Press Release


This month’s discussion focuses on community impact of public housing with UIC scholar Janet Smith.

CHICAGO – The Public Square, in partnership with the Institute for Research on Race and Public Policy (IRRPP) at the University of Illinois at Chicago, presents “Shop Talk with Janet Smith” on Friday, April 30 from 5:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at Ron’s Barber Shop (6058 W. North Ave). This month’s featured guest is Janet Smith, Associate Professor in UIC’s Urban Planning and Policy Program and co-director of the Nathalie P. Voorhees Center for Neighborhood and Community Improvement. Join us in Chicago’s Austin community as we grapple with hard issues and build bridges between the university and the community.

The discussion is free and open to the public. Reservations are not required. The IRRPP will also provide a limited number of free books to discussion participants. For more information about “Shop Talk,” visit, email, or call 312.422.5580.

About Janet Smith

Janet Smith is an associate professor in UIC’s Urban Planning and Policy Program, as well as the co-director of the Nathalie P. Voorhees Center for Neighborhood and Community Improvement, a research center that focuses on working to improve the conditions and lives of people in the Chicago metropolitan area. Janet’s teaching, research, and community service focuses on equity issues in local housing planning and policy implementation. Her recent research includes the transformation of public housing in Chicago and US; housing and health outcomes; expanding housing opportunities for people with disabilities; and implementing community driven strategies to preserve affordable housing. Previous funded research includes a homeless needs assessment for the Chicago region; a process study of relocating Chicago Housing Authority tenants; and the Regional Rental Market Analysis, a critical study of the supply and demand for affordable housing in the Chicago area that has helped build a regional dialogue on affordable housing. She has published two books: Where are Poor People to Live? Transforming Public Housing Communities and Diminishing High-Rise Public Housing.

More about “Shop Talk”

Building on our efforts to bridge the university and the community, the new series “Shop Talk” will bring UIC scholars to Ron’s Barber Shop in the heart of Chicago’s Austin neighborhood on the last Friday of every month from January to June 2010.  Each discussion will be free and open to the public.

Amid haircuts and fades, people from all walks of life—scholars, barbers, customers, and community members—will grapple with hard issues ranging from gender violence and immigration to criminal justice and access to health care. Based on the findings of their own research, scholars will discuss the connections between race, ethnicity, and public policy.

What people are saying about “Shop Talk”

“A lot of people in this community may not have the opportunity to talk to scholars at UIC. This will give scholars and the community a chance to hear different views than what they’re used to about some very sensitive topics and issues. And definitely, here at Ron’s Barber Shop, we don’t have a problem talking.” –  Ron Gibson, owner and barber at Ron’s Barber Shop.

“By creating and fostering community sites of learning, we seek to share experiences, research, and knowledge. Scholarship and the exchange of ideas shouldn’t be limited to the university. Through ‘Shop Talk,’ we are building community and empowering ourselves to become shapers of history.” – Alice Kim, Director of The Public Square, a program of the Illinois Humanities Council.

“The classroom is not the only place where powerful learning and debate can happen.  We’re looking forward to sharing ideas, exploring what research means for improving daily life in Chicago, and learning from Shop Talk!” – Kevin Kumashiro Co-Director of the Institute for Research on Race & Public Policy at UIC.

About the IRRPP

The Institute for Research on Race and Public Policy (IRRPP) at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) promotes, coordinates, and conducts innovative research at the intersection of race, ethnicity and public policy. IRRPP represents a major commitment on the part of UIC to better understand racial and ethnic diversity in Chicago, the nation, and the world. The Institute pursues a comprehensive multiracial, multiethnic and multicultural agenda that includes African Americans, Latinos, American Indians, Asian Americans and other groups confronted with systematic racial, ethnic, and class barriers. A primary goal is to improve both the understanding and conditions of underrepresented racial and ethnic groups that continue to experience major difficulties within contemporary urban settings.

About The Public Square

The Public Square, a program of the Illinois Humanities Council, fosters debate, dialogue, and exchange of ideas about cultural, social, and political issues with an emphasis on social justice. Programs promote participatory democracy by creating space for public conversations. More information about The Public Square is available at


The Illinois Humanities Council (IHC) is a nonprofit educational organization [501 (c) 3] dedicated to fostering a culture in which the humanities are a vital part of the lives of individuals and communities.  Organized in 1973 as the state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), the IHC creates programs and funds organizations that promote greater understanding of, appreciation for, and involvement in the humanities by all Illinoisans, regardless of their economic resources, cultural background, or geographic location. The IHC is supported by state, federal, and private funds.


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