Staff Bios

to reach the administrative staff, dial 215.243.0555 and the appropriate extension

Administrative Assistant

Dispatcher / Receptionist, X221

Matt Bergheiser

Executive Director, x224

Matt BergheiserMatt Bergheiser joined UCD as Executive Director in 2009. In his previous work as Philadelphia Regional Director of the Knight Foundation, he gave away money for a living. As a result - in stark contrast to his time at UCD – everyone treated him nicely and laughed at all his jokes. He is a trustee of Community College of Philadelphia, and a member of the Mayor’s Council on College and Career Success. Matt also ran downtown Trenton’s business improvement district for five years, and served as Executive Vice President of The Enterprise Center, an accelerator for inner-city entrepreneurship. He believes passionately in cities and in creating opportunities for people and places to thrive. Matt holds a B.A. from Princeton University and an MBA from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.

Matt and his wife Jen spend sleepless nights chasing two very young children around their house. He is an avid photographer who used to travel the world before the aforementioned kids came along. A native New Yorker who has called Philadelphia home since 1994, Matt is thankful that the sports gods made him the world’s biggest Yankees’ fan; unfortunately, to even things out a bit, they also made him the world’s biggest Jets’ fan.

Lori Klein Brennan

Director, Marketing and Communications, x227

Lori BrennanSince May 2003, Lori Klein Brennan has been the Director of Marketing & Communications for the University City District (UCD). Her role includes enhancing the visibility and public image of UCD and of the University City neighborhood. She is responsible for media relations, social/web marketing, branding/advertising, creative event placemaking initiatives, and strategic communications. Lori possesses an entrepreneurial spirit and enjoys the flexibility her job provides in allowing her to think outside the box. Prior to joining UCD, Lori’s career spanned several prominent Philadelphia nonprofits - The Academy of Natural Sciences, The Nature Conservancy and People’s Light and Theatre Company.

Lori currently serves on the board of the Philadelphia Mobile Food Association and has held previous board positions with Philadelphia Public Relations Association (PPRA). She volunteers to help promote Philadelphia as a world-class city.

She has been a vegetarian for nearly 25 years but considers herself a foodie. She enjoys traveling, spending time outdoors, reading Will Ferrell’s Twitter feed and if she could do it all over again, would be an architect or interior designer. Despite her professional accomplishments, her greatest pride and joy comes from spending time with and learning from her five year old daughter.

She is a 1996 graduate of West Virginia University, where she earned a Bachelor of Arts in Communications. She currently resides in Broomall with her husband Ed and her daughter.

Dexter Bryant

Operations Manager, Public Space Maintenance, x239

Before arriving at UCD Dexter Bryant was a manager for Onesource and, just prior, devoted 10 years of his life to the Montgomery Mall where he managing maintenance and facilities. Dexter also worked in a managerial capacity at Center City District, Rohm and Hass, the Harrisburg Airport, and UPS Air Hub. He received his training in trade schools for construction and management, and spent a number of years working in the construction field. Dexter is married, has a son and a dog named Fluffy. He loves all forms of auto racing and, as a drummer, is always is search of someone to jam with.

Seth Budick

Policy and Research Manager, Planning and Economic Development, x222

Though he has a graduate degree in the study of insect behavior, Seth Budick’s primary interest is in creating livable neighborhoods for people.  As part of the Planning and Economic Development department, Seth applies his extensive programming and GIS experience towards the analysis of data related to community and economic development.  Seth has been a resident of University City since 2007, when he rekindled his love affair with the soft pretzel and returned to Philadelphia after a long absence.  In his spare time, Seth enjoys exploring new neighborhoods, as well as hiking, and vegetable gardening.

John Casella

Center Manager, West Philadelphia Skills Center for Economic Advancement

John CasellaIn 2013, John joined the University City District team as the Center Manager for the Center for Economic Advancement. During his 5-years experience in workforce development within the Greater Philadelphia region, John transformed client training and business services systems; built, directed, and coached teams; and developed and leveraged partnerships with employers and community organizations. He holds a graduate degree in Geography and Urban Studies and is deeply passionate about all-things Philadelphia, in particular, its history, economic vitality, neighborhoods, and (depending on the season!) sports teams.

Sarah Davis

Director of Development, x226

Sarah DavisSarah Davis joined University City District as Director of Development in October 2012. Before coming to UCD, Sarah was Foundation Relations Manager at WHYY, where she secured significant grants from local, regional and national funders.

Sarah grew up in Central Massachusetts and lived in Chicago and upstate New York before arriving in West Philly. Her lifelong love of language and environment has led her to assist a socioeconomic study in the cloudforests of Ecuador, propagate native seedlings in Northern Scotland, write poetry and fiction at Antioch College, and raise some pretty decent tomatoes in Cedar Park.

Alan Garry

Operations Manager, Safety Ambassador Program, x233

alanHaving spent the last 10 years as a Corrections Officer for Montgomery County, Alan Garry joins UCD with an extensive law enforcement background. He attended Montgomery County Police Academy in 2006 and has been involved in Community Policing with Abington Township Police Department as a Community Service Officer. Alan has also had training in Emergency Management for the Department of Homeland Security. Alan is also the co-founder and director of a non-profit charity, The Cathy's Kids Foundation. He started the Foundation, which helps children battling cancer, after he lost his mom to a long and courageous fight with the disease. Alan lives with his wife and two daughters.

Prema Katari Gupta

Director, Planning and Economic Development, x248

Prema Katari GuptaPrema Katari Gupta joined UCD in 2010 and directs the organization's work relating to the development and stewardship of public spaces (including The Porch at 30th Street Station as well as Philadelphia first parklets and pedestrian plazas), bike/ped improvements, business attraction and retention, transportation management, sustainability, market research, and urban planning. She has represented UCD nationally at the Artplace Creative Placemaking Summit and the Project for Public Spaces Placemaking Leadership Council. Prema was most recently Real Estate Manager at PIDC, the City of Philadelphia's economic development authority. She has also worked at Yale University and at the Urban Land Institute, where she authored a book on placemaking in mixed-use development. She is on the executive committee of ULI Philadelphia and on the board of the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia.

Prema's work is informed by her vast experience people-watching in public spaces; her love of travel has taken her to over 30 countries. Raised in Connecticut, Prema is a graduate of Bowdoin College, where she studied art history and economics. She has a master’s degree from PennDesign and a certificate in Real Estate from the Wharton School. In her spare time, Prema enjoys long distance running, photography, and exploring the Wissahickon. She lives in Mount Airy with her husband and two small children.

Katie Holeman

Graphic Design and Web Development Manager, x230

Katie HolemanKatie Holeman, originally from Connecticut, set out on her artistic path as a studio art major with a focus in illustration and printmaking at Ohio Wesleyan University. After college, she designed her way down the Eastern seaboard by way of Boston and New York City. Before moving to Philadelphia and joining UCD in 2007, she was a book designer at Random House. In addition to her work at UCD, Katie is a stationery designer specializing in weddings invitations. She and her husband, Ran, live in East Falls with their son and two cats.

Nate Hommel

Capital Projects Manager, Planning and Economic Development, X245

Nate HommelNate joined UCD as the Capital Projects Manager in March of 2012. His focus is to use his urban design expertise and dedicated enthusiasm to further enhance urban quality of life issues throughout University City. Before UCD he worked as a landscape architect/urban designer for two firms in Philadelphia, and since 2010 has also been an adjunct professor of landscape architecture. He heads the urban design and community design studios at Philadelphia University. Originally from Syracuse, NY and a graduate of SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, Nate has lived in various cities across the globe including Taipei, Taiwan and Copenhagen, Denmark but chose to make Philadelphia his home in 2002. He currently lives in Fishtown and spends his free time with his wife, two young daughters, and a Rhodesian ridgeback either biking, hiking, relaxing in a park, enjoying an outdoor café or watching his beloved Syracuse Orange.

Sheila Ireland

Director, West Philadelphia Skills Initiative, x228

Sheila IrelandSheila Ireland’s hallmark of success is her ability to translate the  context and content of organizational problemts and to re-align people and processes with organizational objectives. Her ability to create tactical and innovative business strategies and initiatives produces programs that drive performance improvement and produce bottom line results in intensely competitive and highly regulated markets.

With more than 30 years of management experience, Sheila has been responsible for the successful leadership of the human resources and/or training functions in the non-profit, healthcare, consulting, government and manufacturing fields. She has leveraged the experience that she has gained in these endeavors to craft a unique approach to workforce development that is gaining wide-spread recognition as a leader in best practices.

Currently Sheila leads the development of the West Philadelphia Skills Initiative for University City District where she's passionate about learning as a vehicle to connect people to their hopes, dreams and purpose through the world of work. In two years she has taken this program from the conceptual stage to a program that has been recognized nationally and locally for innovation and effectiveness. A Chicago native, Sheila moved to Philadelphia as a teenager, and after living in several neighborhoods including University City she and her family have settle in Mount Airy for the past 9 years. She has over eighteen years of experience in human resources, training and organizational development, which includes her time as Human Resources Director for Encore Healthcare LLC, where she worked just prior to joining UCD. Previously Sheila also directed training for the 5th largest public utility in the country and for the City of Philadelphia. Sheila graduated from Temple University with a B.B.A. majoring in Human Resources Management, and is a M.S. candidate at LaSalle University majoring in Human Capital Development.

Sheila is a passionate collector of books and shoes, and struggles to be a patient gardener in her home in Mount Airy. She is wife to her better half Charles and mother to the light of her life Chuckie.

Maggie Langdon

Office Manager/Program Assistant, x225

Maggie LandgdonMaggie Langdon, a native Philadelphian and one of seven children, was born into stardom when she and her sister arrived as the largest set of twins born in world history. After school Maggie worked as a travel agent and she loves to travel, especially to the islands. Her passion for math ultimately led her to accounting, which she enjoys as one of her many roles at UCD. She joined UCD in July of 2000. Maggie has three wonderful boys and loves sports.

Lt. Brian McBride

Commanding Officer, UCD / Philadelphia Police Substation, x241

Jon Potter

Economic Development Manager, X247

Jon PotterIn 2013, Jon Potter joined UCD, where he works to support businesses and the business environment in University City. Jon and his wife Maggie came to Philadelphia in 2008 and now live next to Clark Park in University City. He has an MBA from MIT Sloan, worked at The Boston Consulting Group, and was the Founding Executive Director of The DREAM Program – a youth mentoring organization that is coming soon to Philadelphia. In his spare time, Jon likes eating, traveling, and being outdoors.

Marcia Smith

Program Coordinator, West Philadelphia Skills Initiative

Marcia Smith is doing what she loves, and that’s helping others. Before joining UCD in January 2013, she was wearing several hats at Turning Points for Children (TPFC) during her five years there; one being the Administrative Assistant to Chief Operating Officer, another a Co-facilitator of adults and teen parenting groups. Now as a Program Coordinator for UCD, she has a wonderful opportunity to keep impacting lives through her involvement at West Philadelphia Skill Initiative (WPSI) by connecting people to employment. Marcia also enjoys arts and craft projects. Don’t be surprised if you see some of her crafty artwork when you visit WPSI.

Ryan Spak

Project Rehab Manager, Planning and Economic Development, X201

Ryan SpakBorn in Philadelphia, Ryan has a passion for its neighborhoods, its history and its real estate. Prior to joining UCD in 2010, Ryan was active in construction management. He used that experienced in 2007 to help start and now operate a real estate investment group known as the Spak Group. The Spak Group specializes in rehabilitating and maximizing the value of distressed and under-utilized properties. Ryan has a firm belief that no distressed property should ever remain in an inhabitable condition.

Ryan graduated from Temple University with a degree in Political Science and American Studies. Prior to his construction experience, Ryan worked as a Disc Jockey, a Clerk in Philadelphia Municipal Court, a Paralegal, and a Janitor. Ryan is known in the Janitorial world for his ability to stripping and waxing a floor!

Ryan loves being a resident of University City and loves even more being married to his wife, Jessica. When not engrossed in matters of brick, Ryan is a fanatical basketball enthusiast, bleeds “Flyers” orange, loves saving animals from a cold Philly night and is quite nuts over anything that is related to the decade of the 1980’s – especially movies and television shows!

Sharon Thompsonowak

Program Manager, West Philadelphia Skills Initiative, X243

Sharon ThompsonowakFor the last ten years, Sharon’s career has focused on building capacity in organizations, communities, and individuals through education and program development. She has worked in diverse settings that range from an Anthroposophical farming community to a Beijing public school to an academic research library, and she also spent two years working in Haiti with an education and advocacy program. She managed UCD’s Summer Jobs Program for two summers before joining the WPSI staff full-time in August 2012. Sharon holds graduate degrees from Temple University and Vanderbilt University, as well as a Certificate in Nonprofit Management through the Phoenixville Community Health Foundation and the Nonprofit Center at LaSalle University’s School of Business. She and her husband garden and cook in East Kensington, and although she loves treasure hunting at thrift shops and flea markets, her prized possessions are her passport, bicycle, and library card.

Steve Walsh

Director, Community and Business Services, x236

Steve WalshSince 2002, Steve served as District Manager for Allied Barton Security Services for the University of Pennsylvania, overseeing 300 employees and an $8 million account.  He previously was District Manager for Southern New Jersey for Allied Barton, and was responsible for creating a new office and territory for the company. Originally from Southwest Philadelphia, Steve and his wife of 27 years, Maria, have two children - a son who recently graduated from Alvernia University and a daughter who graduated from Millersville University and is now teaching second grade in Newark, Delaware.