Following graduate commencement on Friday, May 6, alumni and their families joined faculty and staff at the School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs for the Class of 2016 Graduation Reception.
The annual event honors a select few who have distinguished themselves through their outstanding academic performance, strong leadership, and exceptional commitment to embrace research and its applications in both local and global dimensions. Eight graduates received awards, and students recognized one SPPUA staff member who provided “above and beyond” service to the student community.
Barry Bluestone “Think and Do” Award
This award is given to the capstone project that embodies our ideal of timely, evidence-based, policy-focused research, and which addresses an important problem for a client with an intent of positive, social change. This year’s winners are the members of the capstone team “Massachusetts Chapter 91 Waterways Licensing Program:” Lucy Bullock, Annemarie Hanson, Erin Macri and Michael Norris.
The team worked with the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection to improve mitigation payment algorithms associated with waterfront development that fell under Chapter 91 jurisdiction. They had a serious road bump early in the semester because of a derailed project. They helped finalize the scope of work for a replacement project, and hit the ground running as soon as it was finalized. Soon they were caught up in their research despite the earlier delay.
Graduate Student Leadership Award
This award is given to a student who has consistently demonstrated not only the desire to build a strong community among our policy students but also the will to follow through on that desire. Bashir Martin, this year’s recipient, served as a formal representative to the university’s graduate student council, and was the first to volunteer to rally students for events, never hesitating to help out.
Community Impact Award
This award is designated for a student who has made meaningful contributions to our community and the public good through professional and community service. This year’s recipient David Halbert began his career as an entrepreneur in state and local politics in Boston. He has worked for Massachusetts Treasurer Tim Cahill, Gov. Deval Patrick, and two Boston city councilors. Since 2011, he has worked for the Middlesex Sheriff’s Office. Beyond his professional service, he is an advocate for his neighborhood, East Boston, as a member of Main Streets Boston and the Urban League. He also is an Eagle Scout.
Outstanding Academic Performance Award
This award goes to the student—Master’s or PhD—with the highest GPA. This year’s recipient, with a GPA of 4.0, is Russ Bowman who has achieved “hall of fame” status in the speed with which he finished our PhD program by graduating in three years.
During his time at SPPUA, Bowman participated in the National Institute for Coastal and Harbor Infrastructure summit at the New York Academy of Sciences and the International Symposium on Developing Standards for Disaster Resilience of Buildings, Infrastructure, and Communities at the National Institute of Standards and Technology. Serving at the rank of Commander, Bowman also taught and continues to teach at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy. This year, while working on his dissertation, he was appointed to serve as chief for the Academy’s Government Section, where he teaches students and manages faculty.
School Spirit Award
This award recognizes a student who with their academic achievements, outstanding service to the university and larger community, and commitment to putting research into practice, embodies the SPPUA spirit.
During her time at the School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs, Lauren Costello, this year’s recipient, excelled academically as one of our Master of Science in Urban and Regional Policy students. Focusing on urban policy, design and economic development, she worked as a research assistant at the Dukakis Center; she spent a semester on exchange at the University of Amsterdam; and she developed an affordable housing proposal with a team of policy and architecture students for the Affordable Housing Design Competition hosted by the Federal Home Loan Bank of Boston. In addition to a heavy course load, she volunteered to maintain student blogs for the School about her capstone project and experience studying in the Netherlands, and participated in several outreach and recruitment events with prospective students.
Staff & Faculty Award
The recipient of the Staff & Faculty Award is chosen by the students to recognize extraordinary support of students. This year’s recipient is Administrative Assistant Louis DaRos.
“Almost every student I’ve spoken to has said something along the lines of ‘I’ve never had a question go unanswered,’” said Sonya Bhabhalia, president of the Northeastern Association for Public Policy Students, SPPUA’s graduate student organization. “And on a personal note, this year’s award recipient has been answering my frantic emails since 2013, the year before I even submitted an application.”
View photos of the event here.