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 2018 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. Below is a snapshot of the Spring 2018 UURC projects, as well as links each student’s final poster presentation and findings.
“Wet-lining: Are Changes to the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) a Form of Redlining in pre-Flood Insurance Rate Map (pre-FIRM) in Minority Communities? A Case Study of Eastwick in Southwest Philadelphia”
Student: Abigail McGuckin, Urban Studies | Faculty Mentor: Michael Nairn, Urban Studies
Recent changes in the Special Flood Hazard Area and National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) have increased insurance premium and made properties ineligible for federal funds. This project explores how these changes have impacted the residents of Eastwick PA which have been historically discriminated against since 1930s. The research shows that most of the changes to the NFIP target pre-FIRM properties where low income and minority population are overrepresented and disproportionally affected. In addition, the research illuminates how disconnection between the NFIP, flood insurance experts, and residents’ lived experiences has led to creation of impractical policies and programs. The research finds information failure – namely risk communication- a major contributor to the inefficiency of the NFIP.
“Impact of Chinese Investment in Ethiopian Infrastructure”
Student: Adamseged Abebe, Health & Societies | Faculty Mentor: Ramah McKay, History & Sociology of Science
Ethiopia, the second most populous African country, has emerged as one of economically fastest growing countries in Africa. Chinese economic investment and engagement have played a major role in Ethiopia’s recent economic growth. The value of these recent developments is often understood through their impacts on the overall GDP and macro-level economic activities. This research examines the footprint of Chinese infrastructure developments at micro level by looking at their impacts on the daily lives of the residents, and the ways that foreign investments are understood and perceived by Ethiopians. The research shows that residents have a mixed perception of the Chinese involvement in their economy. While some pointed to the lack of knowledge transfer by the Chinese firms and the increased dependency on foreign labor force, others praised them for their efficiency and lack of interests in meddling with local politics.
“Into the Heart of History: Examining the Effectiveness of Safe Kids Stories”
Student: Allen Zhu, Philosophy, Politics, Economics | Faculty Mentor: Lorene Cary, English
This research is part of the Safe Kids Stories (SKS) project which aims to alter societal assumptions about the centrality of danger and violence among urban youth by creating, collecting, and sharing stories about sanctuary, safety, and resilience by developing stories, poems, essays, videos, photos and cartoons. This project evaluates the effectiveness of such program in involving urban youth as both contributors and audience using variety of methods such as focus groups, observations, and surveys. The project shows that SKS successfully challenged students to expand their definitions of safety and reflect on their existing relationships with friends, family, and academic materials. The evaluation also helped to find ways to improve both the content and delivery of the SKS stories and activities.
“Making Their Mark: Community Formation and Socioeconomic Mobility in Nigerian Immigrant Communities”
Student: Ebehireme Inegbenebor, Political science | Faculty Mentor: Onoso Imoagene, Sociology
Nigerians form the largest African group in the United States and are known to be one of the most educated immigrant groups in the country. While economic processes and activities in immigrant neighborhoods – or so called “ethnic enclave”- are studied extensively, less is known about the mechanisms that affect identity and community formation among immigrants that could ultimately lead into their upward mobility. This research, by focusing on Nigerian immigrants in Houston TX, uncovers non-economic community structures that play a role in combatting integration challenges, affecting individual development, and providing an avenue for socioeconomic growth ad mobility. The research has two phases, where information obtained from the quantitative Phase I informs the direction of the qualitative inquiry in Phase II. The research is ongoing.
“Mapping Recovery: The spatial nature of services addressing homelessness in Philadelphia”
Student: Elise Reynolds, Urban Studies | Faculty Mentor: Amy Hillier, Urban Planning/Social Policy and Practice
Mapping Recovery is a study of how formerly homeless people in recovery navigate their support systems. The research is conducted in partnership with Project HOME, a non-profit organization that provides housing, opportunities for employment, medical care and education to homeless and low-income persons in Philadelphia PA. The research explores what recovery means to the Project Home residents and how they navigate external services and resources in an effort to sustain housing and recovery. The research reveals that Project HOME needs a clearer and more consistent definition of recovery, should explore partnership with existing providers that focus on recovery and provide more support for the residents in accessing offsite resources. The study is ongoing where information obtained from interviews will be spatially analyzed in order to provide a Recovery Map.
“Whose education matters: what is the effect of family members’ education on the health outcomes of the elderly?”
Student: Seyeon Kim, Sociology | Faculty Mentor: Hans-Peter Kohler, Sociology
Caring for aging population has become a challenging health care issue in many countries with a growing aging population. Socioeconomic factors, particularly education, are often used to describe differences in physical and cognitive conditions of the elderly. Some scholars argue that family caregiving is critical in shaping the elderly’s life experiences and health outcomes. This study examines how the education attainment of family members predicts the health outcomes of the elderly in the context of South Korea, where caring for the aging family member is a cultural norm and educational expansion has been rapid in recent years. Using Korean Longitudinal Study of Aging dataset, this research finds that elders’ health is influenced by their own education, their spouse’s education, and their first child’s education.
“Towards Transformative Knowledge Production: Understanding Health through Civic Engagement and Multimodal Methodologies”
Student: Sheila Shankar, College of Liberal and Professional Studies (LPS) | Faculty Mentor: Aaron Levy English and History of Art
This research focuses on destabilizing traditional understandings of research, towards a model of knowledge production and co-creation between academic institutions and the community. This project designed, implemented, and evaluated a form of engaged scholarship in order to address and problematize current understandings of health disparities. In partnership with the Health Ecologies Lab, this project organized three public discussion series around people-centered health practice, the politics of care, and the sociopolitical determinants of health. The project, and its feedback surveys, reveal that public discussion series can be viewed not only as a case study in engaged knowledge production, but more broadly as an example of the ways in which power relations are re-negotiated between institutional actors and community members in order to reorganize our understandings of knowledge and health, and destabilize the relationships (spatially, economically, politically, intellectually, and culturally) between the academy and urban communities.