Following graduate commencement on Friday, May 5, alumni and their families joined faculty and staff from the School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs at the Raytheon Amphitheater for the Class of 2017 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. This year, 12 graduates received awards. Students also recognized a faculty member who provided “above and beyond” service to the student community.
This award is given to the capstone project that embodies SPPUA’s ideal of timely, evidence-based, policy-focused research that addresses an important problem for a client with intent of positive social change. Two capstone teams received the prestigious award for their outstanding work with the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy.
In the fall 2016, Annaise Foureau, Andrew Bryant, Joe Russo, and Betsy Gardner researched federal grant oversight and administration practices in cities. Their research led to a matrix of recommendations in three areas: organizational capacity, audit and oversight, and information technology. (Click here to learn more about the semester-long project.)
In January 2017, Antonio Vázquez Brust, Yearam Kang, Angelina Li, and Benjamin Irwin picked up where the fall team had left off, examining municipal types and potential target audiences to develop a test survey. The survey was distributed to more than 200 cities nationwide, and the results were used to prepare a final version of the survey along with an implementation guide and report for the Lincoln Institute. (Learn more about this and other spring capstone projects here.)
This award is given to a student who has consistently demonstrated not only the desire to build a strong community among SPPUA’s policy students, but also the will to follow through on that desire. Sonya Bhabhalia, this year’s recipient, served as the president of the Northeastern Association for Public Policy Students (NAPPS) during the 2015-16 academic year. Under her leadership, the graduate student group met frequently and organized a networking forum for current students and alumni.
Designated for a student who demonstrates a deep commitment to partnering with others to address community issues, the award was given to PhD graduate Michael Asaro.
Asaro was honored with the 2016 Department of Commerce Bronze Medal Award in Washington, D.C. – the highest honor granted by the Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere. His dissertation provided an analysis of the federal policy framework in place in the U.S. under the Marine Mammal Protection Act to reduce human-caused mortality of the endangered North Atlantic right whale resulting from entanglement in commercial fishing gear.
This award goes to the graduate(s)—Master’s or PhD—with the highest GPA. This year’s recipients, with a GPA of 4.0, are Andrew Bryant, who completed his Master of Public Administration in December 2016, and Antonio Vázquez Brust, a member of the first student cohort of the MS in Urban Informatics program.
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. This year’s recipients were Grace Ndalla-Watino, MPA ’17, and Na “Angelina” Li, who will complete her MPA degree this summer.
Students presented the Staff & Faculty Award to Laurie Dopkins, director of academic programs, in recognition of her extraordinary support and tireless commitment to students.
“It was pretty much unanimous when we were deciding who should win the faculty award,” said NAPPS president James Tarr. “Professor Dopkins is so dedicated to her students, and has the same drive that many incoming students have: to be change agents in their community and around the world. That level of dedication is rare, and we really wanted to recognize Laurie Dopkins for that reason.”