Urban Research Faculty Cluster

SMU’s Urban Research Faculty Cluster offers opportunities for rich interdisciplinary connections among new and existing SMU faculty. The cluster fosters research on cities and urbanization from local and global perspectives. SMU’s location in Dallas, the fourth largest metropolitan area in the country, is an ideal setting for studying the opportunities and inequities that individuals, groups, and communities confront as they navigate and shape urban life.

To build on existing strengths in community-engaged research, Southern Methodist University announces eight new faculty positions for the 2023-2024 academic year. The multi-faculty hire is the fourth cluster in recent years and contributes to an ambitious program to develop large-scale collaborative projects responding to some of humankind’s most daunting challenges.

Learn about our faculty

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Vishal Ahuja, Associate Professor of Information Technology & Operations Management

Vishal Ahuja’s research focuses on developing decision analytic tools that can be implemented easily by healthcare professionals and policymakers to improve patient health, advance the quality of care, and enhance the efficiency of care delivery. An associate professor at the Cox School of Business, Vishal also serves as adjunct faculty at UT Southwestern Medical Center and partners with the Department of Veterans Affairs and several Dallas Hospitals, including Parkland Hospital, Baylor Heart Hospital, and Children’s Hospital for his research.

Dr. Sodra Barringer in a classroom

Sondra Barringer, Associate Professor of Education Policy and Leadership

Sondra Barringer’s research focuses on the relationships colleges and universities have with other organizations, groups or individuals and how those relationships shape the governance, structures, institutional policies and practices of these institutions. She is currently doing research on college and university partnerships with community organizations and the benefits and costs of those partnerships for the partnering organizations and their constituents.

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Eric Bing, Professor of Anthropology and Professor of Applied Physiology and Sport Management

Eric Bing is a professor of global health who has developed global health programs in Africa, Central America and the Caribbean, including HIV prevention, care and treatment programs in Rwanda, Angola, Nigeria, Namibia, Belize and Jamaica. His research utilizes Virtual Reality Surgery Simulation in Zambia to immerse surgical trainees gain skills in complex surgical tasks.

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Neil Foley, Professor, and Robert H. and Nancy Dedman Chair in History

Neil Foley's research centers on the politics of immigration and citizenship in North America and Europe; on changing constructions of race, citizenship, and on transnational identity in the U.S.-Mexico borderlands; and on comparative civil rights politics of African, Asian, and Latinx Americans.

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Michelle Gibson, Professor of Practice in Dance

On stage and in the classroom, Michelle Gibson’s dance, choreography, and associated scholarship evoke the social, political, economic and spiritual understandings central to building bonds within and across cultures. Her practices are deeply rooted in both her New Orleans upbringing and the Black church. She provides cultural narratives and historical context for Diaspora and African American dance forms, music, and communal gatherings.

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Johnitha Johnson, Clinical Assistant Professor in Teaching and Learning

Johnitha Johnson developed the Urban Education specialization for the Master of Education degree in the Department of Teaching & Learning. The Urban Education course sequence includes Race, Power, & Politics: The History of Urban Education; Culturally Responsive Teaching; and Community Partnerships in Urban Education. Johnitha's research and teaching focus on equipping educators with strategies that engender equitable opportunities for students from historically marginalized backgrounds.

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Barbara Minsker, Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and the Bobby B. Lyle Professor of Leadership and Global Entrepreneurship

Barbara Minsker develops innovative systems to improve the sustainability and resilience of human and natural systems. Her research focuses on coupling machine learning and social computing with big data and other information technology to address complex problems of cities. Her recent work, co-authored with SMU colleagues, reveals the presence of infrastructure deserts in Dallas.

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Owen Lynch, Associate Professor in Corporate Communication and Public Affairs

Owen Lynch is co-founder and the Executive Director of Restorative Farms, part of a community participatory action research program. The goal of Restorative Farms is to develop a community based food system dedicated to addressing the lack of healthy food options and economic development opportunities in Dallas with special focus on the South Dallas and the Fair Park area.

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Janille Smith-Colin, Assistant Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering

Janille Smith-Colin's research advances equity, sustainability, and resilience with a specific focus on transportation systems planning and analysis. The Smith-Colin Research Group uses systems modeling and spatial analysis tools for (1) planning and designing socially sustainable and resilient infrastructure, (2) equity-based analysis of emerging transportation technologies, and (3) research on transportation as a social determinant of health.

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Herve Tchumkam, Professor of French and Francophone Studies

Hervé Tchumkam draws on Postcolonial Studies, Literary Theory, and Political Philosophy to tackle the legacies of colonialism in the Francophone world. His recent book examines the relation between state government, immigration, and citizenship in Paris and its banlieues.