By Martha Durkee-Neuman
I lost a loved one to a random act of gun violence when I was a young woman. In my grief and devastation, I learned about the movement against gun violence and became an advocate for gun violence prevention, and intersectionality became a touchstone of my organizing and advocacy.
This past semester I had the opportunity to co-op in Washington DC and engage with community organizing in a new and powerful way. I interned with the grassroots, women-led, peace and antiwar organizing agency, coordinating direct actions, lobby days, nonviolent civil disobedience, vigils, events, and rallies. The past several months have been a historical time to be doing political advocacy on a national stage and it has been challenging and meaningful raising my voice against the increasing tide of intolerance and bigotry. It has also been a time of rediscovering my passion and skill for gun violence prevention organizing.
In DC I had access to many community resources and connections. At the beginning of my internship I hosted an event that had logistical challenges but gave rise to very important dialogue about problems in the gun violence prevention organizing space. I wanted to capture this energy and momentum so I had the idea to organize a gun violence prevention summit to give a specific platform to conversations of intersectionality and lift up community voices. I felt confident in my ability to organize this event due to previous experience I had organizing with the Social Impact Lab and several projects I worked on in my community. I conducted outreach and formed a steering committee of advocates from different demographic and experiential backgrounds. I identified and delegated tasks, publicized the event, collected sponsorships and registration, and worked with the National Gun Violence Prevention Coalition to build partnerships.
In December, we co-produced the 2016 Strength in Synergy Summit, which brought together diverse groups working to end gun violence in their communities for a day of convening, learning, collaborating, coalition building, and healing. The event was a great success. The speakers and attendees blew me away with their courage, respect, and dedication to collective liberation. Attendees jumped into difficult conversations with humility and bravery, delving into nuance and complexity with awareness. We created a day-long community of commitment, intersectionality, and action.
We received positive press as well; C-SPAN covered the summit and my op-ed was published on multiple local news sites. After the summit, we committed to united, progressive change within the movement for gun violence prevention. I learned a great deal from my fellow organizers both about logistical management and grassroots mobilization. This was an incredible project to be a part of. The experiencehelped me re-define my dedication to social justice and build confidence in my skills as an organizer, lessons that I will always carry with me.
Martha Durkee-Neuman is a student in the Human Services Program.]]>
If you’d like to volunteer or want more information, you can email Sam Levy, BARI’s Program Coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org.]]>
By Thea Singer | news@Northeastern
In an article published in the Journal of Science Policy & Governance, political science doctoral student Sidita Kushi examined the effect of party politics on federal research and development funding from 1976 to 2013, parsing whether a predominantly Republican or Democratic House of Representatives, Senate, or administration led to less or more funding for science.
The relationship between the parties and their spending patterns, she found, often ran counter to stereotypical views.
“The overall finding was that the Democratic majority in Congress and the presidential administration actually decreased total R&D funding,” says Kushi, PhD’18. “But there was a catch: That was because the Democratic majority led to less spending on defense.” The level of influence on funding funneled down from the administration, which had the most influence, to the House (moderate), to the Senate (minimal). Why the discrepancy between the two chambers of Congress? “The House tends to be known for catering to constituents more as its members are more locally oriented,” says Kushi.
Helmuth and his colleagues, including assistant professors Tarik Gouhier and Steven Scyphers, who heads the Social-Ecological Sustainability Lab, analyzed the nearly 79,000 Twitter accounts followed by the 89 U.S. senators of the 114th Congress that were publicly available in February 2015 to see which legislators followed research-oriented science organizations. In their paper, which was published by the journal Climate Change Responses, they also tracked how the science-related follows compared with the senators’ votes on amendments to the Keystone XL pipeline bill, including one acknowledging the significant role of human activity in causing climate change.
Read the full article here.
A professor and PhD student in the School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs (SPPUA) have partnered with the Museum of Science in Boston and Arizona State University to create visualizations that communicate threats from climate change.
Brian Helmuth, professor of environmental science and public policy, Francis Choi, senior lab technician at Northeastern’s Helmuth Lab, and David Sittenfeld, forum program manager at the Museum of Science and a student in SPPUA’s PhD in Law and Public Policy, are developing scenarios and visualizations to communicate climate change vulnerabilities and engage hundreds of participants around the country in thinking about potential economic, social and environmental impacts of proposed resilience strategies for four environmental climate-related hazards: drought, heat waves, sea level rise, and extreme precipitation.
These modules will then be employed at eight science centers over the next two years, with the first pilot forum taking place June 11 at the Museum of Science. The Northeastern team, led by Helmuth and Choi, is creating visualizations of these hazards as well as possible resilience strategies and their potential impacts on communities using information from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and other data.
“At a time when people are deeply polarized along ideological lines around our nation, we need a new way of bringing people from different viewpoints and backgrounds together and consider how to deal with problems like future climate-related hazards on a societal level. We’re hoping that this project will lead to a new kind of respectful, informed discourse that visualizes scientific evidence while engaging a diverse group of everyday citizens in participatory decision-making around policy questions that lie at the intersection of science, civics and society.”
—Brian Helmuth, Francis Choi and David Sittenfeld
Here, Helmuth, Choi and Sittenfeld discuss their project, “Science Center Public Forums: Community Engagement for Environmental Literacy, Improved Resilience, and Decision-Making,” its preliminary findings, and how it translates into the classroom.
Q. The New York Times recently reported that the Earth reached its highest temperature on record in 2016, marking the first time that temperatures have blown past the previous record of global warming data three years in a row. Yet, many still believe climate change is not real. Your visualizations are indicators that the planet is undergoing big changes, so do you hope they will serve as a wake-up call to climate change deniers and policymakers? What’s the main goal of the project?
A. Helping people to understand how global climate change affects their daily lives is a major goal of this project, as is helping them to understand that we are not totally helpless in the face of change. Some adaptation is possible, but in order to be effective, it needs to accommodate the needs, priorities and perspectives of a diverse range of stakeholders. While some will continue to deny the reality of climate change even as it continues to play out in front of their eyes, we are more concerned with people who may feel apathetic or helpless in the face of such large-scale changes.
A major message is that yes, climate change will continue to have enormous impacts, but we can be smart about preparing for the changes that will occur even as we work to reduce their magnitude by mitigating greenhouse gas emissions. Participants in our forums will learn about potential social, economic and environmental vulnerabilities from weather and climate related hazards, including ones that are likely to be exacerbated by changing climate. But more importantly, the project also will engage the participants in thinking of the tradeoffs of a number of proposed resilience strategies.
For example, here in Boston, participants will think about the environmental or economic consequences of large-scale coastal armoring to protect coastal infrastructures or residences from the threat of sea-level rise, or proposed policies for stormwater management or green infrastructures to build resilience against extreme precipitation events. In Phoenix, later this fall, participants will think about the potential impacts proposed policies such as desalinization or curtailment plans for water districts in times of extreme drought, and changing the urban landscape to minimize the impacts of heat waves.
A major goal of the project is to get everyday people thinking as decision-makers, considering scientific evidence, the perspectives of others and the complex decisions that policymakers face, while promoting respectful dialogue about policies to respond to the challenges presented by a changing climate to help increase community resilience. By using scenarios reflecting real decisions and impacts faced by a range of stakeholders, including people from all walks of life, we hope our participants will think more holistically about the potential impacts of climate change as well as other kinds of hazards upon their lives, and on the environment.
Q. What have you found thus far? Were you surprised by your findings?
A. We’ve spent a lot of time looking both at scientific reports, such as the National Climate Assessment as well as at resilience plans from cities around the country and the world, to learn about the vulnerabilities cities and regions face over the coming decades and what they’re planning to do about it. It’s empowering to see that smart people around the world are thinking about these problems in creative ways. For example, new communications technologies have allowed communities to drastically improve social connectivity in times of emergency, and planners around the world have designed floating buildings or bridges in places where frequent flooding is likely to increase.
Q. Where are climate change threats most pervasive, and what does that mean for the planet and humans?
A. Reports based on a mountain of scientific evidence, like the National Climate Assessment, tell us that over time we’ll experience more extreme weather patterns: intense downpours here in the Northeast, more frequent periods of drought in places like the Southwest, and accelerating sea level rise and increases in the frequency and intensity of heat waves across the globe. There are still unknowns about what the impacts will be of carbon dioxide levels never before experienced in human history, but we do know that continuing to pour greenhouse gases into the atmosphere is like poking a giant sleeping beast with a sharp stick. We also know that global climate change plays out in highly variable ways at local levels—increased precipitation in some locations and drought in others. Recent evidence suggests that the Gulf of Maine is warming faster than 99 percent of all large bodies of water on Earth, so we, along with locations like the Mediterranean Sea, are going to experience significant impacts on coastal communities and ecosystems in the not so distant future.
In general, however, because the impacts of climate change are not uniform, it is still very challenging to forecast at local levels. This means that in a lot of cases, urban planners and policymakers must consider a possible range of outcomes and prioritize the needs of different stakeholders. This is critical work to translate that into effective policies for increasing effective resilience. The danger, as sadly is often the case, is that the worse impacts will be felt by those least equipped to deal with them. Ensuring environmental justice for the world’s poor is absolutely critical.
Q. How does this project translate into the classroom?
A. We have previously used the museum’s forum materials in courses for students and public events held at Northeastern. For example, a preliminary version of the sea level rise module for this project has been used in both Helmuth’s “Urban Coastal Sustainability Course” and in conservation biology courses with professor Randall Hughes as templates for students to create engagement materials around their own coursework and/or areas of research. We created and included virtual reality tours and augmented photos in our NOAA-sponsored project as a means to immerse, excite and empower audiences and to facilitate empathy towards others being impacted. Two Masters students in Helmuth’s lab are exploring how the use of these materials may help K-12 students to better understand the impacts of climate change in coastal environments, and to help students living far away from the coast to gain empathy for those living on the coast, and vice versa.
Approximately 10 percent of the participants in the eight forums at science centers around the country will be educators. We will create ways for these educators to adapt their materials for use in their classrooms. Another idea we’re hoping to make happen will be to have students in local schools gather citizen science data about the kinds of climate change impacts and vulnerabilities participants will be discussing, so that we get a better sense of what resilience plans need to address going forward.
Housing is an essential human need and a critical sector of the United States economy. And students in professor Len Albright’s “Housing Policy” course are examining key policies at the national, state and local levels, and how they are implemented on the ground.
Every Thursday, nine students gather in a room in Ryder Hall to examine the economic, social, and legal underpinnings of housing policy in the United States across a variety of topics. The goal, Albright said, is to provide students with a strong historical perspective and deeper knowledge of the use of housing policy in the U.S. and primary affordable housing programs at all levels of government, with an emphasis on the largest programs of public housing, rental assistance, and housing production and preservation.
“The course looks at the complicated and evolving roles of all of those involved in housing policy, including advocates, nonprofit and for-profit housing producers, financial institutions, housing practitioners and federal, state, and local agencies and officials,” said Albright, assistant professor of sociology and public policy.
Just four weeks into the semester, students say they have gained a strong foundation of how housing policy has arisen and the role it plays in today’s market.
“It’s interesting to see how housing exists now and where it has come to today where a lot of it is advocacy for mixed income, mixed-use properties,” said Jim Tarr, a second-year student in the MS in Urban and Regional Policy (MURP). “Certain funding mechanisms for affordable housing are drying up and we’re moving away from project housing and getting into more scattered sites.”
On Feb. 2, students explored conservative and liberal takes on social welfare, community development and macroeconomic policies. The previous week, on Jan. 26, they attended a lecture by Nikole Hannah-Jones, an award-winning reporter for The New York Times Magazine, who provided real-world insights into current challenges.
Students in many of the programs housed within the School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs (SPPUA), including MURP and the Master of Public Administration (MPA), can take “Housing Policy” as an elective. According to Albright, the course is relevant to all policymakers and planners who recognize that housing is a strategic leverage point in any comprehensive approach to problem solving and impacting social and economic life.
“The most important aspect of the course is the utilization of a problems based approach to learning. We take real-world case studies and analyze planning and policy as a strategy to drive social change. Northeastern students are current and future leaders, and the course is a forum for practically assessing the most pressing social issues of our day.”
—Len Albright, assistant professor of sociology and public policy
Dave Snowdon, a part-time student in the MPA program, enrolled in the course in hopes of sharpening his research and applied data skills while getting a better idea of different types of government intervention and the direction housing policy should take in the future. For Snowdon, stimulating class discussions are the best aspect of the course.
“Because I’m trying to sharpen my research skills I don’t know a lot about housing, so all of it has been new to me,” said Snowdon, director of facilities at Community Rowing, Inc. “It’s a very diverse group of classmates and everyone is bringing lots of different skillsets to the table.”
For Elizabeth Torres, a part-time MPA student, this class is a way to learn what has already been done in housing policy and to avoid previous mistakes.
“We’re looking at different policy implementations over time and how that has affected access to housing,” said Torres, who works in constituent service database management for the city of Boston.
Tarr, on the other hand, is applying the knowledge he acquires in class to his new position as government services specialist at the Edward J. Collins, Jr. Center for Public Management at UMass Boston as well as his challenging, client-oriented capstone project. He is participating in the annual Affordable Housing Design Competition hosted by Federal Home Loan Bank of Boston where he and his team must plan and design an affordable housing development.
“It’s on a continuum. This class is helping me bridge that gap,” said Tarr, president of the Northeastern Association for Public Policy Students (NAPPS), a group founded by graduate students at SPPUA. “It’s a great, incredible, and valuable experience.”
Students, Albright said, gain an understanding of the housing delivery system and the various roles of key stakeholder groups across the public, private and nonprofit sectors. As part of their course load, students craft a housing policy memorandum, recommending a specific change in federal/state housing policy and laying out a plan for implementing the proposed change.
Click here to learn more about SPPUA courses and programs.
By Leslie Stahl, MURP alumna, Community Planner at Volpe, The National Transportation Systems Center
One of the reasons I chose to study at Northeastern was because of the Amsterdam exchange program. If you studied abroad as an undergrad, you likely know how fulfilling it is to live in a foreign city surrounded by different people and to learn in an exciting (and at times challenging) new culture. Studying abroad as a graduate student offers the same experiences and a few new ones. Here are my top reasons to do it in graduate school:
Editor’s Note: Each year, students in the School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs can participate in a one-semester exchange program with the University of Leuven and the Universiteit van Amsterdam. Learn more about the School’s exchange programs here.
In “Divestment & Investment: Strategic Financial Decisions in Higher Education to Promote Societal Change Toward Sustainability,” Stephens and co-authors highlight the potential for universities to take a leadership role in shifting public policy on climate change.
“Given the new political regime in Washington where fossil fuel interests are infiltrating the highest levels of government, the issue of fossil fuel divestment emerges as one valuable symbolic act that universities can take to stand up for the critical role of science in democracy, to stand up against corporate interests that have strategically delegitimized science and scientists and intentionally confused the American public about the realities of climate change, and to stand up against the fossil fuel industry influencing our culture and infiltrating the highest ranks of the U.S. government,” she said.
Read the full article here.]]>
Their project sought to see if it was possible to deliberately create social ties in post-disaster environments when people were still living as evacuees in temporary shelters. After constructing a physical building to serve as the center for these interactions, Aldrich, Kiyota, and other team members began measuring baseline social connections, sense of belonging, and a variety of demographic and financial characteristics of people in the community nearby.
“As the Ibasho project started, and people began using the facility to interact in a variety of ways, we studied participants to see if their levels of social connections and sense of belonging changed,” Aldrich said. “In short, it did: participants who came more often showed more social ties, deeper sense of belonging, and more sense of efficacy when compared to similar evacuees who could have attended but did not.”
Aldrich and Kiyota wrote a paper, “Creating Community Resilience Through Elder-Led Physical and Social Infrastructure,” published in 2017, summarizing the changes seen in the Japan-based project, which was so successful that it brought in grants to build two more Ibasho projects in the Philippines and Nepal. They have completed baseline studies for these projects and will begin active programming soon.
On Wednesday, Jan. 18, Aldrich spoke to masters and PhD students, faculty, and community members in the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Planning Department on “Social Capital’s Role in Disaster Recovery.” With more than 50 people in attendance, he focused on the data collected over the past five years from his research on Japan’s compounded disasters of March 11, 2011.
Beside exploring community resilience in Japan, Aldrich has served as an advisor to the Louisiana’s Comprehensive Master Plan for a Sustainable Coast.
The 2017 Coastal Master Plan sets an ambitious path to respond to the loss of the state’s coastal land and the threats from storm surge events. The master plan, in its purest sense, is a list of projects that build or maintain land and reduce risk to communities in Louisiana.]]>
Q: Did you always know what you wanted to be?
A: When I was in high school in the late 1990s I thought I knew what I wanted to do. The tech boom was in full effect, the Clinton economy was booming, and it seemed like the most exciting place to be was corporate America. I wanted to be rich.
Q: How did you go for it?
A: I entered business school at Northeastern in 1999 and studied finance and international business. When I graduated in 2004, I got a job in the white-hot financial services industry at a large bank that was rapidly growing and hiring masses of eager young college graduates like me. That’s when things got complicated.
Q: You didn’t like banking after all?
A: I was a cog in a great big money-making machine. I executed wire transfers, securities trades and calculated the prices of complicated financial swaps, options and yes, even “swaptions.” When I asked my supervisors questions about the trades, securities and capital funds they shrugged their shoulders. My coworkers were pale from lack of sun, hunched over computers 12 hours a day and lacking passion about anything other than advancement and money.
Q: Did you have an “a-ha” moment?
A: One day my manager confronted me about my lack of interest in the job. Didn’t I want to climb the ladder? Didn’t I want to manage my own team and make six figures by the time I was 25? No, I realized I didn’t.
Q: What was your true passion?
A: I had always been interested in land use, cities and development. I began to study the city around me and read everything on the topic I could get my hands on. I got a job in the corporate finance department of a large real estate management and development company that specializes in developing affordable housing using Federal tax credit financing. I became interested in the concept of community development and empowering residents of a community to take a hand in shaping it.
Q: How did you end up where you are now?
A: In 2009 I was accepted into the first class of the Masters in Urban and Regional Policy program at Northeastern. I took an internship at the Massachusetts Department of Transportation in the Office of Real Estate and Asset Management and was offered a job as a manager, where I’m thrilled to be today.
Q: How did your MURP degree as well as internship and other experiential opportunities at SPPUA help excel your professional career?
A: By putting me in the room with the decision makers in my fields of interest—transportation, land use and real estate development—which gave me the opportunity to listen and learn, and eventually to become a decision maker myself.]]>
The second policy talk was presented at Oxford Brookes University and was entitled, “Leading Healthcare Professionals in Changing Healthcare Systems: A What and How to Guide.” This talk drew from Hoff’s newly published (September 2016) co-edited book, The Healthcare Professional Workforce: Understanding Human Capital in a Changing Industry. Hoff is currently working with researchers from Green-Templeton College and Oxford University’s Said Business School on collaborative research examining senior National Health Service leadership collaboration.]]>