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Speaker Series 2022

Fall 2022 Speaker Series

Louise Seamster - In Deep Water: The Role of Municipal Debt in Environmental Crises and Racial Disparities

Dr. Louise Seamster is an Assistant Professor in Sociology and Criminology and African American Studies at the University of Iowa, and a Nonresident Fellow in Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution. She studies race and economic inequality, particularly in cities, and writes about racial politics and urban development, emergency financial management, debt, and the myth of racial progress. One line of her research examines racial disparities in debt and debt markets, including “predatory inclusion” in student debt, and the different meaning of debt for black and white families. She has published in Contexts, Sociological Theory, Du Bois Review, Social Currents, Environment, and Planning A: Society and Space, and Ethnic and Racial Studies.

Oct. 7 Recording >

Eli Savit & Victoria Burton-Harris - Pursuing Justice in the Prosecutor’s Office: Racial and Economic Equity in a Stratified Community

Eli Savit serves as the elected Prosecuting Attorney for Washtenaw County. His 4-year term began on January 1st, 2021. He formerly served as a law clerk to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, was a civil-rights and public-interest attorney, and started his career as a public-school teacher. Most recently, Eli served as the City of Detroit’s senior legal counsel, where he led criminal-justice reform work for Michigan’s largest city. Eli continues to teach at the University of Michigan as a Lecturer with the Law School.

Victoria Burton-Harris serves as the Chief Assistant Prosecutor for Washtenaw County. She was appointed to this position January 1st, 2021 by Prosecutor Eli Savit. In 2014, she opened a private firm in the heart of downtown Detroit specializing in family law and criminal defense at the state and federal trial court level. Her passion for justice and equality has led to her involvement with several grassroots organizations as a legal adviser. She also serves on various boards and committees. Burton-Harris currently sits on the Coalition for Police Transparency & Accountability, National Conference of Black Lawyers, the Board of Directors for the National Lawyers Guild Michigan chapter and the Board of Directors for Covenant House Michigan, a youth homeless shelter where she developed a mentoring program for residents. Burton-Harris teaches at the University of Michigan as a Lecturer with the Law School.

Oct. 14 Recording >

In partnership with:

Michigan Law School

Rep. Rashida Tlaib - Politics, Policy, and Poverty: Medical Debt and Other Financial Reforms

Representative Rashida Tlaib is an American politician and lawyer serving as the U.S. representative for Michigan’s 13th congressional district since 2019. The district includes the western half of Detroit, along with several of its western suburbs and much of the Downriver area. A member of the Democratic Party, Tlaib represented the 6th and 12th districts of the Michigan House of Representatives before her election to Congress. After serving, she worked at Sugar Law Center, a Detroit nonprofit that provides free legal representation for workers. In Congress, Tlaib is tackling one of the most significant drivers of poverty in our country – medical debt. With eight million Americans pushed into poverty due to medical expenses in 2018, Tlaib introduced The Consumer Protection for Medical Debt Collections Act (H.R. 2537), which would prohibit the collection of medical debt for two years, as well as debt from “medically necessary” procedures being included on one’s credit report. It passed the House in 2021 as part of a Comprehensive Debt Collection Act.

Oct. 21 Recording >

Ivette Perfecto - Biodiversity, Coffee Production, and Dignified Livelihoods Under a Globalized Economy

Dr. Ivette Perfecto is the James E. Crowfoot Collegiate Professor of Environmental Justice at the School for Environment And Sustainability (SEAS) at the University of Michigan. Her research focuses on biodiversity and arthropod-mediated ecosystem services in rural and urban agriculture. Her lab conducts agroecological research in Latin America and North America, focusing on the impacts of agriculture on biodiversity and the relationship between biodiversity, ecosystem function, and ecosystem services in agricultural landscapes. She is the co-author of four books: Breakfast of Biodiversity, Nature’s Matrix: Linking Agriculture, Conservation and Food Sovereignty, Coffee Agroecology, and Ecological Complexity and Agroecology. In 2022 she was elected to the National Academy of Sciences.

Oct. 28 Recording >

In partnership with:

Matthaei Botanical Gardens and Nichols Arboretum

School for Environment and Sustainability

the Graham Sustainability Institute

Nyron Crawford - Lost Boys, Invisible Men: Policy Feedback After Marijuana Legalization

Dr. Nyron N. Crawford is an Assistant Professor of Political Science and a faculty fellow in the Public Policy Lab (PPL) at Temple University. His research, teaching, and practice engages psychological science to explore law and policy, especially as they relate to the racial dynamics of public problems, policy design, and policy feedback at sub-national levels of government. Crawford’s writing has been published in the Journal of Urban Affairs, Perspectives on Politics, Urban Affairs Review, Public Integrity, Politico Magazine and The Washington Post.

Nov. 4 Recording >

In partnership with:

Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy

Mara Ostfeld - The Color of Power: The Evolving Relationship Between Race, Skin Color and American Politics

Dr. Mara Cecilia Ostfeld serves as the Associate Faculty Director of Poverty Solutions, an Assistant Research Scientist in the Ford School of Public Policy and a faculty lead at the Detroit Metro Area Communities Study. She is an expert in survey research and the analysis of public opinion, with a particular focus on the relationship between race, gender, media and political attitudes. Her recent book (co-authored with Nicole Yadon), Skin Color, Power and Politics in America, explores the historical significance of skin color in America, both within and between ethnoracial groups, as well as its evolving relationship with political identities. During national elections, Mara also works as an analyst at NBC and Telemundo.

Nov. 11 Recording >

In partnership with:

U-M Democracy and Debate

LSA Latina/o Studies

Norma Rey-Alicea - Ensuring that Postsecondary Credentials Pay Off for Low-Income Students

Norma Rey-Alicea is the Executive Director and co-founder of NextGen Talent (NGT). NGT’s innovative web-based tools and training services empower low-income students and their counselors to identify postsecondary programs and career paths with strong labor market payoffs. Norma has dedicated her career to the development of new educational models and career advancement solutions to close the opportunity gap for low-income students of all backgrounds, with a focus on Latinx, Black, Native American, and immigrant students. She is a proud Guarani native & Latina from Jamaica Plain. She has an MPP from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government as well as a BA in Government from Harvard University.

Nov. 18 Recording >

In partnership with:

Business + Impact at the Ross School of Business