at Why Not III, The Facing Project: Facing Intolerance, Antioch University’s The Seed Field Podcast, and Real Stories MKE. Lauren currently serves on the board of The Facing Project and is producing Out-fm’s upcoming podcast (2024). 

Iris Soto Ruiz, MA

Iris Soto Ruiz is a Project Coordinator for the MKE Roots Project at the Center for Urban Research. Teaching & Outreach. Her work at CURTO focuses on coordinating place base, inquiry centered, teacher facing initiatives for the program. She holds a BA in English Language and Literature from the Universidad de Puerto Rico at Mayagüez and a MA in Spanish from the University of Oregon. Both degrees with a focus on decolonial theories and practices. During her time at Milwaukee, she has been involved in multiple initiatives centering Milwaukee’s Latinx communities.


kathryn-storm-bioKathryn Storm

Kathryn Storm is a Graduate Research Assistant at the Center for Urban Research, Teaching, & Outreach and pursuing an MA in Modern U.S. History at Marquette University. She graduated from American University in 2020 with a degree in Political Science and Minors in Education and History. In addition, she previously interned in the House of Representatives and with Global Kids, an education focused nonprofit. Her research focuses on Civil Rights, Social Movement Theory, and how these affect public policy today. Kate's work at CURTO focuses on research regarding the use of electronic monitoring on youth in Milwaukee Juvenile Corrections.


Drake Bentley



Saúl López, MA

Saúl López is pursuing a PhD in Educational Policy and Leadership (EDPL) in the College of Education at Marquette University. His current research focuses on Latinx Student Experience, Engagement with Latinx families, and Hispanic Serving Institutions. Saúl was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and grew up in the South Side of Milwaukee. He graduated from Marquette University with a BA in Writing Intensive English and an MA in Spanish Language, Literature, and Cultures. Saúl has served as a Graduate Research Assistant and Pedagogy