Molly Vollman Makris
Molly Vollman Makris

Urban Education Policy and Urban Environment


Work Position
Assistant Professor of Urban Studies, Guttman Community College, City University of New York

Date passed dissertation defense
April 17, 2013


Molly Vollman Makris is Assistant Professor of Urban Studies at the new innovative Stella and Charles Guttman Community College, CUNY.  She holds a Ph.D. in Urban Systems with concentrations in urban educational policy and the urban environment, a MALS degree from the Graduate Center, CUNY, and BS in secondary education from New York University. Molly began her career as a social studies teacher in a NYC public high school. She then worked for a non-profit youth development organization, Urban Dove, overseeing after school programs and a summer camp in the South Bronx and East Harlem. Previously Molly taught in the Urban Teacher Education Program at Rutgers-Newark, at Stevens Institute of Technology, and at New York University. Molly Vollman Makris is the author of the forthcoming book Public Housing and School Choice in a Gentrified City: Youth Experiences of Uneven Opportunity. Her research interests are urban education reform, public housing, gentrification, and the privatization of public education, housing, and space. 

Title of Dissertation

When “Opportunity” Moves to You: How Living in a Gentrified Community Affects the Education and  Environment of Youth in Public Housing


The Moving to Opportunity for Fair Housing program gave families with children in urban public housing projects the chance to move from high-poverty neighborhoods to low-poverty neighborhoods in the hope that the move would improve their quality of life, health, and education. In Hoboken, New Jersey, public housing residents did not have to move to opportunity; instead, opportunity moved to them.

This dissertation tells of young people living in public housing in a gentrified community where they are part of a racial and socioeconomic minority. Through qualitative analysis, including ethnography, youth participatory research, interviews, a focus group, and analysis of archival sources, the researcher investigated educational and environmental experiences of these young people. Using these methods and applying theories of neoliberalism, social and cultural capital, and political economy of place, the study examines the following:

  • demographic, environmental, and educational characteristics of Hoboken;
  • demographics of the Hoboken district-run public schools and whether or not they reflect those of the community;
  • who attends which district-run public schools, and why;
  • who applies to charter schools, who does not, and why;
  •  how school choice has influenced the education of youth in public housing;
  • what environmental advantages and disadvantages are offered to youth who live in public housing in gentrified Hoboken;
  • how youth in public housing relate to their gentrified community; and
  • the implications of these findings for housing policy and education policy.

The findings show that, while these young people experience environmental advantages related to living in a gentrified community, they still predominantly attend segregated schools. In an era when public housing is being demolished to be replaced by mixed-income development and school choice policies are proliferating, these findings have implications for both education and public housing policy.

No previous study has analyzed how gentrification may influence youth in low-income public housing, who can remain in their community to reap possible advantages. This is also the only study of the education of youth in public housing in a gentrified community.

Director's Message The Universities Transportation Contact Us
Global Urban Studies Urban Environment Urban Health Core Curriculum
Student Handbook Schedule & Registration Links Funding Sources