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About me: Stefan


In Fall 2024, I will begin a position as Teaching Assistant Professor in Public Policy at the Douglas and Mary Scrivner Institute of Public Policy at the University of Denver (DU's) Josef Korbel School of International Studies. I was previously a PhD Candidate in Urban Planning at Columbia University. During the 2023–2024 academic year, I was based in Cambridge, MA, as a Research Assistant with the Bloomberg Center for Cities, a Visiting Democracy Fellow with Harvard University’s Ash Center for Democratic Governance, and a scholar-in-residence at the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy.

Using institutional analysis, I study the intersection of urban politics, planning, and development. I consider in particular the implementation of urban plans and policies, how residents contest and repurpose formal built sites and plans, and the resultant socio-spatial composition of planned spaces. I believe that it is in this resident-driven engagement and contestation that possibilities for grassroots popular democracy can be cultivated. 

My Columbia University dissertation (link here) examined planning, implementation, contestation, and repurposing in the South African city of Mahikeng (a former "Bantustan" capital city during apartheid and today the capital city of South Africa's North West Province).
In my free time I enjoy hiking, backpacking, and traveling to new and unfamiliar places.


I hold a PhD in Urban Planning from Columbia University, where research and coursework focused on planning history and theory; local government and planning law; political economy and world systems; urban governance and democracy; and African urbanism with a focus on South Africa.

I also hold a Master's in Public Policy degree from the Harvard Kennedy School, where I served as Managing Editor for the Kennedy School Review (KSR), Teaching Fellow for Professors Roberto Unger and Cornel West at Harvard Law School, and Course Assistant for Quinton Mayne's "Urban Politics" class. While at HKS, I worked on developing negotiation analytic teaching cases with the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative (BHCLI) in 2019, and in 2018 supported the OECD's Champion Mayors Team, developing program strategy, research, execution, and implementation in Paris, France. 


In 2015 I graduated from Stanford University (Major: Public Policy and Urban Studies). My honor’s thesis centered on South Africa’s youth population and its potential to change social and political structures. This thesis built on study-abroad experience with Stanford in Cape Town and my work with the U.S. Department of State’s South Africa desk. I served as Chair of Stanford in Government (SIG) to explore the roles of government and public service in envisioning and operationalizing social justice.



Prior to my PhD at Columbia, I worked as a Negotiation Research Fellow with the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative (2019). Previously, from 2016 to 2017, I served as an NYC Urban Fellow with the New York City Department of Transportation, working on public space planning and design with the DOT Urban Design, Art, and Wayfinding teams. From 2015 to 2016, I worked on the Ford Foundation's Equitable Development team, focusing on housing insecurity, access to opportunity, and equitable urban infrastructure and decision-making in both domestic and global contexts.

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