Sitting in a conference room at the D’Amore-McKim School of Business, professor Timothy Hoff, a nationally recognized organizational and medical sociologist, casually sips coffee as he makes a confession: “I really had no intention of becoming an academic or a researcher.”
After graduating from college with a degree in business, Hoff, who holds appointments in the School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs and D’Amore-McKim, started his career auditing financial claims and billing at a hospital. At the time, he said he felt fascinated to see how business principles could be applied in a more benevolent service industry. And that’s how his passion for policy began.
“If somebody came in and didn’t have insurance and we still felt obligated to take care of them, then the bigger issue started to become how many of these people are out there that are uninsured, and how do you make sure that these people can get services and be healthy? So from working at the ground level in the trenches, my interests extended out towards the bigger issues that are more at the policy level—things like access, cost, quality.”
— Timothy Hoff, porofessor of management, healthcare systems, and public policy
By seeing firsthand, as a hospital administrator, burned-out physicians and overworked nurses, Hoff said he realized how crucial it is to develop strong policies to support the workforce in a service industry.
Therefore, since becoming an academic 20 years ago, Hoff has examined the sociological dynamics of healthcare workers and work settings, and how they influence system performance.
A year and a half ago, he partnered with Kathleen M. Sutcliffe and Gary J. Young to co-edit The Healthcare Professional Workforce with the goal of addressing workforce issues—an area of health policy Hoff says is understudied. Published this month by Oxford University Press, their book is the first to codify transformations across health professions in the U.S. and to situate these changes within a larger context for healthcare and non-healthcare audiences.
“We’re hoping this book makes a dent in an area of health policy that really has a lot of need for information and conceptual development to inform legislation and research,” said Hoff, who is a visiting associate fellow at Oxford University’s Green-Templeton College where he is conducting collaborative research on senior executive collaboration in healthcare.
Through empirical findings and theory, the book addresses fundamental questions around necessary changes in professional training, the right mix of healthcare workforce needed for the future, how the profession of medicine is changing, and whether it is changing for the better or worse.
“It’s the perfect storm of my interests and my research coming together with things that the Affordable Care Act is basically putting front and center,” Hoff said.
Now, Hoff is taking his research one step further by examining the doctor-patient relationship and how it is changing given health care reform and innovation. This research is the basis of a new book, which will be published in the spring of 2017 by Oxford University Press.
Hoff said he has conducted approximately 100 interviews with a variety of doctors and patients in an effort to capture how primary care medicine in the U.S. is being transformed into a high-volume, overly transactional, impersonal, process-driven business.
“The new book is more of an ethnography that is really trying to get the voice of doctors and patients on the page, to get them to articulate what they think is happening to their relationships with each other, and if it’s good or bad. Does it have effects for quality care? Where are things headed in terms of how doctors and patients are going to interact with each other in the future?”
— Timothy Hoff
According to Hoff, The Healthcare Professional Workforce, Practice Under Pressure: Primary Care Physicians and Their Medicine in the Twenty-first Century (his book published in 2010), and the book he is currently writing are connected because they are giving voice to both the frontline worker and the patient.
“Very often we create solutions we think will work at this 30,000-foot level, and these books are really at the one-foot level,” said Hoff. “That’s what I like about this work, what makes it fun, and makes it unique in the area.”
Laura Kuhl says she is thrilled to join the School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs (SPPUA) this fall. The reason? The School’s interdisciplinary, use-inspired research on resilience that seeks solutions to real-world problems.
“Faculty are working on really interesting and important issues, and I hope to find opportunities to collaborate with many of them,” said Kuhl, assistant professor. “I’m also looking forward to meeting students—having grown up in Boston and living here for the past seven years, I’ve always been impressed with the enthusiasm and professionalism of Northeastern students. I am really excited about SPPUA’s work on resilience and commitment to pursue interdisciplinary approaches to address real-world problems, and I hope to be able to contribute to the many exciting initiatives that are happening here.”
Kuhl, who studies international environmental policy and development economics, is in the midst of completing postdoctoral research at Tufts University and will begin to teach at SPPUA next year.
Here, she provides a glimpse into her research projects, as well as barriers and incentives for innovation and technology transfer and adaptation.
Q: Tell us about your work at Tufts University and what you hope to accomplish.
A: One of the exciting projects that I am working on looks at adaptation and resilience policy implementation in developing countries. We’re currently working on establishing collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to work with developing country governments to analyze adaptation policy options and provide policy advice. One of the motivations for this project is to support the implementation of the Paris Agreement on climate change signed last December. The agreement represents a turning point in international climate policy, with a shift from reaching an international agreement to implementation at the national level. As countries focus on implementation, they will need to make many choices regarding policy design and adaptation strategies. Through this project, we will help develop the evidence-base to understand what has worked where and under what conditions. Through comparative analysis, our research will support decision makers in the implementation of adaptation policy.
Q: How did you become interested in environmental policy and development economics?
A: I have always been interested in the intersection between environment and development issues. The first time I really explored the intersection between these two topics firsthand was while doing research in Ecuador as an undergraduate with a community of clam collectors, investigating the relationship between social status and access to natural resources. I saw how poverty, natural resource management, and issues of power are closely intertwined. This experience influenced my interest to work on sustainable development. Specifically, I study adaptation and resilience to climate change in developing countries. One of the things that motivates my work is the opportunity to address both environment and development priorities at the same time. Often the people who are most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change are the poorest or more marginalized because of where they live and because they have access to fewer resources to manage shocks or changes. Building general resilience capacities can improve development outcomes while also improving resilience to climate change, allowing for win-win situations. I am also passionate about justice issues, and adaptation is an area where justice concerns play a central role.
Q: The U.S. government’s Feed the Future Initiative seems to be a particular focus of your research. Why is that?
A: Projects, programs, and policies that build on successful adaptation efforts and address underlying barriers to resilient development are urgently needed. There are two major ways that we can think about implementation of adaptation actions: either through dedicated funding sources for adaptation, or through mainstreaming adaptation into development programs and policies. I had previously done work analyzing dedicated climate funds in collaboration with the Global Environment Facility, and so in my dissertation I was interested in exploring the unique challenges to mainstreaming adaptation and resilience in a large agricultural development program. By understanding how these projects, programs, and policies are currently working and the process leading to their development, we can gain a better understanding of what works and why as well as what may not work and the limitations of current strategies. These insights will allow for the development of better programs and policies in the future, as well as a more realistic appreciation for what we can expect from different types of interventions.
My research on the U.S. Government’s Feed the Future Initiative seeks to understand the compatibility of a climate resilience approach with dominant approaches to large-scale agricultural development, such as market systems approaches, and the challenges that exist for the integration of climate resilience in such programs. Increasingly, market systems approaches are being employed in agricultural development programs and projects, and the Feed the Future Initiative is one of the most prominent examples of this approach. A market systems approach is one that seeks to connect the poor to markets and use the private sector to encourage poverty reduction and economic growth. These programs focus on strengthening value chains and identifying market opportunities for the poor.
Q: What are some of the barriers for innovation and technology transfer, and how do you think they can be addressed?
A: In my dissertation research, I looked at technology transfer and adoption for smallholder farmers. I found that farmers were interested in many new technologies and techniques, but the pace that they adopted them was relatively slow because of the barriers they faced. Even if a new technology or technique has the potential to improve production or income, until a farmer can be confident that it will work in their specific circumstances and they will be able to use it, adoption represents a significant risk to their livelihoods. Some of the biggest barriers relate to the risk associated with adopting an unknown technology or technique. Providing farmers with support on how to use the technology and advice when they encounter challenges (such as regular trainings), demonstrations of the use of the technology on a similar farm, and facilitation of conversations with other farmers that have already adopted the technology can help overcome some of the barriers associated with unfamiliar technologies. Other approaches to reduce risk include mechanisms that allow for partial adoption (on a small part of the farm) so the farmer’s entire livelihood is not at stake, financing that helps cover some of the investment risks associated with purchasing the new technology, and insurance mechanisms to provide some compensation in case the new technologies fail. Broadly speaking, approaches that encourage experimentation, learning and reduce risks for producers will encourage the adoption of innovations.
Q: What are incentives for innovation adoption?
A: One of the strongest incentives for adoption is when innovations meet the needs of users. For climate adaptation, that can often mean identifying solutions that address both current development challenges and will ensure a resilient future. Strategies that enhance adaptive capacity and build overall resilience can be successful at meeting development priorities and climate adaptation priorities. Another really important factor is what we call the “enabling environment” for innovation. This refers to the policies, institutions and conditions under which innovation occurs. Many different factors contribute to an enabling environment, but for innovation for adaptation, a couple of things that are particularly important include: clear adaptation policies and strategies from government, because this sends a signal to actors about the direction for the future and the type of support that will be available, past experience dealing with similar issues that can serve as a foundation, such as environmental degradation or disaster preparedness and response, and mechanisms for communication and coordination to encourage learning across different actors involved in adaptation, including government, donors, NGOs, the private sector, and academics.
Q: What’s in the future for your work on environmental policy and development economics?
A: I am planning to continue to work on research related to climate adaptation and resilience, and I am excited to collaborate with others at Northeastern working on these issues. I will continue to work in Latin America and East Africa, but I am also interested in conducting comparative analysis locally, as well. I am really interested in the different narratives that people employ to think about adaptation and resilience and understanding the implications for these narratives on the policy process. I also have a few follow-up projects that build on the work I did for my PhD on innovation and technology transfer for adaptation.
As a first-generation college student, Linda Kowalcky learned how higher education can change lives. She was introduced to a variety of ideas, and eventually pursued her two passions—belief in the transformative power of higher education and respect for public service.
Throughout the years, she has held senior positions in government and academia. Now, Kowalcky joins the School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs (SPPUA) as a professor of the practice, and she said she is eager to build on the existing internship program and teach in the Master of Public Administration.
“Over the years, I was lucky to have a front row seat to Northeastern’s impressive growth as a leading global academic institution under both President Richard Freeland and President Joseph Aoun’s leadership,” Kowalcky said. “Now, I feel really lucky to be part of the Northeastern and SPPUA communities. Everyone has been welcoming and supportive.”
Kowalcky recently took a break from developing syllabi and meeting with community partners to discuss her career in public service, commitment to education, and plans for the future.
Q: How has higher education changed your life?
A: Like every college freshman, higher education introduced me to an incredible diversity of ideas, people, and experiences. I had great professors who saw my potential and pushed me to take risks past my comfort zone. For example, I doubt I’d have had the confidence or courage to do an internship in Washington, D.C. at 20 years old if a professor hadn’t offered me the opportunity—I’d never even been to D.C. as a tourist! At first I said no. But she pressed me, and three months later I went to Capitol Hill for the first time—to work.
Q: What inspired you to pursue a career in public service? And what are some of the initiatives that you’ve led to expand higher education opportunities?
A: That Washington internship was a turning point for me. The legislative work was interesting, to be sure. But working for a member of Congress also directly connects politics to people in the district. Feeling like you are making a difference in national policy and in the lives of individuals—it’s addictive. Being a faculty member has also been another way of making a difference. So whether I’ve been working on education policy in government or helping my students find internships, I like to think it’s all public service.
Q: Throughout your career, you have brought academics and government practitioners together to improve communities. What projects are you most proud of and why?
A: Those have been some of the most interesting and rewarding experiences I’ve ever had, and Northeastern has been a great partner to Boston and its neighbors. Perhaps the most high-profile project was helping to launch Success Boston, the city’s college success initiative. It brought together government, academic, and non-profit partners around the goal of increasing the college graduation rate of Boston students. Not only are its core programs proving to be effective, but it unleashed incredible creativity by our partners. One of the most innovative and successful examples is Foundation Year, launched by Northeastern to give promising Boston students the support they need to earn a full year of college credit here on campus. It sets them up for academic success wherever they choose to continue their education. What an opportunity for them!
Q: What inspires you or keeps you motivated to continue your work in the public and educational realms?
A: It’s intellectually interesting and challenging work. It lets me collaborate with some of the smartest people in Boston and elsewhere. And I can see a direct, positive impact on Boston, its residents, and the education of Northeastern students. What’s not to love?
Q: Now that you are at SPPUA, what are your plans to expand the School’s internship programs?
A: SPPUA’s emphasis on incorporating experiential learning into its academic programs is really important to me, especially in its graduate programs. Right now, I’m getting up to speed on our terrific current internship options and talking to students about their interests. And of course reaching out to former colleagues in government and nonprofits about potential internships.
I’d like to strengthen the connection between internship placements and career development, which means better understanding high demand skills in the rapidly changing public and nonprofit sectors. New internship pipelines can also broaden career options for SPPUA students. Yes, metro Boston has jobs in local and state government, but we’re also home to the New England regional offices of the federal government. Likewise, our nonprofit sector is home to international NGOs as well as neighborhood nonprofits. These can be internships and jobs for SPPUA students.
Finally, I hope to build a core program that will attract funding from alumni interested in supporting public service. Not every student can afford an unpaid internship. Fellowship awards would make a big difference to many students and give them an important academic credential. Likewise, one way to attract great partners is to offer them professional opportunities at Northeastern. So if any alumni are reading this and interested—please get in touch. (Kowalcky can be reached at 617-373-3765 or firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Q: What courses are you teaching this fall?
A: In addition to an internship class, I’m teaching a core MPA course, “Principles of Public Administration.” It’s a chance to introduce students to the discipline’s rich academic foundation as well as the major issues they will need to grapple with as practitioners. We have a full class of new MPA students. I’m looking forward to getting to know them, and know I’ll learn a lot from them too.
As a social worker, Lydia Ogden ended up working by chance with older adults with serious mental illnesses. That’s when she saw important gaps in the field, and decided to embrace aging and diversity as her specialty.
“The many challenges in the work were exacerbated by the fact that there was very little research about that particular population, and almost none around social service provision,” said Ogden of working with older adults with serious mental illnesses, such as schizophrenia. “There were no ‘best practices,’ no road maps. So I decided that I wanted to set a research agenda that would in some way fill that practice gap.”
Odgen is a new faculty member in the School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs’ (SPPUA) Human Services Program. She spoke to SPPUA about her research and ongoing projects, challenges, and why she is excited to join the Northeastern community.
Q: Tell us about your research around aging with serious mental illness.
A: Because there is very little research about aging with serious mental illness, and in line with the mental health recovery movement, I took a person-first approach to the research. Instead of defining a problem faced by the population, I used qualitative methods, including life history narrative analysis and phenomenology, to try to understand how group members identified their challenges and strengths. The challenges my study participants identified included stress on (or lack of) meaningful interpersonal relationships, the consequences of having limited work experiences, and recovering from homelessness as a lifelong process. I was also able to understand that although most people with a schizophrenia-spectrum illness don’t really believe that they have that type of illness, they are able to talk about the things that are problematic for them and identify and work on addressing those problems. The challenge for service providers is therefore to understand the language their clients are using to describe their illness and its consequences, and to communicate within that framework. That way the other problems, and the loneliness and despair that so often accompanies mental illness, can be addressed more empathically and more effectively.
Q: What is the biggest challenge in studying aging and diversity?
A: I conceptualize ability and disability (including psychiatric) as an important category of diversity, and one that has been understudied with older populations. When I started my doctoral work less than 2 percent of all research on schizophrenia focused on older adults. So one challenge has been that there hasn’t been a lot of information from which to build.
Another challenge in studying diversity at all is that markers of diversity create an incomplete picture. In my study of life histories of older adults with schizophrenia, the experience of an African-American raised in the Jim Crow Southern USA created a very different life story from another African-American participant who was raised in Harlem, and from one who was an African-American Caribbean immigrant. These differences in personal histories were clearly tied to such things as doctor-patient relationships and treatment adherence. So conveying that diversity in my ongoing scholarship has been both important and challenging.
Q: What inspired you to study aging and diversity?
A: The clients who I had throughout the years when I was a social worker inspired me. I wanted to create better social services for them. And I also wanted to make the work better for my colleagues who are still in the field by creating better tools and practices for them. I did a phenomenological study of case managers who worked in housing with older adults with schizophrenia and they seemed to co-experience the challenges faced by their clients, sharing a sense that they were helpless in their professional capacity to adequately help their older clients with serious mental disorders. So I wanted my research trajectory to help the human services professionals as well as their clients.
Q: Do you have any projects in the works?
A: Yes, as I mentioned above, one of my findings when I collected the narratives of older adults with schizophrenia is that communicating effectively is really important, and also really challenging, when working in a human service capacity with people who have serious mental illnesses, particularly when you are working cross culturally. So my current research project is looking at something the American Psychiatric Association (APA) created called the “Cultural Formulation Interview” that is basically a schedule of questions that could be used to develop a shared language with each individual client, and considers culture in the diagnostic assessment. Nobody is using it. So I have been gathering expert feedback to try to understand how and if this tool could be made useful to human service providers and what other ways human service providers can improve cross-cultural communication.
Q: What gets you most excited to join SPPUA?
A: My experience as a social worker tends to influence me to think in terms of micro-level or direct practice changes—I often think about what can individual human service workers do, or what policies should human service agencies put into place. I think being in a policy school will naturally expand my thinking and research findings towards bigger picture policy implications, so I’m excited about that.
I also know SPPUA has a really great, really impressive faculty, so I’m also looking forward to meeting people in the school and learning from my colleagues.
Q: What courses are you teaching this fall?
A: I’m teaching “Counseling in Human Services” and “Techniques in Individual and Group Counseling.” In both of the courses I’ll of course be teaching concrete counseling skills. But in the first one I’ll focus on ethical issues in counseling, establishing theoretical grounding, and expanding professional self-awareness. In the second course I’ll focus more on diagnoses and go in more depth with some of the theories while working with students to sharpen and expand their counseling tool sets. I think they’re going to be great courses. I like to imagine that the theories and skills I teach, such as expressing empathy, listening actively, and conveying a nonjudgmental attitude, are good professional relationship skills to have. They’re good life skills. So, I’m really looking forward to teaching this fall.
Jennie Stephens began her environmental research career 20 years ago with a passion for understanding water systems and treatment technology. But her research interests shifted when she started thinking about carbon management, climate change and energy system change.
Today, she is an expert on social and political aspects of the renewable energy transition and responses to climate change. Joining the School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs (SPPUA) as the Dean’s Professor of Sustainability Science and Policy, Stephens is eager to integrate student learning and societally relevant research.
“I am excited about joining the SPPUA faculty at this dynamic time at Northeastern. The engaged approach to connecting scholarship with teaching and practice through educational and institutional innovation is very well aligned with my own professional priorities as an engaged professor who contributes beyond academic communities,” Stephens said. “I am also looking forward to working with graduate students at SPPUA and integrating my own research with larger initiatives at Northeastern focused on resilience, sustainability and security.”
Here, Stephens explains her research on energy systems and renewable energy technologies and her future projects.
Q: Tell us about your research on energy-climate transitions.
A: My research team focuses on multiple aspects of the integration of social and technical transition with regard to climate change and energy system change. With climate change, the world is changing faster than many of us realize. As we try to respond to these complex and dynamic changes, energy systems are transitioning away from fossil fuel dominance toward more diverse and distributed renewable-based systems. Much of the political focus so far and the investment in research in this area has prioritized the technological side, but our research focuses on understanding better the social, behavioral, institutional, and cultural changes that are also fundamental to the transition.
My research is collaborative, interdisciplinary, and attempts to be responsive to the rapidly changing social context. As an interdisciplinary scholar, I have engineering training and a scientific background. But for the past 15 years I have been focusing on mixed-methods social science research – including analysis of media, policies and documents – relying also on interviews and focus groups to try to understand and characterize a wide variety of perspectives on energy system change and how to respond to climate change.
Q: What are some of the barriers to renewable energy technologies that you have identified while conducting your research? And how do you think they can be addressed?
A: Barriers to the renewable energy transition are primarily institutional, political and cultural because renewable energy requires different processes, expectations, policies, and regulations than those that have been established to facilitate fossil fuel dominated systems. Much existing infrastructure and many established institutions and regulations are based on assumptions that large, centralized fossil fuel-based power plants will continue to provide most of our electricity. As we move toward higher and higher percentages of a much more heterogeneous and distributed mix of different renewable energy generation, the existing system is being challenged and lots of social, institutional and cultural changes are happening.
The powerful influence of the organizations that have profited the most from the fossil fuel-based system is another huge barrier to change. Coordinated resistance to policies and initiatives that facilitate and encourage renewable energy deployment by those who feel threatened by the changes that are already occurring has been strong in some places.
Q: What is the role of social learning in the transition from fossil fuel to renewable-based energy systems?
A: Social learning plays a huge, and often underappreciated and not well-understood, role in the transition from fossil fuel to renewable-based energy systems. Much attention and investment is given to changes in technology, but we tend not to pay as much attention to the social changes, including individuals and communities having more control, ownership and engagement in local renewable power. When we broaden the discussion to include social change, we also can explore energy consumption patterns and we can challenge commonly-held assumptions about how much energy we use and need.
When we pay more attention to the social aspects of the renewable energy transition, we open ourselves up to the optimistic possibility of distributing power – not only electric power but other kinds of power too. The energy transition offers hope toward giving individuals, households and communities more control and involvement, thus empowering people. This ties with my interest in connecting energy with other social issues. I am currently very interested in the concept of “energy democracy,” which is increasingly being used by grassroots activists in the United States to call for and justify policies that connect social justice and economic equity with energy, climate and environmental integrity. This “energy democracy” movement is emerging in response to growing concerns about socio-economic and racial inequities, the powerful influence of conventional fossil fuel energy companies on politics and policy, and the negative societal implications of climate change. By explicitly connecting policy issues that are generally dealt with independently, energy democracy framing is providing a social, political and cultural context that supports policy mixes for sustainability transitions.
Q: What renewable energy system do you foresee as being most prominent in the future?
A: Wind and solar are clearly dominant, but one of the greatest benefits of the renewable energy transition is that energy systems can be locally appropriate and diversity will emerge.
The spatial dimension of distributed renewable energy allows for regions to develop a portfolio of locally appropriate electricity generating options. In some places, solar, wave and tidal energy might complement each other, while in other areas geothermal, wind, solar, and hydropower might make up a regional mix.
Q: How did you become interested in fossil fuel divestment and renewable-based energy systems in the first place?
A: I began my environmental research career with a passion for understanding water systems and water treatment technology. My PhD research then focused on the impact of higher CO2 [carbon dioxide] on water and soil systems. That project got me involved thinking about carbon management and climate change, which led me to thinking about energy system change. The critical importance and opportunities for exploring the renewable energy transition has been growing in the last 20 years since I first began environmental research.
Q: What’s in the future for your work around energy systems?
A: One passion of mine is expanding energy education, broadening discussion and engagement about energy, so that students are prepared to be involved in the social, political and institutional changes that are happening in the energy communities and organizations all around the world. Learning about energy systems has conventionally been limited to engineering, but there are so many other critical aspects beyond the technology development. So there are lots of opportunities for integrating energy education in policy, planning and many other academic areas.
When we broaden energy education beyond engineering – explicitly including social and cultural perspectives on the energy transition – we also contribute to engaging more people in thinking about energy and recruiting a more diverse set of students, including women and underrepresented minorities. A gender imbalance in the energy sector workforce is widely apparent, and our research team explores the multiple societal benefits of increasing the diversity of the energy workforce.
By Grace Ndalla-Watino
As the new school year starts, there comes a mix of emotions. I am five courses away from earning my Master of Public Administration. And although I am excited to graduate, it is bittersweet to end this chapter of my life.
I graduated from Northeastern’s D’Amore-McKim School of Business in 2013 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration. Instead of doing what most of my friends did, settling down for a traditional entry-level job, I decided to take a risk and start my own NGO. It was with a lot of excitement and ambition that I took on that journey.
Earning an MPA was part of a natural progression as to where I wanted my career to take off. So when it came down to choosing a school, it was clear that the School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs at Northeastern University was the perfect fit for me. However, what I did not anticipate was how much I would have learned and grown from the moment I started this program.
One of the most memorable experiences as a graduate student occurred while taking the “Economic and Institution Analysis” course with professor Benedict Jimenez—one of my first MPA classes. Not only did he challenge our positions when we evaluated a range of economic policy issues, but he also taught me how to think critically, an important skill to master for future policymakers. This class highlighted the intellectual enrichment and wisdom gained during this program and prepared me for my first professional application.
Although my knowledge about the economic development field was somewhat limited, I leveraged my entrepreneurial experience to help me secure the program and policy summer internship at MassDevelopment, a quasi-public financial institution and real estate development agency whose primary mission is to strengthen the most economically challenged cities across the Commonwealth.
The major part of my internship consisted of helping the policy officer improve the agency’s performance management practices. It was fascinating to observe that many of the theories that we learn in class are reflected within the organization, and also to witness a state agency’s efforts to implement projects to tackle the complexities that impoverished cities face.
Thanks to several of my classes, I was able to conduct policy research, write a policy recommendation paper, and bring my stamp to the agency’s efforts to fulfill its mission. I have found that the diversity of background and experiences from my colleagues and classmates have greatly contributed to my growth and have deepened my experiences to another level. As an incoming graduate research assistant at the Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy, I hope to expend my impact while working on the Economic Development Self-Assessment Tool reports for municipalities across the Commonwealth.
With only one year left, I have realized that the MPA Program has opened many doors for me. I have discovered new fields to explore. Whether I am looking to pursue a career in the nonprofit sector, work as a policy analyst or in the economic development field, the experience that I have gained at Northeastern will be a valuable passport for a great adventure that will impact this world.
Grace Ndalla-Watino is a second-year student in the Master of Public Administration. She works as a graduate research assistant at the Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy. Her research interests include poverty alleviation and gender and income inequalities.
Ward started working in June as the Northeast Regional Engagement Manager for HI USA, and she graduated in August with a Master of Public Administration and a Graduate Certificate in Nonprofit Philanthropy and Social Impact.
Ward is responsible for setting the engagement agenda for hostels located across New England and New York.
“I have nearly completed 90 days with the position and I absolutely love it,” Ward said.]]>
Matthias Ruth, director of the School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs, recently presented research and chaired sessions at the Urban Transitions Global Summit in Shanghai, China, which was sponsored in part by Urban Climate, an international scientific journal for which he serves as editor in chief.
During his stay in Shanghai, he also met with high-level officials of the Shanghai University for Engineering Science, the Chinese Executive Leadership Academy Pudong, and Tongji University, where he also spoke at the University’s distinguished speaker series.
Among the many highlights of his five-day visit was a reunion with students from all over China who have worked with him as post-docs and visiting scholars over the years, and a couple of half-marathon runs in the early morning hours through the streets of Shanghai.]]>
“Local politicians as linking social capital: an empirical test of political behavior after Japan’s 3/11 disasters” provides important insights into how disasters change not only the residents directly affected through the loss of loved ones and property, but also local leaders who must alter their strategies to accelerate the recovery process.
“My co-author, Yoshikuni Ono of Tohoku University, and I were curious about how disasters changed the behavior of local politicians,” said Aldrich, who is co-director of the Master’s Program in Security and Resilience. “Most of us tend to think about politics at the national level – in Japan’s case, that would be members of parliament, for example. But we had the feeling that local council people in disaster affected communities might be altering how they reached out to local constituents and also powerful brokers at regional and national levels.”
Together, Aldrich and Ono surveyed more than 200 politicians across a number of towns to understand how the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear meltdowns had altered the ways that they did business as politicians.
They found that council members in municipalities with more damage and deaths reached out to a wider variety of people for help and did so more often. People in communities which had smaller amounts of damage—controlling for both personal factors, such as experience and age, and for city level factors, such as size and wealth—reached out less.
Read the full paper here.]]>
Modestino’s current research focuses on labor market dynamics including skills mismatch, youth labor market attachment, migration, and the impact of health care reform on employers. Her work has been funded by the Russell Sage Foundation and the National Science Foundation, and has appeared in various journals such as Journal of Human Resources, Labour Economics, Health Affairs, and Regional Science and Urban Economics.
She has presented her research at the annual meetings of the American Economic Association, the Society of Labor Economists, and the Association for Public Policy Analysis and Management and has been featured in outlets such as the Wall Street Journal, CNBC, and National Public Radio.
Modestino has served as the associate director of the Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy and as a visiting scholar at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston since 2015.
In 2015 she served on a Massachusetts state task force aimed at improving the workforce development system to serve populations with chronically high unemployment. Recently, she was appointed by Gov. Charlie Baker to serve as a board member of the Massachusetts Housing Partnership, a statewide public nonprofit affordable housing organization that works with cities and towns to increase the state’s overall rate of housing production and demonstrate new and better ways of meeting the Commonwealth’s need for affordable housing.
She currently leads a multi-year program evaluation of the Boston Summer Youth Employment Program investigating both the short- and long-term effects of summer jobs on youth employment, academic, and behavioral outcomes using survey and administrative data in a randomized control trial.]]>