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Seema Desai Iyer, Ph.D.

Associate Director & Research Professor

Jacob France Institute @ Merrick School of Business, University of Baltimore

Seema D. Iyer PhD is associate director and research professor for the Jacob France Institute (JFI) in the University of Baltimore's Merrick School of Business. Dr. Iyer oversees the Baltimore Neighborhood Indicators Alliance at JFI, which is also part of the Urban Institute's National Neighborhood Indicators Partnership of sites that provide longitudinal, community based data on demographics, housing, crime, education and sustainability. Her research focuses on the role of planning and data sharing in community empowerment and collaborative public innovation processes. From 2016-2017, she served as a consultant to the Baltimore Mayor’s Office of Information Technology on the city’s Open Data program. 


Academically, Dr. Iyer is the director of the undergraduate program in Real Estate & Economic Development. She teaches courses on real estate principles and local economic development. In 2019, she helped launch UB’s Real Estate Fellows Pitch for a Million competition to create pathways for early-stage developers interested in working with stable, middle-market communities in Baltimore. She received the 2020 Dean’s award for Public Service and the 2021 USM Regents Award for Excellence in Public Service. 

Prior to joining UB, Iyer served as Chief of Research & Strategic Planning for Baltimore City’s Planning Department. She holds a Ph.D. in urban and regional planning from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. She earned her MA in regional science and BA in mathematics and Russian studies from the University of Pennsylvania. See full profile here 


  • Ph.D. in Urban & Regional Planning 

  • Graduate Certificate in Russian & East European Studies

  • University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI

  • M.A. in Regional Science 

  • University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA

  • B.A. in Mathematics & Russian Studies, cum laude 

  • University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA


Experience, Research & Teaching

2011-present   Jacob France Institute @ the Merrick School of Business, University of Baltimore

Associate Director, Research Professor

Oversees the Baltimore Neighborhood Indicators Alliance, a project within JFI, which is part of the Urban Institute's national partnership of sites that provide longitudinal, community-based data on demographics, housing, crime, education and sustainability. 2017 Fulbright-Nehru Scholar in Bangalore, India, researching the role of urban governance for metropolitan economic competitiveness. 



Directs the Real Estate & Economic Development program at the University of Baltimore, Maryland’s only undergraduate program in real estate. Responsible for program assurance of learning plan, student advising, advisory board development and adjunct faculty recruitment. Courses taught: Real Estate Principles & Transactions; Introduction to Economic Development.


2005-2011   Baltimore City Department of Planning

Chief of Research & Strategic Planning

Director of Baltimore City’s 2010 Census Complete Count Campaign; Co-Chair of Baltimore’s Food Policy Task Force and served previously on the City’s Inclusionary Housing Task Force and Land Bank Task Force; served as Mayor’s Higher Education Liaison; Primary responsibilities of the division included Geographic Information Systems analysis and mapping, cooperative forecasting in coordination with the region’s MPO (Baltimore Metropolitan Council), annual challenges to Census population estimates.


2003-2005    Department of City and Regional Planning (DCRP), University of Pennsylvania

Visiting Lecturer

Major Grants  & Projects

  • Iyer, S. (Principal), "Evaluating Open Data Portals for the Baltimore Data Science Corps," Sponsored by South Big Data Hub, Federal, $50,000 (December 1, 2020 - Present).

  • Frias-Martinez, V. (Principal), Iyer, S. (Co-Principal),et al "Smart and Connected Cities--Be an Advocate for pubLic TransportatiOn (BALTO)," Sponsored by National Science Foundation, Federal, $200,000 (October 1, 2020 - September 30, 2023).

  • Gangopadhyay, A. (Principal), Roy, N. (Principal), Iyer, S. (Co-Principal), “Harnessing the Data Revolution: Baltimore Data Science Corps,” Sponsored by National Science Foundation, $250,000 (March 2020 - Present).

  • Iyer, S. (Principal), Rezaei, F. (Co-Principal), Conlin, K. (Co-Principal), "Civic Switchboard Field Project Awards - Exploring the University of Baltimore Library’s Baltimore Regional Study Archives and the Baltimore Vital Signs Open Data to Improve Quality of Life in Baltimore Neighborhoods.," Sponsored by Institute of Museum and Library Services, The University of Baltimore, $9,000 (January 15, 2019 - September 15, 2019).

  •  Iyer, S. (Principal), "Our Town: Baltimore Arts & Cultural Mapping Project," Sponsored by National Endowment for the Arts, Federal. $75,000 (August 1, 2016 - July 31, 2017).

  • Iyer, S. (Principal), "Baltimore Pipeline," Sponsored by Association of Builders and Contractors--Baltimore, Local, $24,000 (January 2014 - January 1, 2016).

Journal Articles & Book Chapters: 

  • David Abraham and Seema D. Iyer (Eds) Monitoring Sustainable Development Goals in North American Cities: Best Practices in Community Planning and Performance Measurement (March 2021) Springer Nature

  • Iyer, Seema D. “Master Planning in the Megalopolis: Exploring the Opportunities and Barriers for Urban Governance Reform in Bangalore, India” International Planning Studies (September 2021) DOI: 10.1080/13563475.2021.1979941

  • Iyer, S., Knott, C., & Cantora, A. (2020) “Community-Based Empowerment and Learning, Assessment of Collective Efficacy, and Collaborative Data-Sharing: Key Elements of the Byrne Criminal Justice Grant in Baltimore 2013-2016” in Innovations in Community-Based Crime Prevention: Stories from the Field  Robert Stokes & Charlotte Gill (eds), Springer

  • Bill Lafayette, Wayne Curtis, Denise Bradford, and Seema Iyer. Knowledge Economies and Knowledge Work (2019) Emerald Publishing Group

  • Cantora, A., G. Wasileski, S. Iyer & L. Restivo (2019). “Examining Collective Efficacy and Perceptions of Policing in East Baltimore” Crime Prevention and Community Safety: An International Journal

  • Christine Hwang and Seema D. Iyer (2018) “Cultural Mapping in Baltimore: The Creation of GEOLOOM co>map” Community Scope, Volume 6, Issue 1

  • Iyer, Seema D. (2015) “Barriers to Data Sharing for Inclusive Knowledge Management: Why WatershedStat in Baltimore City Failed” in Innovations in the Public and Nonprofit Sectors: A Public Solutions Handbook, Patria de Lancer Julnes & Ed Gibson, eds., M.E. Sharpe Press. Pp. 91-109.

  • Cantora, A., Iyer, S., & Restivo, L. "Understanding Drivers of Crime in Urban Neighborhoods: Resident Perceptions of Why Crime Persists," American Journal of Criminal Justice, November 2015

  • Lloyd, S; Latimore, A; Castillo-Salgado, C; Milam, A; Iyer, S.D; Leaf, P (2014). “The Health and Wellbeing of Children, Youth, and Families in Baltimore City: Child and Youth Mortality”, Johns Hopkins Urban Health Institute

Reports, Plans, and Op-Eds


Honors, Community Service, and Affiliations​

  • 2021 University System of Maryland Regents Award for Excellence in Public Service

  • 2021 Baltimore Magazine GameChangers 

  • 2020 Baltimore’s RealLIST 

  • 2020 Dean David Costello Service Award--Merrick School of Business

  • 2018 Best Data Visualization, Association of Public Data Users

  • 2017 Fulbright-Nehru Fellowship, Bangalore India

  • 2016 Impact Award, Community Indicators Consortium

  • 2010 Top Leading Woman, Maryland Daily Record

  • Habitat for Humanity of the Chesapeake Board Member (2019-present)

  • St. Ambrose Housing Aid Center Board Member, Chair of Real Estate Committee (2018-Present)

  • Station North Arts District Board/Task Force Member (2018-Present)

  • Baltimore Community Foundation Neighborhoods Committee (2012-present)

  • Johns Hopkins Urban Health Institute Community University Coordinating Council (CUCC) Member (2016-present) and Bunting Fellowship Core Instructor

  • Johns Hopkins Center for Adolescent Health Community Advisory Board Member (2017-present)

  • University of Maryland National Center for Smart Growth Research & Education Affiliate (2006-present)

  • National Neighborhood Indicators Partnership (NNIP) Executive Committee Member (2015-2019)

  • Maryland Center for Economic Progress Board Member (2015-2018)

  • Ready at Five Board Member (2013-2018)

  • Baltimore City Head Start Board Member (2013-2017)

  • Creative Alliance Board Member (2012-2019)

  • Greater Baltimore Leadership Class of 2009

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