On May 12, Penn IUR, in collaboration with the Penn Urban Studies Program, hosted the thirteenth annual Penn Urban Doctoral Symposium to celebrate the achievements of Penn doctoral students who have recently completed dissertations on urban-focused topics. Following welcoming remarks from Penn IUR Co-Director Susan Wachter, Dawn Bonnell, Vice Provost for Research and Mark Stern, Co-Director, Urban Studies Program, offered their congratulations the graduating students for their hard work and contributions to urban scholarship. The four graduates presented their diverse research efforts to a group of mentors, advisors, and family members.
Julia McWilliams, Anthropology and Education, School of Arts and Sciences, summarized her research topic, “Branding Against Closure: Philadelphia Neighborhood Schools and the Management of Risky Futures”. McWilliams combined the anthropologies of branding and value, risk management, and anti-blackness to analyze how neighborhood schools in Philadelphia have responded to budget cuts and declining enrollment because of the rise of charter schools. She argued neighborhood schools feel forced to compete with charter schools by branding themselves as an attractive alternative, sometimes to the detriment of subgroups of the children they are supposed to serve.
Theodore Lim, City and Regional Planning, School of Design, presented on “Land, Water, Infrastructure & People: Considerations of Planning Distributed Stormwater Management Systems”. Lim explained that green infrastructure has emerged in recent years as a solution to flooding events, water quality issues, and combined sewer overflows. His analysis concluded that developed open space or retrofitted green infrastructure does not have the same infiltration and water quality benefits as undeveloped land, suggesting that preservation of open space is the most beneficial strategy for decision makers. Lim also found that optimizing the placement of green infrastructure on a site has negligible added benefits, so planners do not need to conduct site-specific studies.
Chia-Hui Lu, East Asian Studies and Folklore, School of Arts and Sciences, discussed “Healing at the Borderland of Medicine and Religion: A Folklore Study of Health Care in Taiwan”. Lu’s research looked at the interaction of popular religion and folk medicine. Following interviews and site visits during her fieldwork in southwestern Taiwan, she concluded that there is not an either/or choice between popular religion and folk medicine, but rather the two exist in a hybrid system. Lu came to understand a diverse health care market and also how everyday people perceive and participate in health care practices.
Anthony Pratcher II, History, School of Arts and Sciences, gave the final presentation of the day, summarizing his work on “Occupational Inequality, Racial Integration, and the Spatial Development of Maryvale, Phoenix, 1970-1990”. Pratcher analyzes what forces contribute to the racial integration of Phoenix’s Maryvale community in the 1970s and the later segregation that follows in the 1990s. He argues, that while race is a factor, one needs to look at social and economic foundations to understand what led to the racial spatialization in this community over time.
Elaine Simon, Co-Director, Urban Studies Program, School of Design, wrapped up the event commenting on the benefits of an interdisciplinary approach to studying the city and thanking the graduates for their hard work on such a range of topics.