Barbara Ferman, PhD

Executive Director

215-204-6276 /

Born and raised in Brooklyn (which is still the 4th largest city!), I had an early education about urban areas that was shaped by some very practical activities—turning empty lots into playgrounds, keeping the hand ball court for hours, dodging traffic, and learning the subway lines. Over the years, this practical education morphed into a concern with issues of housing and development, neighborhood politics and community organizations, and political leadership and urban policy.  While researching and writing on these topics, first as a graduate student and then as a Professor of Political Science, my fixation with the practical persisted. In 1997, I started the University Community Collaborative (formerly the UCCP) at Temple University because I strongly believe that universities and communities can and should work together around issues that affect the larger worlds in which we all work and reside. Although there are competing interests and agendas, I am confident that we can create win-win situations in many cases.

Working with some very talented, creative, and committed community leaders and young people prompted me to think more deeply and systematically about the university’s role in the community, about civic engagement as a tool for political empowerment, and about pedagogical approaches to preparing young people to live in a democratic society. Heavily informed by the “view from the street,” I continually search for what is fair, reasonable and doable.

I have lived and worked in New York, Boston, Chicago, and, since 1992, Philadelphia. My passion is education and community issues with a particular eye towards making things work. For mental health, I play tennis, bond with exercise machines, and escape into good works of fiction.

Michiko Hunt

Assistant Director

215-204-2007 /

I was born and raised here in Philadelphia in the northwest part of the city. My parents are both activists, and I was raised in a household where issues of race, class, social justice and inequality were regularly discussed. As a young adult I grappled (as many do) with discovering who I was and what was important to me. I was looking for something larger than myself, something that would affirm my beliefs, and open up new possibilities.

I found just that in the City Year program, which began as a one year commitment for me, and eventually became a five year experience that was personally and professionally transforming. In my work with City Year in Boston, San Jose and Philadelphia I worked on teams doing full-time community service with children and young adults in those cities. For the first time in my life I was able to see firsthand the connections between the political and the personal. I did work that was meaningful to me, and also served a greater good. I learned what it meant to work in a truly diverse group of people, and help organize people and communities around a common goal to accomplish big things.

I am so thrilled to be part of the UCC team! I am so inspired by the work being done here, and by the incredibly committed, passionate, and personable people who make up the organization. In my role as Assistant Director I hope I can continue the legacy of incredible grass roots work being done on behalf of the young people of Philadelphia.

Ieshia Nelson

Training & Technical Assistance

215-204-6185 /

I once heard “Titles define what you do; but character defines who you are”; as the Training & Technical Assistance coordinator at the UCC, fortunately what I do helps further build who I am. It is fulfilling to manage the day-to-day responsibilities and long term initiatives that allow such positive youth-driven work to be cultivated.

A native of SE Washington, DC I was educated mostly by circumstance (living in the shadows of where laws are made however my neighborhood never benefited from those promises). Through my mom’s involvement and desire for us to have better I was awarded a scholarship to a private, independent High School (MD). All the while I volunteered and tutored at my neighborhood community center only further exposing that great divide. I was afforded opportunities unimagined by my peers: an educational environment deeply rooted in an Honor Code of honesty, equality, trust and respect, with equal emphasis on arts and humanity, studying abroad in Central America and Africa, actively engaged teachers and real direction with regards to higher education.

As an undergrad at Temple, I was introduced to VOICES in the midst of its Education Campaign. I saw students from a neighborhood reminiscent of mine actively engaged in identifying the problems, demanding answers and offering solutions. I was challenged and embraced… and still am!

Johannah Bennett

VOICES Program Coordinator

215-204-3871 /

As far back as I can remember I always had a passion for teaching and educating. This stemmed from the fact that I was different than most students and that my teachers had a hard time engaging me. The lack of creativity and the monotonous routine of traditional schooling gave me no creative outlet to express myself or to even learn what was being taught.

In 2006 I took a Political Science course at Temple University that placed me in an internship with the UCC. I was instantly attracted to the organization’s mission and unique approach to fostering youth empowerment. In VOICES I saw youth speaking about REAL issues and being treated as the experts. Their opinions and ideas, with our support, became social justice projects that exemplify the youth voice.

What I get out is what I put in, and in turn I give out what others have given to me. Throughout my experience at the UCC my passion and understanding for both the community and young people has grown tremendously. In my position as the VOICES Program Coordinator, I am honored to continue providing opportunities, resources, and support to the communities and youth across the city.

Nuala Cabral

Media Productions & Communications Manager

215-204-6185 /

At the UCC I am responsible for managing ongoing media projects and initiatives, creating and coordinating marketing & communication materials and maintaining this website. A native of Rhode Island, I moved to Philadelphia to obtain my Masters in Broadcast, Telecommunications and Mass Media from Temple University in 2010. At Temple, my studies focused around media literacy and urban education and I discovered the Collaborative when researching university-community partnerships. I was impressed by the UCC then and honored to later join the UCC team during the summer of 2012. I love working with young people who are finding their voice and emerging as leaders.

In addition to media literacy and teaching video production, I am a filmmaker.  When not at the Collaborative, I enjoy baking (particularly anything chocolate), salsa dancing, feminist organizing and activism.

Nick Palazzolo

POWER Internship Coordinator

215-204-6185 /

At the UCC, I coordinate our POWER internship and represent our organization on the Campaign for Nonviolent Schools. That the staff here really get it, that they value the experiences and knowledge young people already have, and that they are committed to supporting youth throughout their high school years and beyond drew me to this awesome team of educators.

At Swarthmore College, I grappled with questions of oppression and privilege through coursework, non-profit internships, community engagement, and friendships. Through my work at The Attic Youth Center, I saw young people come together to challenge the systems of power that keep some down and all of us divided. Young people have taught me much of what I have learned over the years, including the power of envisioning a more inclusive and nurturing world, the importance of listening, and the strength of collective action. I continue to be challenged as I work with the UCC to offer spaces for youth to further develop their critical and political awareness to then go on and make social change.

To relax and meditate, I enjoy cooking/baking (especially for friends), reading, practicing yoga, and drinking tea.

Niara Blakney

College Access Coordinator

215-204-6185 /

As The Collaborative College Access Coordinator I work with local high schools providing leadership development, networking and college awareness for students.

Throughout my life I’ve been an active volunteer in communities because I’ve always known things that are greater than me are happening. As I taught math to youth in Cameroon, West Africa and le\d youth development workshops for the A Better Chance organization, I formed my philosophy of servant leadership and that each of us must take a role in the success of our families, friends, colleagues and communities at home and abroad.

After graduating from Hampton University I took positions in Account Management at BBDO advertising agency and in Strategic Marketing at Columbia Records in New York. I became experienced in marketing and leadership as I worked in exciting fast paced environments managing dynamic projects, however, I constantly asked myself “How am I directly improving the lives of others?” Having a career in education and community development had always been my goal and it suddenly became a desire that couldn’t be ignored. I developed a plan to make a shift in my career and I’m so glad I did!

I love working with youth and I’m excited to share my knowledge with students who I’m sure will teach me even more in return. The UCC’s dedication and impact are immense and I’m thrilled to be apart of the team. In my spare time I love attending concerts, discovering new music, reading and taking random road (or plane) trips.