Garrett Nelson

Master's degree student
UNC Charlotte Urban Institute


Garrett Nelson was born and raised in Charlotte. He is a graduate student in the UNC Charlotte Department of Geography and Earth Sciences with a focus on economic geography, and is studying entrepreneurship, innovation, and technology. His thesis explores using projects as a geographic measure of entrepreneurial activity within the United States.


Nelson has a bachelor's degree from N.C. State University in political science, and expects to complete his master's degree in May 2015 in the Department of Geography and Earth Sciences.

Collin Brown

K&L Gates

Collin Brown is a partner in the Charlotte office of K&L Gates, where he focuses his practice on land use and zoning, and land use and real estate litigation. Collin represents land owners and developers on a wide range of development projects, and is engaged in development projects from the rezoning stage through the issuance of building permits and enforcement issues that arise during the life of a development. Collin’s practice includes legislative, quasi-judicial and administrative approvals.

A native of Covington, GA, Collin graduated from the University of Mississippi with a bachelor’s in arts and earned his J.D. from Wake Forest University School of Law. He also has a Master of Public Administration, with a concentration in planning and economic development, from Georgia State University.  Collin is a LEED Accredited Professional (LEED AP), a distinction he earned through the Green Building Certification Institute. As a LEED AP, he has a thorough understanding of green building practices and principles, as well as the LEED Rating System. Collin was the first North Carolina attorney to earn this credential.

Jeff Michael

UNC Charlotte Urban Institute
704 687-1201


Jeff Michael is director of the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute.  A planner and attorney by training, his professional experience includes extensive work around land use, sustainable development and land conservation  issues. Prior to coming to the institute in 2003, Jeff served as director of the Wildacres Leadership Initiative and the William C. Friday Fellowship for Human Relations, one of North Carolina’s premier leadership programs.

A native of the Charlotte region (Stanly County), Jeff is often called upon by the news media and policy makers to share his professional and personal knowledge of the region, and to provide commentary on the economic, environmental and social issues confronting its communities. 

Jeff was named a William C. Friday Fellow in 1997 and an American Marshall Memorial Fellow in 2005 and has served on the boards of numerous statewide and regional organizations.


JD, University of North Carolina School of Law
Master of Regional Planning, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
B.S. in Business Administration, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill


Land use law, land conservation, regional planning, sustainable economic development, leadership development, diversity/multicultural training

John Chesser

Enterprise Management Analyst
Mecklenburg County government
(704) 687-1192


Before joining Mecklenburg County government, John was a Senior Analyst at the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute. During his time at the institute, his work included: research and analysis of regional trends in demographics and development; data dashboard development; project management; public process development and facilitation; data systems implementation; remote training and support; and web communications. Until 2008, he managed the institute’s project office for the Transportation Information Management System (TIMS), for western North Carolina. Through the TIMS program, he has extensive operational planning experience in public school transportation, student assignment and redistricting.

John chairs the Davidson, N.C., Planning Board and Board of Adjustment.


M.A. Geography, UNC Charlotte, urban and regional analysis concentration
B.A. Geography, UNC Chapel Hill


Urban development and demographic change; geographic information systems (GIS); web communications; school redistricting, pupil assignment; pupil transportation and school operational planning