Who We Are

Dina Newman, Director

Dina has the honor and privilege to serve as the University of Missouri-Kansas City’s (UMKC) Center for Neighborhoods (CFN) Director of Leadership where she manages staff, volunteers and student interns. As the Center’s first Director, Ms. Newman is instrumental in establishing and administering the internal office environment for CFN while also providing overall daily external management of the Center. A key part of her day-to-day efforts consists of close collaboration with faculty on the Center’s curriculum development, programs, technical assistance, community engagement, development and outreach, fundraising, grant writing and leadership development training.


LaMonica M. Upton, Outreach & Engagement Coordinator

LaMonica previously worked for the Unified Government of Kansas City, Kansas (KCK) for 14 years serving residents through the Aging & Disability Resource Center and most recently as the Neighborhood Liaison with the Livable Neighborhoods Office.  Her experience in coalition building, grassroots organizing and facilitation is the driving force in her endeavors in the community.  She serves on many civic and social service organizations’ advisory boards and committees.

She’s a Certified Life Coach and a recent graduate of Avila University, Kansas City, Missouri with a Master’s of Science in Organization Development Psychology (MSOD).


Erin Royals, Neighborhood Outreach & Research Coordinator 

Erin is a PhD Candidate in Geography at Rutgers University-New Brunswick. Her work sits at the intersection of urban geography, planning and public policy, and black geographies. Her dissertation project examines the securitization of Westport and its effects. Prior to beginning her PhD, she worked for the City of Kansas City, Missouri as an urban planner in Housing and Neighborhood Services. Erin holds a Masters in Urban and Regional Planning with a concentration in housing and community development from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor. In her free time, Erin plays rugby for the Kansas City Jazz.


Jacob Wagner, Associate Professor of Urban Planning + Design

Dr. Jacob A. Wagner is an Associate Professor of Urban Planning + Design, the
Director of the Urban Studies Program, and Faculty Director and Co-founder of the UMKC Center
for Neighborhoods. Dr. Wagner teaches courses in urban planning and urban
studies focused on neighborhood planning, equity and community development
in the Department of Architecture, Urban Planning + Design (AUPD). He is a
member of the editorial board of the Journal of Urban Design and the American
Institute of Certified Planners (AICP). He served on the Vacant Lot Task Force for
the Environmental Management Commission of the City of Kansas City, MO and
is the past President of the Board of Cultivate KC.