SPPUA in Action | October 2016
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Dear Friends,

Using the best available data on social, economic and environmental issues and being able to interpret these data to generate new knowledge has long been considered a precondition for making better decisions. The richness of new data streams that are being increasingly made available by the public and private sectors, by sensors and through the interactions of citizens active on social media, for example, have begun to create new opportunities to get a read on what is happening, and why, and to help inform investment and policy towards desirable outcomes.

The School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs has long been at the forefront of data-driven, theory-based, model-generated insights that guide the actions of decision makers here in Boston and around the globe – through the work of our faculty and research centers and through our various degree and certificate programs.
As this October edition of our newsletter attests, we continue to innovate on the generation of data, theory, and application in ways that shape the lives and livelihoods of people through new knowledge and new partnerships. I invite you to join us – by visiting with us in Boston, participating in our many research, education and engagement activities, or following us on social and other media.
Matthias Ruth
Director and Professor, School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs
Watch Video

Boston Area Research Initiative has new home

Starting this fall, the School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs at Northeastern University officially became the administrative home for the Boston Area Research Initiative (BARI), an interuniversity partnership that produces original urban research with an emphasis on novel digital data. Read more.
Faculty Research
Study: Using Big Data to monitor societal events shows promise, but the coding tech needs work

In the age of Big Data, automated systems can track societal events on a global scale. These systems code and collect vast stores of real-time “event data”—happenings gleaned from news articles covering everything from political protests to ecological shifts around the world.

In new research published Thursday, Sept. 29, in the journal Science, Northeastern network scientist and SPPUA affiliate professor David Lazer and his colleagues analyzed the effectiveness of four global-scale databases and found they are falling short when tested for reliability and validity. Read more.
Want the most telling presidential polling data? Professor says turn to Twitter

National polls have traditionally been a go-to barometer to gauge public opinion of presidential candidates and who has the inside track on the race for the White House. But Northeastern assistant professor Nick Beauchamp says state-level polls provide an even better example of voter intention. The problem, he says, is that state-level polling is rare and often focuses primarily on swing states. Read more.

Student Spotlight: Using public data to predict blazes in Boston

Kit Miller, a software engineer by trade, is coupling his knowledge of coding and web-based software with urban informatics to predict fires in Boston.

Miller, a second-year student in the M.S. in Urban Informatics, is conducting a fire risk assessment of Boston using public data from the city. He is digging into the Tax Assessor’s database, Boston Fire Department records of blazes from 2011 to 2015, and datasets based on non-emergency (311) and emergency (911) calls developed by Dan O’Brien, co-director of the Boston Area Research Initiative. Read more.

Guest Column: Hackathon focuses on intersection of data science, journalism

By Caitlin Fitz Gerald, a second-year student in the M.S. in Urban Informatics

I recently attended “The future of justice: data science and journalism combine,” a hackathon co-hosted by Northeastern University. In my second year of the M.S. in Urban Informatics at the School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs, this intersection of data and policy was a fun look at some of the real-world applications of the skills I’m gaining through my coursework.

If you look up the word “hackathon,” Google will tell you that it is “an event, typically lasting several days, in which a large number of people meet to engage in collaborative computer programming.” The Sept. 29 event at the Curry Student Center—part of HUBweek, a citywide, weeklong menu of panels, demonstrations, collaborations, celebrations, and other events focused on the future of Boston—was a less intensive version focused on the intersection of data science and journalism, suitable for neophytes and experienced programmers alike. Read more.

Student & Alumni News

PhD candidate receives prestigious fellowship to conduct research in India

Vijayeta Singh, a PhD candidate in the Law and Public Policy Program, has been awarded the Junior Research Fellowship by the American Institute of Indian Studies (AIIS) to conduct field research for her dissertation on coal mining induced displacement in Jharkhand, India.

Every year AIIS awards fellowships through a very competitive process to doctoral candidates in the U.S. who are pursuing their dissertation research in India. AIIS fellows are provided formal affiliation with Indian universities and supervisors during their field work in India, as well as a monthly stipend to help them cover field expenses. Read more.

MURP alumna starts position at Office of Workforce Development

“The courses I took as part of the MURP program prepared me for the policy practitioner end of my position, and my time as a researcher at the Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy helped me to build out a more robust research-based skill set. Still much more to come, but I'm thankful to be at the beginning of a new chapter in my career!”

—Lauren Costello
Read more.

Exchange student’s article on urban climate change published in renowned journal

For Maarten Markus, the semester he spent studying abroad at the School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs (SPPUA) was a stepping-stone in his career.

In 2015, Markus, who was then a student in the Research Master’s in Urban Studies at the University of Amsterdam, hopped on a plane and enrolled in professor Joan Fitzgerald’s “Cities, Sustainability and Climate Change” class. He began scrutinizing practices of green building and water management in planning, and his research became the basis of an article published last month in Planning Theory and Practice. Read more.

Student Blog: A Boston State of Mind

Belgian exchange students Ann-Sophie Vermeersch and Karel Dejonghe are studying public policy for a semester at the School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs. Follow their blog, "A Boston State of Mind," to learn more about their adventures at Northeastern. Read more.

SPPUA Update

Now accepting Spring 2017 Capstone Proposals

We invite public sector and nonprofit organizations to submit project proposals for our Spring 2017 Capstone graduate student consulting teams. Capstone projects give our students the opportunity to put their training into practice on a real project for a community-based nonprofit or government client. A team of advanced graduate student “consultants” puts their research, technical, and management skills to work on a project that is defined by agencies. The result: a final product that helps clients meet the challenges of their organizations. Read more.  

Examining food and farming systems

Professor Christopher Bosso, director of the Master of Public Policy, gave a talk on Sept. 8, entitled “Why the Farm Bill is Now About Food Stamps,” as part of the Workshop on the Sustainability of the World’s Food and Farming Systems at the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs, Harvard University.

The talk was excerpted from Bosso’s book, Framing the Farm Bill: Interests, Ideology, and the Agricultural Act of 2014, which will be published soon by the University Press of Kansas. Learn more about Bosso’s new book here.

Policy Brief: Why do people contact local governments to report deterioration, denigration in public spaces?

Professors Dan O’Brien and Dietmar Offenhuber have teamed up with faculty in three other universities to investigate the correlation between citizens’ attachment to their neighborhoods and the improvement of municipal services. They found that constituents who report deterioration and denigration in a public space are primarily motivated by what they call territoriality, or the tendency to claim and identify with spaces. Read more.

Professor Aldrich speaks on social capital, resilience

Daniel Aldrich, professor of political science, public policy and urban affairs and co-director of the Masters in Security and Resilience Studies, spoke on the topic of social capital and resilience as the keynote speaker at the annual BoCo Strong event in Boulder, Colo., in September.

BoCo Strong, formed after the 2013 Lyons, Colo., floods, seeks to preserve the lessons learned from that broad scale disaster. The group has been using Aldrich’s research on social capital as a blueprint for building cohesion and civic engagement in their communities and asked him to talk about the empirical evidence and resulting policy recommendations from his research around the world.Read more.

Professor Mann co-writes survey of Massachusetts college access, success programs

Emily Mann, teaching professor in the Human Services Program and senior research associate at the Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy, recently co-wrote a comprehensive survey exploring college access programs in the Bay State.

“Bridges and Barriers: A Survey of Massachusetts College Access & Success Programs” delves into the challenges facing under-represented students in Massachusetts, and provides recommendations for addressing this critical issue. Read more.
In the Media

The faculty and staff at the School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs continue to be reliable sources of expertise on current pressing issues. Click here for a list of articles during the month of September that reference our knowledgeable staff and their research.

Quote of the Month

Upcoming Events

Leveraging your graduate-level skills in your job or internship search
When: Oct 20, 1-2 p.m.
Where: G12 Stearns
What: In this workshop we’ll explore traditional job search methods as well as non-traditional methods such as online and in-person networking. Discussions will include how to leverage your Master’s or PhD studies, how to identify possible jobs, the importance of informational interviews and how they can be a comfortable way to build your network, and how to prepare yourself mentally for a job or internship search.

Join us for Lives in Law and Public Policy, an annual series that provides opportunities for our students, alumni, and members of the Northeastern community to hear and learn from leading figures in law and policy. Held on Oct. 27, “Understanding Presidential Debates: The Past, Present & Future” will feature Alan Schroeder, a professor in the School of Journalism at Northeastern University. Event Details: 5-7 p.m., 909 Renaissance Park.

The World in Your Cup: “Making a Coffee Dream the Reality” — When you hold a cup of coffee, you hold a world of issues in the palm of your hand. Come join a conversation inspired by coffee on Oct. 27, from 6-8 p.m., at the Alumni Center. Special Guest: Dr. Andrea Illy, Chairman of illycaffè. Free and open to the public. RSVP is required.

Advanced interviewing for graduate students
When: Oct 27, 12- 1 p.m.
Where: G12 Stearns
What: Whether you are seeking a job in industry, nonprofit, or academia, the job interview is an important part of the process. As a graduate student, you have begun to specialize in your chosen field and will be expected to present yourself as a confident professional. This workshop can help you develop that skill by providing advice on preparation, Skype and phone interviews, questions to expect, questions to ask, and how to connect with the interviewer. Participants will be asked to share their interview experiences and to practice responding to common interview questions.

Writing your professional resume
When: Oct 27, 5:30-6:30 p.m.
Where: G12 Stearns
What: Are you thinking about doing an internship and need help writing your first professional resume? This interactive workshop will provide tips on how to create a resume that will get you the job! Participants will draft job descriptions for their actual resumes.

The Northeastern Way

Our graduate policy programs create leaders through experiential learning, research and education.

Northeastern Policy School
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