Schul Forum Series

2023-2024 : Our Connecting Spaces

This year, the theme of our Schul Forum Series was Our Connecting Spaces. Across the Charlotte region, we are molded by the places we connect and the relationships we develop in those spaces. Our neighborhoods, schools, houses of worship, where we work, where we play, where we create – we shape them and they shape us. Beyond being a simple backdrop of our daily lives, recent research by the Opportunity Insights team, led by Raj Chetty of Harvard University, suggests that the places that enable cross-class friendships may have a role to play in improving economic mobility.

During the series, we explored the spaces where we connect in the Charlotte region, asking how those areas enable connection or create barriers to economic connectedness. On Oct. 26, we discussed mixed-income communities and place-based initiatives, and, on Nov. 9, we explored the impact of arts and culture on the community. On February 1, 2024, with more than 175 people in attendance, we continued the conversation – diving deeper into areas we previously discussed, as well as adding education and places of worship to the exchange. [View photos from the event here]

Please view a recap of the opening session and the keynote panel below.

2024 Schul Forum Opening Session

2024 Schul Forum Keynote Panel: Our Connecting Spaces

Leading up to the Schul Forum Series, the Urban Institute partnered with the Chancellor’s Speaker Series, which welcomed Dr. Raj Chetty to Charlotte on Nov. 14. to extend the regional conversation on economic mobility and the ongoing work to ensure opportunity for all in the Charlotte region. Watch a replay of Chetty’s livestream, courtesy of WFAE, here.

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About the Schul Forum Series

The Marianne M. & Norman W. Schul Urban Institute Forum Series was established in 2018 with a generous gift from the institute’s first director, Dr. Norm Schul, and his wife, Marianne ‘73. The Series is an annual event and includes the Schul Conversations, lunch time webinars (about an hour and fifteen minutes) that precede and set the table for the Schul Forum, an in-person convening that creates space for learning, dialogue, and action around issues that matter to the Charlotte region.

The Schul Forum Series features the work of the Charlotte Urban Institute’s Gambrell Faculty Fellowship Program, a program funded by The Gambrell Foundation that now includes 44 Gambrell Fellows whose research focuses on economic mobility in the Charlotte region.

Previous Schul Forums

2022 Schul forum series: Does Development Mean displacement?

More than 150 people attended the 2022 Schul Forum where we examined development and displacement with the help of our keynote speaker, Dr. Karen Chapple, and a local panel. We also got a brief overview of data tools in our community that help us understand displacement risk and our challenges and progress around economic mobility in the city and region. The Forum was followed by a reception sponsored by The Gambrell Foundation to honor the Gambrell Faculty Fellows.

Introduction and Local Panel – Data Tools for Economic Mobility

The panel of local experts included: Dr. Christina Danis, Centralina Regional Council; Akofa Dossou, Charlotte Regional Business Alliance; A.J. Calhoun, Leading On Opportunity; Andrew Bowen, City of Charlotte; and Dr. Lori Thomas, UNC Charlotte Urban Institute | Charlotte Regional Data Trust.


Keynote Address: Dr. Karen Chapple and Local Panel – Targeted Local Anti-displacement Solutions

Dr. Karen Chapple is the Director of the School of Cities at the University of Toronto and Professor Emerita of City and Regional Planning at University of California at Berkeley, where she was a founder and continues to co-lead the Urban Displacement Project. Chapple examines inequalities in planning and development, with a focus on economic development and housing. Her recent books include Planning Sustainable Cities and Regions: Towards More Equitable Development (2015), which won the John Friedmann Book Award from the American Collegiate Schools of Planning; Fragile Governance and Local Economic Development: Theory and Evidence from Peripheral Regions in Latin America with Sergio Montero (2018); and, Transit-Oriented Displacement or Community Dividends? Understanding the Effects of Smarter Growth on Communities with Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris (2019).

[Read Dr. Chapple’s open access book: Transit-Oriented Displacement or Community Dividends? Understanding the Effects of Smarter Growth on Communities]

The panel of local experts joining Dr. Chapple to discuss targeted local anti-displacement solutions included: Charis Blackmon, West Side Community Land Trust; Mark Ethridge, Ascent Real Estate Capital: Ely Portillo, WFAE; and Dr. Byron P. White, UNC Charlotte urbanCORE.

Schul Conversations: Setting the table

In preparation for the 2022 Schul Forum, the Urban Institute hosted two virtual conversations to discuss gentrification, displacement and transit in Charlotte.

October: Transit and Transportation: What’s the path forward in growing Charlotte?

September: Gentrification and Displacement: What’s behind these potent words?

2021 Schul Forum: Moving the Needle in Charlotte and beyond

Fiftieth out of 50. Worst large metro region for economic mobility. Housing is too expensive. Homelessness numbers are growing. The racial wealth gap is really a chasm. The gaps between students who have and students who make do without are growing. And the COVID-19 pandemic exposed the divides in our society when it comes to jobs, economic opportunity, prosperity and security more vividly than any crisis in generations.

We’ve been talking about economic mobility in Charlotte for a long time, but have we really moved the needle? And what steps can we take that will make a concrete difference for people in our community, enabling better access to jobs, education, health and the opportunity to improve their quality of life?

That was the focus of the 2021 Schul Forum: Moving the Needle in Charlotte and Beyond. We talked about the challenges facing us and the solutions that we can implement to help our community. The 2021 Schul Forum was held virtually with more than 200 attendees (the 2020 event was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic).


Local panel: Where are we now and how are we moving the needle on economic mobility?

The panel of local experts included: Dr. Sharon Gaber, UNC Charlotte Chancellor; Dr. Byron P. White, UNC Charlotte Office of Urban Research and Community Engagement; Laura Clark, United Way of Central Carolinas; Tonya Jameson, Leading on Opportunity; Kacey Grantham, Road to Hire; W. Teddy McDaniel, III, Urban League of Central Carolinas, Inc.

Keynote Address: Dr. Andre Perry

A nationally known scholar, Andre Perry is a Senior Fellow with the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program, an author and a scholar-in-residence at American University. Perry recently published a new book, “Know Your Price: Valuing Black Lives and Property in America’s Black Cities.”

From Brookings: “Perry’s recent scholarship at Brookings has analyzed Black-majority cities and institutions in America, focusing on valuable assets worthy of increased investment.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, Perry has documented the underlying causes for the outsized number of coronavirus-related deaths in Black communities. Perry’s Brookings research has illuminated how certain forms of social distancing historically accelerated economic and social disparities between Black people and the rest of the country. Perry also mapped racial inequities in housing, income, and health to underscore how policy discrimination makes Black Americans more vulnerable to COVID-19.

2021 Schul Conversations

In preparation for the 2021 Schul Forum, the Urban Institute hosted a series of virtual panel discussions focused on economic mobility and related issues, such as health, transportation access and the racial wealth gap.

October: Workforce Development

October: The Racial Wealth Gap

August: Health disparities and economic mobility

May: Economic Mobility and Transportation

April: Housing and Economic Mobility in Charlotte

You can view the program, keynote address and other materials from the 2019 Schul Forum at the link below:

View the 2019 Schul Forum: The Carolinas Urban-Rural Connection project

The 2019 Schul Forum. Panelists Audrey Whetton, Brian Collier, Susan DeVenney and Chrystal Joy. Photo: Wade Bruton