Carolina S. SarmientoAssistant Professor

Carolina Sarmiento’s research and practice focuses on learning from the grassroots and building sustainable and creative alternatives that help address inequality and injustice.

Sarmiento is an Assistant Professor at the University of Wisconsin–Madison in the School of Human Ecology and an affiliate with the Department of Urban and Regional Planning. She is a graduate from both World Arts and Cultures and Urban Planning from UCLA, where she obtained her BA and MA. She received her PhD from UCI in Planning, Policy and Design. Her research investigates the intersection between urban development, governance, and the creation and destruction of cultural spaces in working class communities of color.

Carolina’s research examines the everyday responses of working class communities ranging from community-based planning, transnational development, to the creation of new democratic processes and spaces. She also forms part of a joint research team studying transnational indigenous communities in Oaxaca, Mexico and Los Angeles that build economic projects across borders. Her research is grounded in community practice.

Carolina Sarmiento helped found a center for immigrant rights and community organizing in Santa Ana, California, el Centro Cultural de Mexico. Working in collaboration with the UCLA Labor Center, she also helped open the Community Labor Project at the University of California, Irvine, a project that seeks to increase the quality, scale and effectiveness of civic participation in communities of color and low-income populations in Orange County. She is co-founder of MASData, Data for Movement, Action and Strategy. Carolina currently sits on the board of directors of the Worker Rights Center here in Madison, Wisconsin.

Selected Publications

Sarmiento, C.S. (2021) “Disrupt and Build: Multi-approaches to community organizing in the barrio.” Journal of Community Psychology

Sarmiento, C. (2021). Not diverse enough? Displacement, diversity discourse, and commercial gentrification in Santa Ana, California, a majority-Mexican city. Urban Studies, 00420980211020912.

Sarmiento, C. S. (2020). From Jails to Sanctuary Planning: Spatial Justice in Santa Ana, California. Journal of Planning Education and Research, 40(2), 196-209

Sarmiento, C.S. Saul Alveano and Robin King. (2019) Guadalajara: Revisiting public space interventions through the via RecreActiva. World Resources Report. DC

Sarmiento, C. S., Sims, J. R., & Morales, A. (2017). Little free libraries: An examination of micro-urbanism interventions, Journal of Urbanism: International Research on Placemaking and Urban Sustainability, DOI: 10.1080/17549175.2017.1387588

Sarmiento, C. S., & Sims, J. R. (2015). Façades of equitable development: Santa Ana and the affordable housing complex. Journal of Planning Education and Research, 35(3), 323-336.

 Sarmiento, C. S., & Duarte, C. (2015). All Paths Leading to the Library: Youth Mobility and Community-Based Planning. Journal of Planning Education and Research, 0739456X19882985.*

Beard, V. A., & Sarmiento, C. S. (2014). Planning, public participation, and money politics in Santa Ana (CA).  Journal of American Planning Association, 80(2), 168-181

Portrait of Carolina Sarmiento, a Chicana woman, with a dark brown braid and black dress.


  • Civil Society & Community Studies

Degree Program

  • PhD Human Ecology: Civil Society & Community Research


Office: 4253 Nancy Nicholas Hall

Phone: 608-262-0322