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Meet the Faculty

Full Name
Tarik Abdelazim
Job Title
Associate Director Of National Technical Assistance
Company
Center for Community Progress
Speaker Bio
Tarik Abdelazim joined the Center for Community Progress in July 2014 to serve as the Associate Director of National Technical Assistance, working remotely from his hometown, Binghamton, New York. In this role, Tarik assists with the oversight, coordination, and delivery of a range of technical assistance and capacity building services to urban, rural, and suburban communities across the country. Tarik has helped communities design and launch innovative programming that have become models in the national field of practice, and has co-authored seminal publications on the land banking movement nationally and within New York State. His work reflects a strong commitment to centering racial equity in the broader field of community development.

Prior to joining Community Progress, Tarik had completed eight years of public service in Binghamton, New York under two different executive titles in City Hall. For four years, he served as Deputy Mayor, leading high-priority interdepartmental teams, driving innovative IT/IM reform, and directing award-winning blight prevention initiatives – which twice won first place distinction in Public Administration and Management from the New York Conference of Mayor's Local Government Achievement Awards. Tarik then served for nearly four years as Director of Planning, Housing and Community Development, and spearheaded a variety of cross-sector collaborations around a set of livability and sustainability goals, again winning national distinction for inclusive, bold community development programs.

Tarik received his Masters in Arts and Humanities from New York University, with an interdisciplinary focus on politics, ecology, and philosophy. He has a Bachelor of Arts from Hamilton College in biology. He works remotely from his hometown in upstate New York, and enjoys hiking, gardening, and advocating alongside others for racial and economic justice.
Tarik Abdelazim
Full Name
Justin Godard
Job Title
Program Officer - National Leadership And Education
Company
Center for Community Progres
Speaker Bio
Justin Godard serves as Program Officer for National Leadership and Education and works closely with the Director and Associate Director in developing unique and effective approaches for fostering collaborative problem solving and learning opportunities for practitioners and communities.
Prior to joining the organization, Justin studied at Virginia Tech where he earned both a bachelors degree in Political Science as well as a masters degree in Urban and Regional Planning. His masters studies primarily focused on policies and frameworks surrounding community development, place making, social equity, and culminated in a project which examined effective approaches toward fostering equitable transit-oriented development in Washington’s Historic Anacostia community. Now based in Washington, D.C., Justin has spent time in New York, Oklahoma, North Carolina, and Virginia.
Justin Godard
Full Name
Bambie Hayes-Brown
Job Title
President & CEO
Company
Georgia Advancing Communities Together, Inc.
Speaker Bio
Bambie Hayes-Brown is a native of Cordele, Georgia and a graduate of Shorter University with both a Bachelor's in Business Management and a Master's of Business Administration, and a Class of 2018 graduate of the Atlanta Regional Commission's Regional Leadership Institute. She completed additional studies in Secondary Education and is a PhD Candidate. Bambie is President and CEO of Georgia Advancing Communities Together, Inc., a statewide membership organization of housing and community development agencies. Bambie is a highly sought after speaker on affordable housing, community and economic development. Additionally, Bambie is the Qualifying Broker of Maximum One Realty Executives, a Certified Economic Development Finance Professional, co-chairs the HouseATL Policy Committee, and is Secretary of the Atlanta Housing Coalition and the ATL Airport Chamber of Commerce and serves on numerous advisory committees including the Enterprise SE Advisory Committee, Housing Justice League, Fifth Third Bank, and Cadence Bank. Bambie is married to Shearon Brown and the 'blended' mother of five children and splits her residence between Forest Park and South Georgia.
Bambie Hayes-Brown
Full Name
Liz Kozub
Job Title
Associate Director Of National Leadership & Education
Company
Center for Community Progress
Speaker Bio
Liz Kozub serves as the Associate Director of National Leadership and Education for the Center for Community Progress. She manages trainings opportunities that aim to build a common awareness of the problems properties within communities and assist community leaders in determining roles each can play in a comprehensive approach to vacancy and abandonment.
Prior to joining Community Progress, Liz served as the Assistant Director for the Turtle Creek Valley Council of Governments, a multi-municipal agency focused on intergovernmental cooperation and shared services in the Mon Valley of Allegheny County, PA. She worked to establish a multi-municipal code enforcement program and oversaw the development of a data system aimed at increasing officer efficiency and effectiveness. Liz was also a member of the leadership team to form the Tri-COG Land Bank, a multi-municipal, community driven Land Bank.
Liz received a Master of Public Administration from the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public and International affairs, and Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Allegheny College.
Liz is a native of Buffalo, New York, and lives in Wilmington Delaware.
Liz Kozub
Full Name
Matt Kreis
Job Title
General Counsel
Company
Center for Community Progress
Speaker Bio
Matt is based in Chicago, Illinois and serves as General Counsel for Community Progress. In addition to serving as the organization’s in-house counsel, Matt focuses much of his time on providing legal and technical support to each of Community Progress’ program areas, including National Technical Assistance, Michigan Initiatives, National Leadership and Education, and Policy and Research.
Prior to joining the Center for Community Progress, Matt spent nearly a decade as an attorney at the City of Chicago’s Department of Law. At the City, Matt focused on identifying, developing and implementing effective code enforcement tools to combat blight and problem properties. Matt was instrumental in the creation and supervision of an in-house group of attorneys and law clerks dedicated to the completion of tens of thousands of annual title reports used to support ownership and due process requirements for the majority of the City’s enforcement of building and sanitation codes. Ultimately, however, it was Matt’s direct interactions with the neighbors and residents most impacted by vacant, abandoned, and dilapidated properties in Chicago that led him to Community Progress, and to focus his practice on helping communities impacted by decades of disinvestment develop more equitable, effective, and efficient systems, laws, and policies to revitalize neighborhoods.
Matt earned his J.D from Loyola University Chicago School of Law and his B.A. from Augustana College in Rock Island, IL.
Matt Kreis
Full Name
Danielle Lewinski
Job Title
Vice President And Director Of Michigan Initiatives,
Company
Center for Community Progress
Speaker Bio
Danielle Lewinski serves as Vice President and Director of Michigan Initiatives for the Center for Community Progress, a national nonprofit focused on helping communities develop solutions for vacant and problem properties. At Community Progress, Danielle directs the organization’s technical assistance, leadership and education, research, and policy work throughout Michigan. Before joining Community Progress, Danielle worked as the Director of Planning and Technical Programs for Michigan Community Resources, where she created and executed the planning and technical assistance offerings of the Detroit Vacant Property Campaign (DVPC) including strategy development, data analysis, and mapping services aimed at helping communities address vacancy, blight and abandonment. In addition to leading the DVPC work, Danielle acted as a primary liaison between the civic engagement and technical teams for Detroit Future City, the strategic framework for the city of Detroit.
Danielle earned a Master of Urban Planning degree and a Graduate Certificate in Real Estate Development from the University of Michigan, and a Bachelor of Arts degree in African and African American Studies from Mount Holyoke College. She is a Certified Economic Development Finance Professional through the National Development Council and will soon be awarded an Executive Scholar Certificate in Nonprofit Management from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.
Danielle Lewinski
Full Name
Alan Mallach
Job Title
Senior Fellow
Company
Center for Community Progress
Speaker Bio
Alan Mallach is a senior fellow at the Center for Community Progress in Washington DC. A city planner, advocate and writer, he is nationally known for his work on housing, economic development, and urban revitalization, and has worked with local governments and community organizations across the country to develop creative policies and strategies to rebuild their cities and neighborhoods. A former director of housing & economic development in Trenton, New Jersey, he currently teaches in the graduate city planning program at Pratt Institute in New York City. He has spoken on housing and urban issues in the United States, Europe, Israel and Japan, and was a visiting scholar at the University of Nevada Las Vegas for the 2010-2011 academic year. His recent books include A Decent Home: Planning, Building and Preserving Affordable Housing and Bringing Buildings Back: From Vacant Properties to Community Assets, which has become a resource for thousands of planners, lawyers, public officials and community leaders dealing with problem property and revitalization issues. He is a member of the College of Fellows of the American Institute of Certified Planners, and holds a B.A. degree from Yale University.
Alan Mallach
Full Name
Sara Toering
Job Title
Senior Fellow
Company
Center for Community Progress
Speaker Bio
Sara is a senior fellow at the Center for Community Progress, a national non-profit focused on transformational change in communities struggling with vacancy, abandonment, and deterioration. She’s also a Fellow at the Project on Affordable Housing and Community Development at Emory University School of Law. Beginning over fifteen years ago as a tenant organizer in Brooklyn, NY, Sara’s vocation and expertise are focused on addressing inequities resulting from generations of federal, state and local policy that systematically denied wealth and opportunity to communities of color. Sara began her work with the CCP after several years in practice at a large Atlanta law firm where she litigated a wide range of complex business matters, and also defended men detained in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and on Georgia’s death row. Sara currently works with state and local governments and community leaders throughout the country on land banking, code enforcement, tax foreclosure reform and other issues related to neighborhood stabilization. Sara received a J.D. from Emory University School of Law, a Masters in Divinity from the Candler School of Theology at Emory University, and a B.A. from Calvin College.
Sara Toering
Full Name
Akilah Watkins-Butler
Job Title
President & Ceo
Company
Center for Community Progress
Speaker Bio
Dr. Akilah Watkins-Butler is President and Chief Executive Officer for the Center for Community Progress (Community Progress), America’s nonprofit leader for turning “Vacant Spaces into Vibrant Places.”
A 25-year national thought leader, conference speaker, and nonprofit executive, Dr. Watkins-Butler’s work began at the age of 14 when she led efforts to convert a vacant lot and abandoned home into a community center in Roosevelt, New York.
Since then, she’s served as an executive leader for nonprofits and community development initiatives which includes work with the Obama administration, NeighborWorks America, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Ford Foundation, and the Center for the Study for Social Policy.
Her career’s work has focused on helping people, communities, and local and federal government drive impactful reform for key issues including land banking, property vacancy, childhood obesity, community health, and economic development.
From California, to Long Island, and Puerto Rico, Dr. Watkins-Butler’s thought leadership on diversity, inclusion, racial equity, and community development have been featured by America’s leading authorities and helped hundreds of communities. Those presentations and features include recognition by CNN, the New York Times, and Essence for her contributions to the field of community development.
Dr. Watkins-Butler is an alumna of the University of Illinois at Chicago where she received her Doctor of Philosophy in Sociology and a Master of Arts in Sociology. She is also a graduate of Southern New Hampshire University where she received two Master of Science degrees in Education and Community Economic Development. Dr. Watkins-Butler received her Bachelor of Science in Community and Human Services from the State University of New York, Empire State College.
Today, Dr. Watkins-Butler’s work as an equity advocate includes leading work in more than 300 communities in 48 states at Community Progress. Collaboratively, Community Progress works to grow strong, equitable communities where vacant, abandoned, and deteriorated properties are transformed into assets for neighbors and neighborhoods.
In addition to her work at Community Progress, Dr. Watkins-Butler serves as Vice President for the Board of Directors of Grounded Solutions Network and serves as a member of the National Center for Black Philanthropy.
Akilah Watkins-Butler