Future of Florida Summit
Economic Equality Panel

Economic Equality Panel

Simone Chriss

Simone Chriss is a civil rights attorney who began working for the non-profit public interest organization Southern Legal Counsel (SLC) after graduating from the University of Florida Levin College of Law, where she received her J.D. with honors. Chriss is the Director of the organizations’ Transgender Rights Initiative, developed by SLC to fill a gap in access to justice by systemically providing assistance to the transgender community in areas such as access to name and gender marker changes, obtaining accurate IDs, representation in educational proceedings, protection from discriminatory policies, and more. She conducts LGBTQ+ cultural competency trainings and transgender rights trainings statewide and nationally, and presents transgender name and gender marker change workshops throughout Florida. She is currently lead counsel on a federal lawsuit challenging the discriminatory exclusion of gender-affirming healthcare coverage for all transgender state of Florida employees. 

Chriss utilizes federal impact litigation, policy advocacy, and community education/training to bring about systemic reform in the areas of LGBTQ+ rights, child welfare, implementing trauma-informed services, ending the criminalization of homelessness, and special education. Chriss serves as an Attorney ad Litem for the Eighth Judicial Circuit’s registry for dependent children with special needs. She is a member of The Florida Bar, and the bars of the U.S. Northern, Middle, and Southern District Courts of Florida. Chriss is a member of the National LGBTQ+ Bar, a member of the Executive Council of the Public Interest Law Section (PILS) of the Florida Bar, as well as the PILS Children’s Rights Committee and the Advocacy Committee, and was appointed to the Florida Bar’s Standing Committee on Diversity and Inclusion.

Dr. Laura Dedenbach

Dr. Dedenbach received her master’s in urban and regional planning and doctorate in urban and regional planning, with a graduate minor in anthropology, from UF. Her research interests include crime prevention and the built environment, urban resilience, neighborhood planning, empowerment, effects of gentrification on neighborhood culture and stability, land use and comprehensive planning, and issues of land use compatibility. Dr. Dedenbach is currently engaged in research and service-learning projects in Gainesville and Atlanta. In addition to her many URP courses, she also teaches a Quest 1 course: IDS 2935, “This Must Be the Place”: Place-based Narratives and Community Identity.

Prior to joining the URP Faculty in 2019 as a Lecturer and Undergraduate and Graduate Coordinator, Dr. Dedenbach was a practicing planner with over 23 years of experience, specializing in comprehensive planning, policy and development planning, and small town and rural planning, as well as being a recognized expert witness on planning and zoning issues by local governments, the Florida Department of Administrative Hearings, and Circuit, Appeals, and Federal courts. She has been a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners (AICP) since 2001.

Dr. Yingru Li

Yingru Li is an Associate Professor of the Department of Sociology at the University of Central Florida. She is a scholar broadly trained in economic geography with expertise in Geographical Information Systems (GIS), spatial statistics, social inequalities, and health disparities. Dr. Li’s current research focuses on 1) assessing socioeconomic inequalities in community food retail environment and the impact on health disparities; 2) analyzing the distribution of food assistance programs in the U.S. and examining effectiveness on reducing household food insecurity during the global pandemic; 3) assessing unequal social and physical environments and the impact on health behaviors (e.g., physical activity). Dr. Li has published in peer-reviewed journals such as Applied Geography, Child: Care, Health, and Development, Clinical Gerontologist, Science of Total Environment, etc. Her teaching interests include Geographic Information Systems, Statistics, and research methods.    Dr. Li received a Ph.D. in Geography from the University of Utah, and an M.A. in Geographic Information Systems from the University of Cincinnati.