Teams of graduate students in the final stage of their education at the School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs (SPPUA) are putting learning into action. Working in small interdisciplinary teams, they are applying the knowledge they’ve acquired in the classroom to address challenging, client-oriented capstone projects.
With just a few weeks until graduation, the teams are wrapping up their research and getting ready for their capstone presentations on Wednesday, April 25, at 5:30 p.m. in Renaissance Park, room 310. Here, we introduce you to the interdisciplinary teams and their capstone projects.
Members: Heidi Bauer, MPA; Alexandria Bell, MPA; Paul Fletcher, MS LPP; Mutian Fu, MPA; and Rachel Puelle, MPA
Client: Talbot Norfolk Triangle Eco-Innovation District
The Talbot Norfolk Triangle Eco-Innovation District (TNT-EID) has completed projects towards its goal of creating a green neighborhood full of resilient citizens since its inception in 2013. Director David Queeley has overseen projects throughout the neighborhood ranging from energy assessment and energy retrofits on residential and commercial buildings, to the assessment of LEED-ND certifications, to the installation of green bus stop roofs and urban agriculture sites, to the planting of hundreds of trees. This organization, which is the first Eco-District in Boston, aims to help the citizens within the neighborhood maintain resiliency against fossil fuels, gentrification, and waste.
While the TNT-EID has a seemingly endless list of projects to complete and problems to tackle, it needs to define its direction and voice. This project will provide the TNT-EID with a cohesive strategy and marketing campaign for tackling future projects and spreading the word about what this group can offer to residents to improve their sustainability.
“We are providing recommendations based on analysis of housing data, case studies, social media campaigns, and green practices to assist the TNT-EID increase its influence and become a shining example for the city of Boston,” the team said.
Members: David Snowdon, MPA; Jiaqi Liu, MPA; Moire Loftus, MPP; Hannah Lyons, MURP; and Yuwei Zou, MPA
Client: Institute for Sustainable Energy
In the fall of 2017, Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh announced the launch of Carbon Free Boston, an initiative in partnership with the Green Ribbon Commission (GRC) and Boston University’s Institute for Sustainable Energy (ISE) centered on achieving carbon neutrality in the city by 2050. Carbon neutrality is defined as a state of net zero emissions, achieved through a combination of cutting and offsetting carbon emissions.
Currently, 40 percent of Boston’s greenhouse gas emissions come from 50,000 to 60,000 residential and small commercial buildings, making reducing emissions from this particular sector a critical component of achieving carbon neutrality. Acting on this sector’s emissions will require the widespread adoption of energy efficiency measures such as heat-pump systems, weatherization, and energy audits.
“For the city to succeed in its endeavors of carbon neutrality, we believe a mixed policy approach, utilizing a range of elements practiced by programs advancing the energy democracy agenda, is necessary,” capstone team members said. “Our recommendation will include approaches which improve informational awareness, community collaboration, building regulations and program offerings. Implementation of a compressive policy approach will engender greater results as each successive implementation fuels and influences the next.”
Members: Victoria Melendez, MURP; Emily Arpke, MPA; Monique Gibbs, MPA; Dan McCarthy, MPA; and Kelley Turner, MPP
Client: City of Chelsea
Students are working with Chelsea’s Planning and Development Department to develop a report that will help the city revitalize the Broadway corridor to best serve existing residents of the city, while avoiding the potential displacement of existing businesses.
The group is conducting a multi-variable case study review, research and analysis of primary data, and local stakeholder engagement. In the end, we hope to put forward recommendations that the city will implement.
Members: Danaah McCallum, MPA; Alex Nally, JD/MS; and Natiq Almenhali, MPA
Client: Department of Development Services (DDS)
Although overtime is a major expenditure for DDS, managers do not monitor or analyze data related to overtime utilization. The department has recently become aware of vulnerabilities to potential fraud, waste and abuse with respect to overtime.
This capstone team has been charged with identifying potential causes related to DDS’ excess overtime expenditures. The team has had three meetings with Richard Santucci, DDS’ director of human rights, and they have reviewed the agency’s most recent impact reports, as well as detailed information concerning overtime usage.
“Because DDS does not collect data uniformly, our team has developed a questionnaire to be distributed to the 240 house managers to help us better understand the individual characteristics of each manager, as well as program staff, and program residents,” group members said. “We will also explore aspects of the DDS and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees collective bargaining agreements to determine the effect on overtime expenditures. The data will be analyzed using a variety of quantitative techniques to explore causation and trends.”
Members: Katie Kalugin, MPP; Amanda Pepper, MPA; Kaleena Seeley, MPA; and Elizabeth Torres, MPA
Client: Greater Boston Real Estate Board
With demand outstrips supply, housing prices in Boston outpace household incomes. One contributing factor is the lack of housing for graduate students in the various universities in the Greater Boston area—more than 80 percent of whom are not offered on-campus housing as part of their graduate program. The city of Boston has recently unveiled plans to build more housing for many sectors of society in an effort to stabilize prices, but the target audience for such housing remains to be seen.
This capstone team is investigating the demand and desires for housing among graduate students in an effort to help developers better understand housing requirements. “By focusing on graduate students, the intention is to open more duplex and triple-decker homes to working families and help ease pressure in the housing market,” team members said.
The team has developed a housing survey which all Northeastern graduate students are encouraged to take. The survey will also be shared with Boston University graduate students. The Greater Boston Real Estate Board will then use this data to influence future housing developments in the Greater Boston area.
Members: Christopher DeRuvo, MPA; John Millerick, MPA; Joshua Parad, MPA; Ellen Quinn, MPA; and Heather Saxelby O’Donnell, MURP
Client: Allston Brighton Community Development Corporation (ABCDC)
ABCDC is a nonprofit organization focused on building a stronger and more stable community in the Boston neighborhoods of Allston and Brighton. The organization supports the local community through engagement, leadership and advocacy, and concentrates primarily on housing development, homeownership education and advocacy. ABCDC is seeking to build a better model of engagement in Community Benefit Agreements, which are contracts between private developers and community representatives in which the developer promises to mitigate impacts to the community resulting from a development project.
This capstone team is developing best practices for community benefit agreements. They have examined case studies from other cities, including Los Angeles, Brooklyn, Pittsburgh, and Somerville, Mass.
“We have been conducting interviews with stakeholders and examining current practices in Boston,” the team said. “Specifically, we have discussed Community Benefit Agreements with local universities, including Harvard University and Boston University. We have also met with local labor unions, nonprofit organizations and staff at the Boston Planning and Development Agency.”
Income inequality and social mobility
Members: Jeremy Thompson, MURP; Alexander Berg, MPA; Ellie Rosen, MPA; and Maria Lopez, MPA
Client: The Boston Foundation
Income and wealth inequality has been rising for several decades with the gap between the “haves” and “have nots” larger than ever. New research demonstrates that there is little intergenerational economic and social mobility, meaning that those who are born into poorer families often remain poor themselves.
The Boston Foundation is undertaking a major investigation of inequality and social mobility with a focus on why, despite investments of billions of dollars in social welfare programs and scores of organizations working to improve social and economic mobility, there appears to have been little success in this realm. And this capstone group is condensing research across a multitude of distinct fields that pertain to socioeconomic mobility to provide recommendations on how The Boston Foundation can combat intergenerational immobility.
“Thinking outside the box, we aim to give recommendations that will help The Boston Foundation identify new research areas, foster relationships with local NGOs who are already trying to tackle this issue, and give strategic guidance on how The Boston Foundation should allocate their expenditures to maximize the impact their investments have on the fight against immobility,” team members said. Follow their blog here.
Member: Brian Walker, MPP
Client: Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S./Student Veterans of America
Brian Walker was selected as one of 10 veterans nationwide to receive the VFW-SVA Legislative Fellowship, a semester-long academic experience involving research, action, reporting, and advocating on behalf of one of four policy areas: veterans’ success in higher education; transitioning from military to civilian life; succeeding in the civilian workforce; and crafting the future of veterans’ health care.
Walker is examining statutory laws that have been in place for years, how the term veteran is defined in these laws, and how if the laws persist, they can counter initiatives to expand VA health care access to veterans with other-than-honorable discharges. He is responsible for executing a community action plan, which includes the delivery of his research paper to his congressional delegation. Learn more about his work here.