Roberto G. Quercia is the Harris Distinguished Professor in the UNC Department of City and Regional Planning. Professor Quercia leads major research projects in the areas of low-income homeownership, mortgage lending, subprime and predatory lending, and financial services issues. He is a co-author of Regaining the Dream: How to Renew the Promise of Homeownership for America’s Working Families (with Allison Freeman and Janneke Ratcliffe), published by Brooking University Press in 2011, and of A Place Called Home: The Social Dimensions of Homeownership (with Kim Manturuk and Mark Lindblad), published by Oxford University Press in 2017.

Professor Quercia has conducted extensive research for government agencies, municipalities, community organizations and private entities, including the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Federal National Mortgage Association, and the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation. He has published on the topics of low-income homeownership, affordable lending and the assessment of lending risks, and homeownership education and counseling. He has held appointments at the University of Texas, the University of California at Berkeley, the Wharton Real Estate Center (University of Pennsylvania), and the Urban Institute in Washington, D.C. Professor Quercia holds a masters degree in urban and regional planning from the University of Hawaii at Manoa and a Ph.D. in city and regional planning from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

DR. MAT DESPARD  |  Executive Director

Mat Despard, MSW, Ph.D, is the executive director of the UNC Center for Community Capital. Before joining the CCC team, Mathieu Despard served as an Assistant Professor at the University of Michigan School of Social Work, where he researched financial inclusion and economic mobility. More specifically, he has researched the distribution of mainstream and alternative financial services, a large scale tax-time savings experiment, and the impacts of student debt on low- and moderate-income households. He also conducts research on employee financial wellness and the financial health and capacity of nonprofit organizations, and has several years of experience in nonprofit organizations serving low-income communities and graduate-level teaching in nonprofit management, community development, and social policy.

julia-photoJULIA BARNARD  |  Research Associate

In her role as a Research Associate, Julia’s research focuses on economic mobility, student debt, financial coaching and counseling, and the role of housing as a platform for social services. She also served as an editor for A Place Called Home: The Social Dimensions of Homeownership, which was published in 2017 by Oxford University Press. Additionally, Julia develops and manages the Center’s communications strategy. She is also the Coordinator for the Center’s student programming, including the Graduate Student Fellowship, the Graduate Research Program, and the Undergraduate Communications Internship.

Before coming to UNC, Julia worked as a community organizer for the Texas Hillel Foundation and with Fusebox Festival’s thinkEAST project, a mixed-income, mixed-use development in Austin, Texas. She earned her B.A. with highest distinction from the University of Kansas in history and her M.C.R.P. from the Department of City and Regional Planning at UNC Chapel Hill, where she was a Weiss Urban Livability Fellow and the recipient of the Weiss Best Colleague Award. She also served as an Editor for the Carolina Planning Journal from 2014-2016.

jess-photoJESS DORRANCE  |  Senior Project Manager

In her role as Senior Project Manager, Jess Dorrance leads much of the center’s evaluation work in asset-building, consumer financial services, and financial capability. She conducts research and analysis to understand what products and programs promote economic security and mobility for low-wealth households and communities. She is particularly interested in opportunities for households to build savings, and in the intersection of financial, physical and emotional health.

Recent projects include an evaluation of the Financial Solutions Lab, a program aimed at identifying and scaling financial innovations that can improve American’s financial lives; Neighborhood Trust’s PayGoal product, a cash flow management and financial advising tool; MAGIC Mojo, an impulse savings tool linked to a prepaid card; and data analysis for CFSI’s small dollar credit working group. Jess holds a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Skidmore College and a master’s degree in public administration from UNC Chapel Hill.

DR. ALLISON FREEMAN  |  Senior Research Associate

Allison Freeman’s research considers the wealth gap in the United States and how access to financial services, both credit and debt instruments, might exacerbate or redress economic inequality.  Her work also explores how attributes of place affect lower-income people’s ability to move up the economic ladder.

Dr. Freeman spent her first nine years at CCC working on the center’s longitudinal study of affordable homeownership, examining in particular the wealth-building effects of homeownership for lower-income people.  Before she joined the center’s staff, Dr. Freeman researched access to affordable housing finance in post-apartheid South Africa.

EILEEN HARVEY  |  Research & Programs Coordinator

Eileen Harvey is a Research & Program Coordinator and is the newest member of the CCC team. At the Center, Eileen is on the research team for our projects on student loan debt and on financial coaching. Additionally, Eileen is helping the Center to develop interdisciplinary programming and research around the topic of economic opportunity.

Eileen earned her bachelor’s degree in 2017 from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in Global Studies with a Minor in Chinese Studies and a Minor in Urban Studies & Planning. In the same year, she also earned her certificate in Design & Innovation for Sustainable Cities at the University of California at Berkeley. As an undergraduate, she served as a Co-Chair for Hope Gardens, a student-run nonprofit that seeks to improve food access in the Chapel Hill – Carrboro area. She also worked at the Carolina Population Center as a Library Services & Research Communications Assistant. Eileen is a member of Phi Beta Kappa and Phi Sigma Pi.

MARK MCDANIEL  |  Senior Research Associate

Mark McDaniel is senior research associate with the UNC Center for Community Capital. He consults with foundations, policymakers and others on strategies that help connect low-income populations to economic opportunities. These strategies include connecting neighborhoods to regional workforce opportunities, connecting the unbanked and underbanked to financial services and leveraging investment in low-income areas for housing, community facilities and other economic development opportunities.

Mr. McDaniel leads the center’s collaboration with Bridges2Success, an early childhood-to-career research and education initiative focused on helping males of color achieve academic and life success. The center provides research and program management support for the project.

Mr. McDaniel also brings a diverse set of experience in conceptualizing, designing and implementing initiatives intended to improve the socio-economic outcomes of low-income residents and the neighborhoods in which they reside. Throughout his career, he has demonstrated capacity in establishing and maintaining rapport with diverse constituencies including low-income community residents, public- and private-sector officials, direct service and policy practitioners, and evaluation/research professionals.

Mr. McDaniel has particular interest in the economic challenges and pathways to opportunity taken by different subpopulations, including students, residents of public housing, youth, and the formerly incarcerated.

DR. SARAH RILEY |  Senior Research Economist

Sarah Riley manages the center’s data and has published in the areas of real estate economics, mortgage finance, behavioral economics, and survey methods. Her work at the center spans a variety of technical and administrative domains, including data user training and support, project and personnel management, analytic reporting, statistical programming, technical writing, econometric analysis, and methodological consulting.

Prior to joining the center in 2007, Sarah authored software documentation for risk management solutions at SAS Institute, taught undergraduate economics courses at UNC-Chapel Hill, and freelanced as an academic ESL editor. She holds a Ph.D. in economics from UNC-Chapel Hill.