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The Senator Walter Rand Institute for Public Affairs, Rutgers University–Camden, addresses public policy issues impacting Southern New Jersey through applied research, community engagement and organizational development.


411 Cooper St.
Camden, NJ 08102
(856) 225-6566


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Our Staff

Gwendy Harris

Gwendolyn Harris, Ph.D.

Executive Director

Gwendolyn Harris has an extensive career in human services and public administration, highlighted by founding Newark Emergency Services of Families, Inc. thirty years ago, as well as serving as the City of Trenton’s Director of Health and Human Services, Business Administrator and as Mayor Palmer’s Chief of Staff; she also served as Commissioner of Human Services for the State of New Jersey. 

Gwendolyn L. Harris received her PhD from Rutgers University in Urban Planning and Policy. She also teaches at Rutgers-Camden. Her dissertation topic assessed the impact of affordable housing on taxable property valuation. Her college and graduate level teaching has included courses in urban policy, municipal management and local economic development. 

Ms. Harris holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Connecticut and a Masters from the University of Chicago’s School of Social Service Administration.  She currently serves on the Board of Trustees of Mercer County Community College, is a board member and treasurer of New Jersey Public Policy Research Institute, and a member and officer of the Central New Jersey Chapter of the Links, Incorporated.  Gwendy, as she likes to be called, lives in Trenton with her husband, Jerome.

Contact Dr. Harris at

Tracy SwanTracy A. Swan, MPA, MCJ

Senior Project Administrator

A former United Way marketing and fundraising executive, Ms. Swan has managed volunteers and coordinated various projects to increase funding for community health and human service programs for over 15 years. Ms. Swan oversees WRI’s major public safety projects, Camden Safer Cities Initiative, Operation CeaseFire, and a Prison Re-Entry Initiative with the NJ Department of Corrections. 

In her current role, Ms. Swan provides valuable large-group, multi-agency facilitation/ convening and program development expertise, as well as research and data analysis on anti-crime prevention programs in the City. Ms. Swan is also responsible for board and resource development activities at WRI. She received her BA in Psychology from Oberlin College, holds a Masters in Public Administration (MPA) and a Masters in Criminal Justice (MCJ) from Rutgers-Camden.  

Ms. Swan has co-facilitated an undergraduate statistics course and serves as a tutor for the graduate level data analysis course in the criminal justice program. Ms. Swan has also authored a chapter on public policy for a college level textbook, Forensic Nursing: Concepts and Challenges, First Edition. While attending Oberlin College, Ms. Swan served as an undergraduate research assistant and conducted research for the publication, Children’s Representations of the Pattern of Daily Activities, Child Development, Vol. 61, No. 5 (Oct., 1990), pp. 1399-1412, by William J. Friedman.

Contact Ms. Swan at

Kristin Curtis

Kristin Curtis, MA

Senior Project Coordinator

Kristin Curtis obtained her Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice and Sociology from Rutgers University- Camden Campus and Master’s degree in Criminal Justice from Rutgers University- Camden.

In 2008, Ms. Curtis served as the Walter Rand Institute’s Graduate Assistant.  She was then promoted to Research Project Assistant in 2009, where she led data analyst on the PRI-RESPECT, PRI-CORP, and Municipal Prevention Projects at the Walter Rand Institute.  Ms. Curtis is the Project Manager of the South Jersey Strengthening Families Initiative Evaluation and she is also working on the Food Bank of South Jersey’s Healthy Living Initiative Evaluation.

Ms. Curtis has presented findings on residence restrictions for sexual offenders with Drs. Michelle Meloy and Susan Miller at the American Society of Criminology and published an article in the American Journal of Criminal Justice. Her research interests include offender re-entry, juvenile delinquency, sexual offenders, sex crimes, and victim’s issues.

Contact Ms. Curtis at

Paul Smith

Paul Smith, MPA

Research Project Coordinator

Paul Smith holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University- Camden, and is a graduate of the MPA program (December 2009) at Rutgers University–Camden. He was hired as a Research Project Assistant at WRI in April 2010. Prior to being hired as a full- time staff, Paul served as a Student Project Assistant and Graduate Fellow at WRI.
Mr. Smith has worked on numerous projects including Regional Planning and Growth Fit, Affordable Housing in South Jersey, an analysis of Camden’s Special Services District, Municipal Planning & Prevention, Operation CeaseFire and PRI-CORP.

In his current role as Research Project Coordinator, Paul is primarily working on WRI’s Strengthening Family Initiatives project.

Contact Mr. Smith at

Dennis Pelaez-Robles

Research Project Assistant

Dennis Pelaez-Robles graduated from Rowan University with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics. Currently, he is leading the research and evaluation of the Cumberland County Collaboratives as part of the South Jersey Strengthening Families Initiative funded by the Pascale Sykes Foundation.  Mr. Pelaez-Robles plans to pursue a Master’s of Business Administration.

Contact Mr. Pelaez-Robles at

James Morgante, Ph.D.

Senior Project Coordinator

James Morgante received his B.S. in Special Education from Vanderbilt University in 2002, M.A. in Social Science from the University of Chicago in 2003, and Ph.D. from the University of Massachusetts in 2010.  Over the past several years, he has published empirical reports in scholarly journals within his field and taught undergraduate- and graduate-level courses in developmental psychology and learning science.  Dr. Morgante’s research program has centered on cognitive and physical development in infancy and early childhood.  He is particularly interested in community-based learning and, specifically, how aquariums, museums and zoos can support learning and foster family relationships. 

Contact Dr. Morgante at

Karen Cruz Rosado

Karen Cruz-Rosado

Project Coordinator

Karen Rosado obtained her bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice from Rutgers University–Camden in 2007. Mrs. Rosado has worked on various projects and initiatives since October 2011.  She was the lead coordinator on the North Camden Civic Engagement Project in which she engaged community stakeholders on projects such as community greening.  She was the lead researcher for Cumberland County as part of the Pascale Sykes’s South Jersey Strengthening Families Initiative, a project which examines the impact of social service organization collaboration on child well-being, financial stability of families, and relationships between children and their caregivers. 

She is currently a lead on the Cumberland County Positive Youth Development Coalition. The Coalition is a cross sectorial approach to developing strategies for decreasing juvenile delinquency and is part of the Municipal Prevention Planning Initiative that is funded by New Jersey’s State Attorney’s Office.  Mrs. Rosado’s policy interests include social service delivery, juvenile delinquency, community development and engagement, and secondary education achievement.

Contact Mrs. Cruz-Rosado at

Jessica McConnell

Research Project Coordinator

Jessica McConnell graduated with a BA in Criminal Justice from Richard Stockton College of New Jersey in 2013 and an MA in Criminal Justice from Rutgers University–Camden in 2016. As a Student Project Assistant at WRI, Ms. McConnell worked with the United Way of Salem County and the Pascale Sykes South Jersey Families Initiative, the latter of which she continues to work on now as a full-time Research Project Coordinator. She is also an adult advisor for WINGS Youth Group at St. Joan of Arc in Marlton, NJ and coaches 10-12-year-old girls in Township Softball.

Contact Ms. McConnell at

Luke McKetta

Project Coordinator

Luke McKenna is a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh. Upon graduation, he began his career in social services and advocacy work and has spent the last decade working with at-risk populations, most notably in the field of child services and positive youth development. With past experience as a clinician and supervisor for in-home child services, a director of youth programming for a community membership agency, and a program supervisor for a runaway youth shelter, Mr. McKetta understands the need for community engagement practices to ensure positive supports and services for youth.

Contact Mr. McKetta at

Kurt Schmenger

Research Project Assistant

Kurt Schmenger graduated with a BA in Psychology from Lehigh University and MA in Experimental Psychology from Appalachian State University. He has been an English teacher in Madrid, Spain, and done Health Outreach Worker for Hispanic Farm Workers. Mr. Schmenger is currently working with the Strengthening Family Initiatives. He enjoys speaking Spanish and playing golf.

Contact Mr. Schmenger at

Angelyce Purnell

Retention Team Coordinator

Angelyce Purnell graduated with a BA in Spanish from Temple University. She is currently working with WRI’s Strengthening Families Initiative.

Contact Ms. Purnell at

Monica RearsMonica Rears

Administrative Coordinator

Monica Rears received her bachelor’s degree in Economics with a concentration in Accounting from Rutgers University–New Brunswick.  She handles grant budgets and reconciliations as well as the Walter Rand Institute’s events and website.  She comes from a diverse accounting background where she handled Payroll, Accounts Receivable, Accounts Payable, and General Ledger operations.

Contact Ms. Rears at

Kathy Malpass

WRI Administrative Assistant

Kathy Malpass recently joined WRI in June 2015 as an Administrative Assistant. She previously worked in the hotel industry. She was a Sales and Catering Coordinator handling meeting set-ups and catering events.  Kathy enjoys being the support person for the office.

Contact Ms. Malpass at