Forum: Creating Youth-Friendly Cities

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Thursday, February 15, 2018
UW Tacoma, William W. Philip Hall

For 2018, the annual Urban Studies Forum explores urban livability through the perspective of children and youth.  Urban areas that support the safety and success of children and youth are attractive to all, and provide for our future.

In addition to their centrality for our future, youth comprise a significant population. Nearly 20% of Pierce County residents are aged 15 or younger. Every aspect of urban sustainability and livability directly affects our children and youth: neighborhood safety, education opportunities, recreational spaces, healthcare, healthy food, and affordable housing shape our children’s lives and futures.  Not surprisingly, these characteristics draw and keep families in our cities and towns.

The Forum will begin with a panel of youth, setting the stage with their experiences and hopes. A panel of local youth-service leaders will follow, and finally we’ll hear from a scholar of urban spaces for children.

8:15 - 8:45 a.m. Registration and Light Continental Breakfast

8:45 – 9 a.m.

Welcoming & introductions to the day
Jill Purdy, Interim Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, UW Tacoma

Ali Modarres, Professor and Director, Urban Studies Program, UW Tacoma
Matthew Kelley, Associate Professor, UW Tacoma

9 – 10 a.m.

Session 1:  Youth reflections on the experience of life in our community

What does it mean for a place to be youth-friendly -- how about asking young people?  Our day begins with a panel of youth who are eager to share their thoughts on and experiences with community and everyday life in the South Sound. These young panelists will be encouraged to discuss those aspects of our communities that bring joy to their lives as well as perspectives on the elements of our communities that can be obstacles or challenges to their daily life. We aim to conclude this session with an array of insight into the daily lives of our youth that subsequent speakers at the forum may draw on as they guide us through an exploration of what it means for a place to be truly youth-friendly. 

Youth will be visiting from Washington High School, Mt. Tahoma High School, and Wilson High School.  All student panelists are members of the Youth Leading Change, which is a Safe Streets initiative. 

Moderator:  Tanya Durand, Executive Director, Children’s Museum of Tacoma

10 – 10:15 a.m.


10:15 – 11:15 a.m.

Keynote address:  Making space for and with children and youth

Stuart C. Aitken, Professor and June Burnett Chair of Geography, San Diego State University

11:15 a.m. – 12:15 p.m.

Session 2:  Our community’s youth-serving institutions: initiatives, challenges, opportunities

Following on from the experiences of local youth reported in our first session, the second major session brings together important community leaders from key public institutions and non-profit organizations each dedicated to advancing youth development and more youth-friendly cities in Tacoma and the surrounding region. They will discuss particularly innovative programs, projects, and/or policies now actively shaping the various relationships between local neighbourhoods and the social, cultural, psychological, health, and economic experiences of our young people and their families. In addition, our speakers will explore ongoing challenges and obstacles that local youth face as they experience everyday urban landscapes. How are we meeting the needs of youth now and what might we do in the future to enhance ‘youth-friendly cities’?

Jesse Baines, Commissioner, Metro Parks

Tanya Durand, Executive Director, Children’s Museum of Tacoma
Josh Garcia, Deputy Superintendent, Tacoma Public Schools

Seth Kirby, Executive Director, Oasis Youth Center

Victor Rodriguez, Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department

Matthew Kelley, Moderator

12:15 – 1:30 p.m.

Lunch with guided discussion

1:30 - 1:45 p.m.

Key insights & wrap up

Dr. Ali Modarres, Professor and Director, Urban Studies Program, UW Tacoma

    Join the conversation on Twitter.   @urbanuwt   #urbanuwt

Sponsored by:




Boe Architects
Conversations Re: Tacoma

FLT Properties

Gray Lumber Company

Helix Design Group

Newland Communities
Safe Streets


About the Keynote Speaker

Stuart C. Aitken
Professor and June Burnett Chair of Geography, San Diego State University

Dr. Stuart C. Aitken is June Burnett Chair and Professor of Geography at San Diego State University, and director of the research center Youth, Environment, Society and Space (YESS). His research interests include film, critical social theory, qualitative methods, children, families and communities. Stuart has worked with the UN on child rights, labor and migration issues.  Stuart’s new book is entitled Young People, Rights and Place (Routledge, 2018). His previous books include The Ethnopoetics of Space: Young People’s Engagement, Activism and Aesthetics (Routledge, 2016), The Fight to Stay Put (Steiner Verlag, 2013), Young People. Border Spaces and Revolutionary Imaginations (Routledge 2011), Qualitative Geographies (Sage 2010), The Awkward Spaces of Fathering (Ashgate, 2009). Global Childhoods (Routledge 2008), Geographies of Young People (Routledge 2001), Family Fantasies and Community Space (Rutgers University Press, 1998), and Place, Space, Situation and Spectacle (Rowman and Littlefield, 1994). He has published over 200 articles in academic journals as well as in various edited book collections and encyclopedias.  Stuart is past co-editor of The Professional Geographer and Children’s Geographies.

About the Panelists

Jessie K. Baines Jr.

Jessie was elected to the Metropolitan Parks District of Tacoma in November of 2015. He grew up in a large family and has strong community ties. In the 1950s, his grandmother helped found the Tacoma Colored Women’s Club.

Commissioner Baines earned an associate’s and bachelor’s degrees at Tacoma Community College and Washington State University, respectively, and is working on a master’s in public administration at Seattle University. 

Tanya Durand
Executive Director for the Children’s Museum of Tacoma


Tanya Durand has worked in the museum field since 1992 and has lead the Children’s Museum of Tacoma since 1999 as its Executive Director.   The Museum operates the Children’s Museum of Tacoma, Preschool Powered by Play on two campuses, The Muse: A Children’s Center and Play to Learn, Pierce County’s largest school readiness outreach program.  The Museum also hosts the annual Symposium on our Youngest Citizens – a gathering that engages leaders in thinking aspirationally about children and their role in our community.


Under Durand’s leadership the Museum was honored as a finalist for a National Medal from the Institute of Museum and Library Services.  Other acknowledgments include University of Washington Tacoma Non Profit Leader of the Year 2016, Tacoma Chamber of Commerce New Tacoma Award, and the Association of Children’s Museum Promising Practice Award.


Durand serves as Vice President of Initiatives on the national Association of Children’s Museums’ Board of Directors, is on the University of Washington Tacoma’s Urban Studies Advisory Board, is Chair of the Pierce County Arts & Cultural Coalition, represents the cultural community on South Sound Together, and is Immediate Past Chair of First 5 FUNdamentals, Pierce County’s early learning coalition.  Durand received her BA in Art History from the University of Puget Sound and Certificate in Fundraising Management at University of Washington.  Durand lives on Day Island, WA with her husband, 11 year old son, and Golden Retriever affectionately known as “Day Island Dylan”.     

Joshus Garcia
Deputy Superintendent, Tacoma Public Schools


Joshua Garcia currently serves the students, staff and community as the Deputy Superintendent of the Tacoma Public Schools.  Joshua supervises the district’s schools and Learning and Support Team.  In this role Joshua’s teams lead a number of ground breaking reform initiatives. 

Joshua’s previous experiences include Assistant Superintendent, Executive Director, High School Principal, Assistant Principal, Athletic Director and Teacher.   Joshua received his doctorate degree from Seattle University and his undergraduate degree from Washington State University.  Joshua is an ASCD International Outstanding Young Educator Award and Emerging Leader Recipient, a Washington State Stem Entrepreneur Award recipient, and was recognized as an Education Week 2015 Leaders to Learn From.         

Seth Kirby
Executive Director, Oasis Youth Center


Seth Kirby is a transgender man who is passionate about advancing social justice. For over 20 years, Seth has worked and volunteered in the fields of HIV and violence prevention, policy and civil rights implementation, and youth leadership development. Seth believes the next generation of LGBTQ youth is paving the way for lasting change which is why he loves his role as Executive Director of Oasis Youth Center. Prior to Oasis, Seth worked at the Washington State Human Rights Commission and helped implement the 2006 statewide protections that prohibit sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination. Beyond Oasis, Seth serves as a board member for Group Health Foundation, is past president and board member with Pride Foundation, and volunteers with American Leadership Forum-Pierce County. Seth has a Master of Public Administration degree from The Evergreen State College and lives in the City of Destiny. Seth also loves birdwatching, backpacking, and reading biographies. He can be reached at

Matthew Kelley
Associate Professor, UW Tacoma Urban Studies


Matt joined the Urban Studies faculty at the University of Washington Tacoma in 2008. He earned a Ph.D. in Geography from Pennsylvania State University in 2007 and then spent a year teaching at Bucknell University prior to arriving in Tacoma. At UWT, he directs and teaches the Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Certificate Program. In this program, his teaching focuses largely on the application of geospatial technologies and geographic information systems to urban social and environmental problems. His research is similarly focused on the role that emerging technologies can play in the urban community development process. He has worked extensively with community organizations in Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and Tacoma to think creatively about utilizing digital tools in their day-to-day operations - both to improve the effectiveness of their outcomes and to amplify the voices and knowledge of local residents. Dr. Kelley's recent research activities have aimed to engage critically with the ways that conventional spatial data are used to represent, and mis-represent, distressed urban neighborhoods.

Victor Rodriguez

Tacoma Pierce County Health Department

Victor grew most of his life in Skagit County and is the son of two Mexican immigrant farmworkers. His professional background includes community organizing, social work, and public health working issues related to child, youth, and family health, and social justice. Victor is currently a program manager at the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department. He received his MSW degree from the University of Washington and an interdisciplinary Bachelor of Arts degree from Western Washington University.


Dr. Christine Stevens

Associate Professor, UW Tacoma Nursing & Healthcare Leadership

Dr. Christine Stevens received her Ph.D. in Nursing from the University of Washington. Her research focuses on social justice and how structural disadvantages affect health, housing and food security, especially among low-income and adolescent populations. Her current research focuses on hunger and homelessness among college  students which includes study of all UW students as well as a research of housing voucher program for college students.


For information on last year's forum and lecture series please visit: