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Projects and Testimonials

Community Partners and Projects

Most SURC projects are proprietary and used internally by the organizations; therefore, they are not listed here. Only the public-facing projects are listed under the organizations.




St. Leonard’s Ministries
Cathy Lesmeister 
Director of Grants and Quality Improvement 
Saint Leonard’s Ministries
Saint Leonard's Ministries provides holistic reentry services to returning citizens after exit from the carceral system. The Student Urban Research Corps helped Saint Leonard's measure one of our strongest success indicators, recidivism. SURC members researched Saint Leonard's cohorts spanning the last five years of our interim housing for men, Saint Leonard's House, and interim housing for women, Grace House programs. SURC members utilized the Illinois Department of Corrections and Cook County Jail public records to determine if Saint Leonard's participants had recidivated since completing the program. In the State of Illinois, an average of 45% of returning citizens recidivate within 3-years of release. From this project, Saint Leonard's and SURC members calculated that Saint Leonard's averages a 19% recidivism rate for men and 9% for women served.

Legal Aid Chicago
Kulsum Ameji
Senior Attorney, Community Engagement Unit
Legal Aid Chicago
Legal Aid Chicago is a nonprofit organization providing free civil legal services to low income communities. These include housing, credit & debt, domestic violence, expungement, homelessness, community violence, health disparities, immigration, low wage workers’ rights, and many others. Legal Aid’s work intersects with a variety of social issues and vulnerable populations. DePaul alums and students are playing a critical role in Legal Aid Chicago’s first ever Community Legal Needs Assessment. The team includes: DePaul alum Kulsum Ameji, J.D. (Senior Attorney, Community Engagement, Legal Aid Chicago), Carina Hoyer, volunteer researcher (DePaul graduate, DePaul Geography BA and GIS intern with Legal Aid Chicago) and, in 2021-22 four SURC members: Ellen Bloss, Alex Stone, Sonya Koffman and Amira Hady. The four SURC students were involved with every aspect of the Needs Assessment and their contributions included interviewing key stakeholders, attending focus groups, conducting research, identifying census data, and various other tasks. “Their contributions to the project have been truly impactful,” explained Kulsum Ameji, “Working with limited staff capacity amidst a pandemic, it was challenging to conduct such an endeavor. The enhanced capacity provided by SURC student researchers truly expanded our project’s scope.


Anna Mangahas
Director of Membership and Training,
ONE Northside
Our student researcher from DePaul created a unique and much needed Chicago map that showed multiple layers of city, state and federal ward and district boundaries on the same map so that we could better see the overlap of people on our organizing turf. It was a complex thing that pulled geographic info from different sources. After hitting dead ends with accessing this kind of map - one didn't even exist - I remembered a previous project that a DePaul student had done. SURC came through a second time for us. The back and forth process of receiving the map and sharing feedback was open, transparent and fun to see because the map improved every time we saw it. Now, the maps that were created will help Chicagoans see where they are living in Chicago's many layered political landscape.

KEEN Chicago 
Laura Fillenwarth
Executive Director
Keen Chicago
KEEN Chicago provides free sports and recreational programming to youth with disabilities in the Chicagoland area. DePaul students assisted KEEN Chicago on multiple initiatives: first, creating a map showcasing where in the city our programming takes place and where the youth served live which helped showcase program need to grant funders, second collecting qualitative and quantitative program evaluation data for our programming, and third creating an impact report map for the 2022 and 2023 calendar years. Students were responsive and engaged in the process and became passionate about the work of our program. Their work enhanced our own staff capacity and allowed us to focus on program improvement elements while the students were helping with data collection and analysis.

Jennifer Dixon
Executive Director
WorldChicago is grateful for the support of the DePaul University Students from the Geography Department and Student Urban Research Corps for their work in making an interactive map showing the reach of the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP) in Chicago. Seeing the neighborhoods and communities that hosted IVLP groups visit helps us to show our impact while also showing the many neighborhoods we have yet to reach in connecting our local and global communities.


Chicago Furniture Bank 
Paul De Boer
Executive Director,
Chicago Furniture Bank
"The data analytics that DePaul pulls together for the Chicago Furniture Bank is essential to the services we provide and is critically important to many of our nonprofit partners,” says Paul De Boer, executive director of Chicago Furniture Bank. “When organizations seek grant funding, the majority of the grant applications require this information, so having this data readily available saves countless hours of time and resources."

Roots For Life 
Rhonda Watson
Executive Director
Roots For Life
Roots for Life is a grassroots social movement dedicating its resources to educate and empower communities to thrive nutritiously. Our approach to filling vital needs in the community is multi-faceted — (1) to connect individuals, currently in food insecure areas, to locally grown fruits and vegetables, (2) to educate on their nutritional value, and (3) to empower a healthy change into their lives. Roots for Life’s programs work in conjunction with a comprehensive educational component that is designed to deepen the connectivity by providing tips and techniques towards healthy living.

To support our mission, the students from DePaul University helped us to create resources for food insecure individuals and families. The students created storymaps, literature review, and an interactive map for locating the closest grocery store. The storymaps are a vital resource that shows the statistics and supporting data on the impact of food insecurity. The grocery store locator will be a useful resource to those trying to navigate neighborhoods to finding the nearest location for nutritious food. The literature review helps to show how other organizations like ours are tackling this devastating social issue.

The help of the students was invaluable. This project helped Roots for Life tell its story. We couldn’t be more appreciative of the time and creativity of the students.