The Gittell Urban Studies Collective engages communities, fellow scholars, and activists focused on issues related to cities, social justice, community participation and development, political engagement and social movements, and democratic governance, both domestically and abroad.


Anchored by the Marilyn Jacobs Gittell Endowed Professor in Urban Studies, the Gittell Collective works to honor Marilyn Jacobs Gittell and build upon her legacy, by:

  • emphasizing a research agenda focused on grassroots mobilization, to achieve more effective, responsive, and democratic public policy,
  • engaging in community-based and participatory research on urban issues such as the functioning of community organizations, social policy, economic development, and gender, race, indigenous, and social justice, and
  • promoting and pursuing individual and collaborative research programs, training of graduate students, and seminar convenings.

Marilyn Gittell


Marilyn Jacobs Gittell, 1931 – 2010, was a scholar and activist who committed her life and career to racial, gender, and educational justice. The endowed professorship and collective’s namesake taught political science at the Graduate Center from 1978 until her passing in 2010.

Among other accomplishments, her work was instrumental in the decentralization of New York City’s public school system. Gittell was especially known for her dedication to training young scholars of color and women in the principles and practices of a grassroots, participatory research. In the best traditions of activist scholarship, Gittell helped to source funding, undertake research, advocate politically and support local organizing for social justice struggles.

The Gittell Collective works in this spirit, and in tribute to her legacy. We aim to tackle and improve understanding of complex and evolving challenges in cities, as well as advance responsive, creative, and effective public policy and practice. We operate across disciplinary lines, with the premise that community-based research provides essential, critical takes on social and economic inequalities, bolsters sociopolitical participation and action, and holds the potential to inform and lead to more just public policies, and more robust democracies.