Undergraduate Research

Undergraduate Research posters

Urban Studies Majors Honors/Senior Thesis

Jack R. Rongstad, A History of Mitchell Park in Three Eras: 1890-2021

Full text: dc.uwm.edu/honorsthesis/1/


This thesis examines the history of Mitchell Park—and the various iterations of the conservatory it now hosts—across three distinct periods of urban development. Located in Milwaukee, WI, the County-operated institution consists of three conoidal-domes, measuring 140 feet across by 85 feet high (7 stories), each structure protects an acre of soil within; one dome hosting desert flora, a second filled with tropical vegetation, and a third mixed-use ‘show-dome’ able to host rotating exhibitions. The massive civic structures were constructed over nine years, from 1958-1967, as a testament to the industrial might of the growing harbor city. Through a blend of primary and secondary sources, this thesis seeks to provide a more complex and detailed history of Mitchell Park than currently exists. The few historical writings that do exist, do not focus on Mitchell Park exclusively and tend to condense its long history into a one-to-two-page summary. By excavating the past, this thesis identifies and analyzes the social and cultural forces informing park design and development in Milwaukee. More broadly, a close examination of the history of Mitchell Park shows how place can be used as a lens to understand urban change through three distinct eras: Golden Age Milwaukee (1880-1930), Postwar Milwaukee (1945-1972), and Neoliberal Milwaukee (1972-ongoing), and in turn, how each era influenced park design and development. Acting as a symbolic representation of Milwaukee’s history and a manifestation of its identity, the story of Mitchell Park is also broadly reflective of the wider urbanization process in the United States. In attempting to trace the mechanisms that shape the city, this thesis explores the history of urban development, and the complex nature of power within the city, through the collection, and juxtaposition, of both primary and secondary sources.

Urban Studies Capstone Seminar Research Projects

Each spring semester students complete their senior capstone seminar course (Urb Std 600: Capstone Seminar in Urban Studies) as part of the last required course in the Urban Studies major. Capstone students over the course of the semester develop an original research project that demonstrates mastery of several Urban Studies learning goals. Since 2016, student research projects have focused on the Milwaukee area and address topics within the housing and community development subfields (e.g. gentrification, eviction, homelessness, public housing, fair housing, affordable housing, urban redevelopment, neighborhood/community development/change, urban agriculture, economic development/BIDs, transit, etc.). Research projects can have a contemporary or historical focus, and employ a variety of methodologies, from GIS to archival and ethnographic approaches. Capstone students present a poster of their research project at the annual Urban Studies Student Research Forum and produce a high quality, article-length paper.

Past Capstone Research Projects

Urban studies capstone project abstracts and links to full text can be accessed on the UWM Digital Commons site.


Edgar Leon Gomez, The bid capital of the U.S: How neoliberal urban governance led to the creation of diverse BIDs in Milwaukee;

Sam Lopez, Give-and-Take: The Potawatomi Hotel and Casino’s relationship to the City of Milwaukee;

Rachel Oelsner, Walkable communities: Understanding the discourse of walkability in American cities;

Juan Olmos-Garcia, A case study on affordable housing developments in Milwaukee;

Sierra Osowski, Building bikes and city: The relationship between Harley-Davidson and Milwaukee;

Henry Wehrs, Institutions and out-of-state investors: Homeownership and rental housing in Milwaukee.


Amir Allen, The history of the Chapter 220 Program in Milwaukee;

Josh Allain, An evaluative study of walkable communities in Milwaukee;

Jack Kovnesky, Towards a greater Milwaukee: Looking into transportation equity;

Justin Jacobazzi, Milwaukee’s homelessness amid Covid 19;

Hayley Jasinski, Overview of Milwaukee’s food assistance system;

Gabriel Newton, A case study of Milwaukee’s brownfield redevelopment;

Sergio Pulido, How the pandemic highlights racism;

Jack Rongstad, Culture-led renewal in a rustbelt city: A case study of the efficacy of flagship cultural projects;

Anne Sheard, Sustainability in Milwaukee.


Chloe Beyer, Community and placemaking: The case study of the Beerline Trail;

Abigail Lynch, Homelessness and Milwaukee’s Tent City: Policy, advocacy, and social Issues

Jordan Villegas, Race and poverty deconcentration in metropolitan Milwaukee housing plans;

Avery Schultz, MCTS and regional connectivity: A study of spatial mismatch and transit accessibility for low income households;

Allison Sweere, Becoming greater through greening: How one Milwaukee initiative is creating better communities one vacant lot at a time;


Colin Flanner, ‘Because of God’s ideas’: Faith & food in Milwaukee;

Graciella Herrera-Hernandez, Under the radar: Entrepreneurialism and economic development in an ‘in-between’ neighborhood on Milwaukee’s Southside;

Fiona McGillian, Neoliberalism, Act 10, and changes to education: A Milwaukee educators’ perspective;

Pilar Olvera, ‘Right to the neighborhood’: New Urbanism and the Latinx community in Walker’s Point;

Omar Sacramento, Amigos or bad hombres?: Undocumented status, integration, and immigrants’ rights on the Southside of Milwaukee.


Anna Botsford, Involvement in the Milwaukee River Greenway Project: An examination of governance in urban greening projects;

Scott Espinoza, The governance of privately owned public spaces: An examination of urban and suburban settings;

Sherwood Hard, Helping homeless veterans: An overview of VA programs and housing in Milwaukee;

Evan Hietpas, Brownfield redevelopment in the Menomonee/River Valley: Environmental and community-based approaches;

Christina Theobald, Creatives in the city: Examining the relationship between art, place, and development;

Justin Vilar, Milwaukee grows: Making sense of the urban agriculture landscape in Milwaukee;


Jacob Balistrieri, The benefits of urban agriculture lie beyond food;

Melissa Beyhaghi, Happy Nowrooz!: A case study of Persian cultural heritage and identity in Milwaukee, Wisconsin;

Kelly A. Birren, From Riots to renovation: A policy process of Sherman Park’s MERI Project;

Melissa Brown, A comparison between Executive Orders 9066, 13769, and 13780: The socio-political factors that led to Japanese internment and Trump’s travel bans;

Dakota Crowell, Spatial patterns in affordable housing: An analysis of Low-income Housing Tax Credit developments in Milwaukee County;

Casey Holahan, An examination of the progress of public housing in Milwaukee throughout history;

Frank Hozeny, How transit is implemented: Examining Milwaukee’s proposed Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project;

Thomas Jenson, Community oriented policing in Milwaukee: A racial chasm;

Trevor Jung, Political infrastructure for rail infrastructure: The political needs of commuter rail in Racine;

Matthew Leser, Urban, suburban, or something else? Post-suburban redevelopment strategies, political backlash, and the potential limits of New Urbanism: The case of Shorewood within Metropolitan Milwaukee;

Aaron Miller, Pokémon Go in Milwaukee’s Lake Park: A case study of the impacts of mobile game play on public spaces;

Marc Morgan, Privatization of public space and city image: Milwaukee’s panhandling ordinance;

Jack Spoden, Suburban annexation: The roots of Milwaukee’s urban/suburban divide.


Ryan Chase, To be or not to be: A closer look at SERTA;

Huelmely De Jesus, An examination of behavioral disciplinary measures in underperforming public schools in Milwaukee,;

Neil Hanbury, An examination of advocacy group efforts to legally challenge urban transit policy;

Mathew Hoffman, Tearing through the city: An examination of the development of the Milwaukee freeway system;

Harrison O’Brien, ‘The Homeless Are Pocketed Away, You Know What I Mean’: Housing service provider perspectives in Milwaukee;

Emmajean Snook, The rise of political fragmentation in metropolitan Milwaukee, 1892-1935;

Jonathan Steimle, An analysis of tree Canopy in Milwaukee neighborhoods;

Sally Svetic, Queer in the city: Queer identity and neighborhood experience.

Capstone Student Research Projects

Urban Studies Capstone Seminar-Spring, 2020

Race and Poverty Deconcentration in Metropolitan Milwaukee Housing Plans — Jordan Villegas, Urban Studies Major [PDF]
Homelessness and Milwaukee’s Tent City: Policy, Advocacy, and Social Issues — Abigail Lynch, Urban Studies Major [PDF]
Becoming Greater Through Greening: How One Milwaukee Initiative is Creating Better Communities One Vacant Lot at a Time — Allison Sweere, Urban Studies Major [PDF]
MCTS and Regional Connectivity: A Study of Spatial Mismatch and Transit Accessibility for Low Income Households – Avery Schulze, Urban Studies Major [PDF]
Community Development and Placemaking: A Case Study of the Beerline Trail — Chloe Beyer, Urban Studies Major [PDF]

USP Quick Links

Annual Student Research Forum
Henry W. Maier State of Milwaukee Summit
Internships in Urban Studies

Related Quick Links

Office of Undergraduate Research
Center for Community-Based Learning, Leadership, and Research
UWM Office of Research