May 24, 2017

Penn Undergraduates Present Urban Research Findings


Each spring Penn IUR sponsors an urban research course for undergraduates entitled Undergraduate Urban Research Colloquium (UURC). UURC pairs faculty conducting urban-focused scholarship with undergraduates interested in developing research skills.  Over the course of the semester, led by Instructor and Penn IUR Postdoctoral Researcher Mary Rocco, students explore a variety of research methods in class, while working with their faculty mentor on a new or existing research project.

Over the course of the Spring 2017 semester, students visited the Architectural Archives at Penn, attended a documentary film screening and participated in data gathering and sharing exercises to further their analytic skills. Faculty and researchers from across the university visited the class to share various approaches to urban inquiry. These included presentations on spatial analytics for public policy, ethnography in India, participatory research in immigrant neighborhoods, and food insecurity among recipient of the supplemental nutrition assistance program (SNAP). Below is a snapshot of the Spring 2017 UURC projects, as well as links each student’s final poster presentation and findings.

“Crystallizing a Discourse of “Khalijiness”: Exclusion and Citizenship in the Arab Gulf States”

Student: Khaled Abdulkarim, Huntsman Program, The Wharton School | Faculty Mentor: Heather Sharkey, Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations

This project examines the exclusion of two populations- the bidoon (stateless) of Kuwait and middle-class Indian migrants in Dubai. This research finds that exclusion in the case of the bidoon is largely the result of government policy and enforcement while in the case of the Indian middle class migrants exclusion results from internal and external social as well as political forces in everyday life. In both cases, a “Gulf Arab brand” that is used to create imagined identities and communities among the local Gulf citizens that play out across social and spatial interactions.

See Khaled Abdulkarim’s final poster presentation.

“Conventional Benefits? Examining the Revitalization Outcomes of the 2016 Democratic and Republican National Conventions in Philadelphia and Cleveland”

Student: Noah Hollin, Urban Studies | Faculty Mentor: Mary Rocco, Urban Studies

Description: Despite continuous population loss and subsequent decline over the last several decades, Legacy (i.e. shrinking) Cities enjoyed a renaissance in the early decades of the twenty-first century, showing signs of revitalization. One way to amplify these signs and transmit them to a broader audience in through spotlight events, a subset of the mega-event strategies usually associated with the Olympics and other sporting events. This research examined the revitalization outcomes of Legacy Cities in hosting one type of spotlight event, presidential nominating conventions. The project is ongoing.

See Noah Hollin’s final poster presentation.

“The Preservation of Historic Sounds: Community Efforts to Restore and Maintain the Paul Robeson and John Coltrane Houses”

Student: Michael Jean, History and English | Faculty Mentor: Molly McGlone, Urban Studies

John Coltrane, jazz saxophonist and innovator lived in Philadelphia’s Strawberry Mansion neighborhood from 1952-1958. Paul Robeson, singer, actor and Civil Right leader, lived across town in city’s Walnut Hill neighborhood. This project traces the historic preservation processes of each National Historic Landmarks designated house and its affiliated cultural associations to understand how historic preservation happens in a neighborhood context. In both cases, preservation occurred through different institutional networks and connections that could be sustained over time and leveraged for resources. Furthermore, preservation of these sites increased cultural participation in the surrounding neighborhood.

See Michael Jean’s final poster presentation.

“In My Back Yard: Housing Insecurity and Informal Responses in Cape Town, South Africa”

Student: Mira Kaplan, Urban Studies | Faculty Mentor: Eugenie Birch, City and Regional Planning

Description: The need for affordable housing solutions prompts community innovation. Motivated by a lack of adequate supply, communities leverage social and physical infrastructures to create alternative housing formation when formality and municipal/national governance proves inefficient and unreliable.  This project examines resident’s response to exclusion from housing provision in Kensington, a low-income suburb of Cape Town, South Africa.  This research reveals both the social and physical benefits of  informal backyard developments as a response to a lack of housing supply and the networks created among disparately located communities to share best practices.

See Mira Kaplan’s final poster presentation.

“Urban Ageing Policies in Philadelphia and Daegu”

Student: Seyeon Kim, Sociology | Faculty Mentor: Hans-Peter Kohler, Sociology

The share of the older adult population is increasing in nearly every country in the world. This demographic shift coincides with the expected urbanization of global populations on nearly every continent. The need for comprehensive policies targeted at this growing segment of city residents poses a challenge to urban leaders around the globe.  This project examines global framework such as the World Health Organization’s Age-Friendly Cities and compares the adoption of urban ageing policies in Philadelphia, PA, United States and Daegu, South Korea. This research highlights areas where both cities have adopted ageing friendly interventions while also pointing out areas in need of greater planning and policy attention for each place.

See Seyeon Kim’s final poster presentation.

“Martin Wagner, Urban Planner in Exile:  An exploration of the physical manifestations of Martin Wagner’s theoretical and philosophical ideas”

Student: Andro Mathewson, Germanic Languages | Faculty Mentor: Anna Vallye, Architecture

Martin Wagner, Berlin’s chief urban planner from 1924 until 1933, is known for his implementation of utilitarian housing structures to curb the housing shortage post-World War one and his use of open spaces during the restructuring of Berlin. The majority of his writings are highly theoretical and engage in depth with his personal philosophical convictions; the physical manifestations of many are still present in Berlin to this day. This project is ongoing.

See Andro Mathewson’s final poster presentation.



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Deborah Lang
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