Student Profiles

A partial list of current students.

Nathan Peyton

Nathan Peyton is the current President of CitySMARTS and an active member of the Graduate Student Leadership Council.  As a MURP student, his focus has been on sustainable economic development at the nexus of housing and transit.  He passion his work has kept him involved in several local projects and initiatives including: Co-Creation Research with the World Class Cities Partnership, community engagement planning and implementation for the City of Cambridge, an economic development project in the Roxbury neighborhood of Boston, MA.  Additionally, Nathan services the community of Hull, MA as an elected member of the Planning Board and an active member of the South Shore Coalition.  He uses these positions to advocate for greater access to transit, expanded green energy production, and quality housing options.

Nathan received his bachelors degree in Political Science from University of Massachusetts in 2008 and continued his career in logistics management and human services for the US Navy until completing his commitment. After faithfully participating in the Open Classroom series and meeting Barry Bluestone, Stephanie Pollack and Lorie Dopkins, he enrolled under the special student option.


Justine developed her interest in housing and economic development when she began working at Metropolitan Boston Housing Partnership (MBHP), the state’s largest regional provider of rental housing vouchers. She started her career at MBHP as a Family Self- Sufficiency (FSS) Program Advisor. The FSS Program links Section 8 rental assistance with case management to assist tenants working towards financial independence and the possibility of homeownership.

Justine moved on to become a Housing Mobility Advisor at MBHP where she administered the Moving to Work Program, a federally funded demonstration project designed to support working families who are homeless or currently at risk of homelessness, as well as the Community Choice Voucher Program where she provided mobility counseling and support services to minority families interested in moving to more diverse neighborhoods.

Currently, Justine is working as an Outreach Coordinator for MBHP’s Fairmount Initiative FSS Expansion Program. The program aims to improve outcomes for Boston’s residents across the education pipeline and strategy to promote the career advancement and economic security for low income individuals.

Meghan Cary

Undergraduate: BS in Criminal Justice, Northeastern University
Recent Occupation: Family Advocate at Cambridge and Somerville Head Start
Policy Interests: Education, Economic Development, Housing

She developed an interest in education policy through her work over the past five years as a Family Advocate at the Cambridge and Somerville Head Start. Working with individuals and providing services to families, she began to understand the policy issues that affect them. Meghan received a BS in Criminal Justice from Northeastern in 2005 and also held positions in the legal research field. Her Northeastern co-op positions included one at the Criminal Justice Research Center as a Research Associate, and the other at the Brookline Police Department as Community Intern.

In the fall of 2009, Meghan saw an advertisement about Northeastern’s “Open Classroom Series” and thought this might be a good lead-in to going back for her Masters Degree. She was hooked, applied for and was accepted into MURP, and hasn’t looked back. Currently, she is interning for the summer at Raising A Reader in Boston where she is researching policy issues related to early education. Their mission is to raise awareness of and reduce the achievement gap in many urban communities.

George Durante

Undergraduate: BS in Environmental Science/Regional Planning, Westfield State University
Recent Occupation: Associate Research Manager, Sustainability Guild International
Policy Interests: Economic Development, Sustainable Community Development Practices

Prior to MURP, George spent five years working as a Mapping Analyst and an Account Manager for a lending compliance software company. George chose the MURP program because of the diverse expertise of the faculty and the curriculum. He envisioned both of these factors to be integral components in successfully acquiring the professional skill-set required to effectively break into a career in public policy. Economic development has moved to the forefront of his policy interests, followed by sustainable community development practices.

George’s greatly appreciates the interactions he has had with his fellow students. Since everyone shares a common interest in public policy, conversations and class discussions tend to be very interesting. He feels that there is often a policy perspective being presented that may not have been initially considered.

George has interned at Sustainability Guild International, where he worked on several projects including the development of a sustainable cities survey and a site concept design for a vacant parcel of land in Dorchester. After George graduates from MURP, he plans on staying in the area and working on economic development policy, ideally in the public sector.

Shafiqah Faust

Undergraduate: BS in Mathematics, Spelman College
Recent Occupation: Police Athletic League Youth Development; New York, NY
Policy Interests: Housing, Economic Development, Public Finance and Education

Shafiqah has been a servant leader since a young age. While in high school she started an after school program, Students Teaching Academic Readiness (S.T.A.R.) because she saw the importance elementary school education has on a child’s life and the urgent need for parents (especially in Harlem) to be involved in their child’s educational life from a young age.

At Spelman College, she was a Bonner Scholar, which is a highly-competitive, rigorous service based scholarship program. She served the Atlanta community for four years completing over 960 hours of community service. While at Spelman, she also interned at Abyssinian Development Corporation in Harlem, New York, where she oversaw the Community Health Committee and assisted with program administration for the Blue Nile Rights of Passage, Inc.

Now entering her second year as a student in the MURP program, Shafiqah has joined the team at the John D. O’Bryant African American Institute at Northeastern University, where she will execute civic engagement programs and assist with strategic planning for this academic school year. Furthermore, Shafiqah is interning at Action for Boston Community Development. She is working directly with their Financial Futures Initiative (FFI), where she is developing programs and initiatives to make their Earned Income Tax Credit Program (EITC) operate more efficiently than it has in past years. She is challenged with the goal of helping to recruit 160 volunteers for EITC, which is primarily run by volunteers. Additionally, while at her internship, Shafiqah will evaluate the production of the Financial Coaching Program that FFI offers.

Elizabeth Giardino

Undergraduate: BA Sociology, Minor in Urban Studies, Northeastern University
Recent Occupation: Program Manager, Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates
Policy Interests: Applied Research, Community Development, Economic Development

Elizabeth came straight from her undergraduate studies to the MURP program. Elizabeth completed an internship this summer with Action for Boston Community Development (ABCD). She worked as the Community Planning Intern in the Department of Planning, Program Development, and Evaluation. While at ABCD, Elizabeth worked on the Community Needs Assessment, a comprehensive evaluation conducted every three years to strategize program development across the organization through the completion and analysis of surveys, focus groups and secondary data. She was also involved with the development of the LISC Resilient Communities/Resilient Families Initiative in Mattapan.

Elizabeth looks forward to a future career that will combine her passions for community development and applied research in the field.

Taleya Hamilton

Undergraduate: BS in Business Administration/Accounting, Northeastern University
Recent Occupation: Associate, International Assignment Services Tax Group at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC)
Policy Interests: Research and Evaluation in Workforce Development, International Economic Development, Sustainability

Prior to MURP, Taleya was very involved in the International Assignment Services tax group. She was assigned to various engagements that would cross countries, ethnicities, and social tasks. Her daily tasks included coordinating with foreign offices to solve and gather tax information for her clients. Her workload also consisted of discussing tax processes and research to expatriates or foreign nationals given their unique tax situations from their personal financial portfolio and their employer-sponsored development overseas.

Taleya finds the networks in the MURP program to be very notable. In addition to meeting awe-inspiring students and/or faculty members; one may be meeting a student and faculty member who collaborates with the Mayor of Boston, former Governor, City Council, or State Representatives. She also feels that there is a lot of support from the program. Faculty and students are constantly available to provide information feedback on endeavors as well as share their past experiences.

Taleya was a volunteer researcher for two projects in a nonprofit organization called Grand Aspirations. She volunteered on a joint research project between their Summer of Solutions program and ARISE (Alliance to Re-Industrialize for a Sustainable Economy) coalition. The project entailed the conversion of a 136-acre Ford assembly plant in St. Paul, MN to a mixed-use green manufacturing site. Taleya’s tasks for that project included conducting research and outreach for the Ford plant site and assisting in the development of a universal template for future re-industrialization projects. She also conducted research for Cooperative Energy Futures. This is a for-profit cooperative that was formed to increase energy efficiency savings for local community members. She assisted in building a financial model that would align with their mission and operations.

One of her ultimate goals for post-graduation is to work for the World Bank in Washington D.C. But, in the preparation phase of her eligibility into the specific program, she is looking into firms that specialize in consulting, research, and program evaluation and implementation in workforce development, international economic development, and/or sustainability.

Janine Hollon

Undergraduate: BA in Political Science, Siena College
Recent Occupation: AmeriCorps member, City Year Boston
Policy Interests: Health, Housing, Economic Development, Economic Security

Volunteering has been a part of Janine’s life for as long as she can remember. Through her work with the HIV, GLBT, youth, and urban communities, Janine realized that there is a large gap between the goals of written social policy and the results of its implementation. Her desire to narrow this gap led her from college in Albany, NY to City Year Boston, where she served as a 2009-2010 AmeriCorps member on the Comcast City Heroes Team. The City Heroes Program works with more than 130 high school students in the Metro Boston area on leadership development, social awareness and community service, giving them skills to solve problems and create change in their own communities.

Janine’s experience as a City Year corps member showed her the positive change that can come with civic engagement, but that the most social change comes when engagement is paired with effective policy. She came to Northeastern’s Master of Urban and Regional Policy Program as a full-time student in the Fall of 2010 to gain the knowledge and experience she will need to exact, organize and implement social changes within her current and future residential, educational, and occupational urban communities.

Jonathan Papp

Undergraduate: History and Religion, Bates College
Recent Occupation: Senior Account Manager, C-4 Analytics, LLC.
Policy Interests: Urban Development and Revitalization, Transportation

Prior to MURP, Jonathan was working in the business development department of a large online retailer in Boston. He was also interning for a small Urban and Regional Planning Firm that dealt with small town consulting in Massachusetts on issues pertaining to planning and development. Jonathan was drawn to the MURP program because of its emphasis on teaching students the core skills and methods that are crucial to being successful in the field. The focus on arming future planners and policy-makers with integral tools is what brought Jonathan to MURP.

Jonathan has always been interested in the area of redevelopment and using policy and planning to achieve real change in communities. He is mainly interested in downtown revitalization and investment in mixed use, transit-oriented development. As a part of this interest, Jonathan is intrigued by zoning and land use policy, historic preservation, and economic development. As for internships, he works full-time for C-4 Analytics but on the side, he has been interning for Thomas Planning Services, where he has provided writing assistance on a 40B development proposal, and assisted in the writing of a town’s master plan update, among other projects.

After graduating from MURP, Jonathan hopes to provide consulting to cities and towns on redevelopment projects and strategies to rejuvenate downtown areas and attract investment.

Scott Zadakis

Undergraduate: International Affairs and Political Science, University of Maine
Recent Occupation: Research Associate, Massachusetts Competitive Partnership
Policy Interests: Urban Stability, Equitable Economic Development

Prior to MURP, Scott was working at a non-profit fair trade organization in Boston. He really appreciates how multi-disciplinary the program is. From theory to practice, qualitative to quantitative, students are given an understanding of all aspects that go into policy formation. Classes range from law to economics to public health and others.

Scott worked as a Research Associate at the Massachusetts Competitive Partnership over the summer researching mostly transit finance-related issues, but also other topics as need such as talent retention, cost of energy, and immigration reform. He decided to stay with this role on a part-time basis for the school year. Scott is also doing another practicum with the World Class Cities Partnership as part of his capstone. He is the student designate to the City of Barcelona, Spain in addition to other Boston-based research.

After graduating from MURP, Scott hopes to work in any sector toward the goals of promoting sustainability and social justice in our cities.

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