Alumni Spotlight: Elizabeth Giardino



Elizabeth Giardino

Analyst, Abt Associates

M.S., Urban & Regional Policy, ‘12





What was your area of study at Northeastern?

I focused my studies on economic and community development. I received my BA in Sociology with a concentration in Urban Studies, also from NU, in May 2010.

Why did you choose to study at the School of Public Policy & Urban Affairs (SPPUA)?

I chose (SPPUA) because of their commitment to “actionable research.” I loved the idea of taking really rigorous research and analysis and applying this in a meaningful way to the problems metropolitan areas are facing right here and now.

I felt that professors and others in the program embodied this commitment, and I appreciated that so many (faculty) currently or previously worked outside of academia and remained involved in Boston’s political and urban development landscape.

For your particular career, and perhaps current job, which courses provided you with the most applicable skills?

Program Evaluation, GIS and Quantitative Techniques – I use these tools and methods every day. In a broader sense, Strategizing Public Policy helped me to think much more critically about political processes and how to approach issues and identify a set of possible tactics.

Where did you intern while enrolled in the program? What did you do and learn while there?

I completed an internship in the Research and Planning Department with Action for Boston Community Development (ABCD), and while there, I did the following:

  • Helped to prepare their comprehensive Community Needs Assessment, used by the organization to develop a 3-year strategy
  • Analyzed survey results from ABCD clients using SPSS
  • Participated in focus group sessions at ABCD neighborhood sites
  • Used secondary research to learn more about each neighborhood and how it had changed over time

In addition to traditional research tasks, I was also able to participate in the LISC Resilient Communities/Resilient Families Mattapan United Initiative. This was a great opportunity for me to see community organizing up close and to be a part of the development of a brand-new collaboration in Mattapan. My work for this anti-poverty organization solidified my existing career goals and was a stepping stone to my current position.

What you do in your current position?

Abt Associates is a public policy research firm with the mission to “improve the quality of life and economic well-being of people worldwide.” With that in mind, Abt partners with governments and organizations to evaluate and implement programs and inform policy in several areas: Education, Environment, Food Security, Health, Housing and Communities, Workforce Development and more.

I work as a research analyst in the Social and Economic Policy division of Abt Associates, and take on projects related to Housing and Communities and Workforce Development. Recently, I have been working on a process evaluation of a federal pilot program to encourage economic stabilization and recovery in six economically distressed cities in the U.S.

At Abt there is often the opportunity to be involved across multiple stages of the research process, so I have helped to draft interview protocols, conduct stakeholder interviews, analyze our findings and write up interim reports and case studies. Employees are typically assigned to work on 3-5 projects at one time, and each of these projects is likely to be at a different stage of the research process – this definitely keeps every day interesting and new!

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