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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

Gwendolyn Harris, Ph.D.

Executive Director

Gwendolyn Long Harris, received her undergraduate degree from the University of Connecticut and her Masters from the School of Social Service Administration, University of Chicago.  She completed her doctoral work at the Rutgers University, Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy. Her professional career has concentrated on addressing the issues faced by underserved people and places through policy and programmatic intervention.    

She has had an extensive career in community development, social services, and government, highlighted by founding Newark Emergency Services of Families, Inc. almost 40 years ago, as well as serving as Chief of Staff, Business Administrator and Department Director during the Palmer Administration in Trenton, New Jersey, and as Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Human Services during the McGreevy administration.

As Executive Director of Rand Institute she has worked to expand the Institute’s involvement in Southern New Jersey through applied research, neutral convening and community development.  In doing so she has more than doubled both the amount of the Institute’s budget and the number of full time staff and the Institute has active projects in Burlington, Camden, Gloucester, Salem, Atlantic, and Cumberland Counties.

She is immediate past Chair of the Board of Trustees for Mercer County Community College where she has served as a trustee since 2004.  She is also Vice Chair of the Board of Directors for the Capital City Redevelopment Corporation.

Contact Dr. Harris at

Tracy A. Swan, MPA, MCJ

Senior Project Administrator

Ms. Swan has worked at the Walter Rand Institute for ten years. She manages a diverse portfolio of projects at WRI. Her program evaluations include a newly established peer recovery center, mental health services for a local school district, a county-wide at-risk youth case management effort, a local police department, and a statewide parole employment placement program. Her needs assessment involves determining legal needs for medical patients. Her conferences include a recently held forum on public health coalitions in South Jersey and two separate educational and employment opportunities forums for at-risk and court-involved youth.

Ms. Swan’s largest project is the NJ Attorney General’s funded juvenile delinquency prevention effort in Cumberland County, where she and her team provide assistance to over 100 county stakeholders in developing and implementing delinquency prevention and positive youth development strategies. Ms. Swan recently secured a similar contract for Burlington County, which will officially kickoff in January 2016.

Ms. Swan is the Chair of Board for the local United Way of Cumberland County; a Board member of United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey Public Policy Committee; and member of UWGPSNJ’s Leadership Council. She received her BA in Psychology from Oberlin College, holds a master’s in Public Administration and a master’s in Criminal Justice from Rutgers–Camden.  Ms. Swan also serves as an adjunct professor in the Criminal Justice Undergraduate Department of Rutgers University.

Contact Ms. Swan at

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, 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

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

Program Coordinator

Luke McKetta 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

Project Coordinator

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 a 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

Project 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

Jonella Ward

WRI Administrative Assistant

Jonella J. Ward is a U.S. Army OIF/OEF War Veteran in which she specialized in medical care and dabbled in recruiting. She was honorably discharged in 2011 and continued her education at the University of Phoenix, Center City Philadelphia Campus. Jonella completed her Bachelors of Science concentration in Management in 2013 and her Master’s in Business Administration in 2015. She enjoys being a mother to her 5 year old daughter, playing competitive sports, creating clothing deigns, candy buffets, and giving back to the community.

Contact Ms. Malpass at