SPPUA in Action | November 2016
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Dear Friends,

Public policy shapes and is shaped by the perceptions and actions of people who engage with each other and their physical environment. This is nowhere truer than in urban settings, where in many cases physical and human spaces are tightly compressed geographically, and often in time.

As a School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs, we operate at this sweet spot where policy and urban life intersect with the urban environment. And as this issue of our November newsletter attests, faculty at the School do carry out research along many dimensions of the human-environment spectrum, be it at the cutting edge of understanding how people behave in and adapt to their environment, or how the physiology of biotic systems in urban coastal zones are affected by temperature, or how, over long periods of time, cities change the pattern and brightness at which they emit light, which can be used to make inferences about the economic and social processes at work.

Our students and alumni engage in similarly exciting work in which they reinforce the mission of the School and create lasting legacies here in Boston and around the world.

I invite you to read on and to join us – by visiting 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
October in Photos
Video: Security and Resilience Studies
Faculty Research
Improvisation in hybrid urban environments

A designer, an interdisciplinary engineer and an actor/director have teamed up to prove that improvisational theater techniques can inform digitally augmented responsive environments.

Kristian Kloeckl, new affiliate professor in the School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs and associate professor of design, Mark Sivak, associate teaching professor with joint appointments in the College of Engineering and the Department of Art + Design, and Jonathan Carr, assistant teaching professor in the Department of Theatre, are exploring a novel approach to developing behavior for digitally augmented physical environments that dynamically change their response and adapt to ad-hoc situations. Read more.
Researchers use ‘robomussels’ to monitor climate change

Tiny robots have been helping researchers study how climate change affects biodiversity. Developed by Northeastern University scientist Brian Helmuth, the “robomussels” have the shape, size, and color of actual mussels, with miniature built-in sensors that track temperatures inside the mussel beds.

For the past 18 years, every 10 to 15 minutes, Helmuth, professor in the College of Science and the School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs, and a global research team of 48 scientists have used robomussels to track internal body temperature, which is determined by the temperature of the surrounding air or water, and the amount of solar radiation the devices absorb. Read more.
Visualization of urban radiance

Ever wondered what global data sets that estimate population density, economic productivity, measles outbreaks, rural poverty, resource footprints and electrification rates, urbanization and suburbanization, or average wages have in common?

As professor Dietmar Offenhuber points out, they are based on nighttime imagery of city lights captured by the Operational Line Scanner sensor on the satellites from the U.S. Defense Meteorological Satellite (DPMS) Program. Offenhuber's work focuses on the roles of proxy data for urban research: data sets, collected for unrelated purposes, which can be used to understand issues that were not anticipated when the data sets were generated. Read more.
Learning In and Outside the Classroom
Students combine policy and engineering to assess Massport’s infrastructure

A group of policy and engineering graduate students in the “Critical Infrastructure Resilience” course at Northeastern University are applying the skills they learned in class to evaluate Massport’s vulnerabilities and recommend improvements.

Together, they have assessed the critical infrastructures that support operations at Logan International Airport—one of three airports operated by Massport—and identified risks within its transportation, energy and communication sectors. Now, they must condense their semester-long research into a one-hour presentation to the administrator of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), Massport’s CEO, and other key decision makers. Read more.
Governance Project: Closing the loop between research and practice

What would happen to Boston if the city were struck with a Superstorm Sandy-like event? “A lot of water is going to end up in places that most people don’t think water should come to,” says professor Stephen Flynn.

Flynn, co-director of the Kostas Research Institute and director of the Center for Resilience Studies, Matthias Ruth, director of the School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs, and doctoral students Vaishali Kushwaha and Josh Laufer are part of a larger team of researchers at Northeastern University, Ohio State University and the Wharton School that is assessing metro Boston’s interdependent energy and transportation sectors to identify a governance framework that would enhance resilience and regional institutional coordination. Read more.

Guest Column: ‘Freedom is never truly free’


By Brian E. Walker, first-year student in the Master of Public Policy

I am a fourth generation U.S. Navy veteran and I have several extended family members who either have or are currently serving in the military. So, needless to say, I grew up in a household that strongly supports our nation’s military and veteran community. With that said, to me Veterans Day is more than a free meal at a restaurant, a local parade, a visit to the cemetery to pay respects to fallen veterans, or even a paid holiday from work. It should be an everyday remembrance as those who we honor have helped secure and defend the very freedoms and social liberties we each are entitled to (and sadly often take for granted). Read more.

Student & Alumni News

Alumna’s study of recommendation letters cited widely in media

Kuheli Dutt graduated from the School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs PhD in Law and Public Policy Program in 2007. Now, she serves as the diversity officer at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University, and has co-authored a study, published last month in Nature Geoscience. Her study, “Gender differences in recommendation letters for postdoctoral fellowships in geoscience,” examined 1,224 letters of recommendation by 1,100 individuals in 54 countries, and found that regardless of region or recommender gender, male applicants were significantly more likely to get excellent letters of recommendation compared to female applicants. 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.

Dialogue of Civilizations: Japan, England and Zambia

This summer, students have the opportunity to study in Japan with professors Christopher Bosso and Thomas Vicino and learn about the politics, culture and globalization of Japan, with a particular focus on the dynamics of urban life in Tokyo and Kyoto.

Students can also take courses in London with professors Jordan Fox Kemper and Lori Gardinier where they will study the role of social services and nonprofit organizations in one of the most diverse, global and dynamic cities in the world.

And students have the option to join professor Gardinier in a one-month program that introduces students to social change theories and social organizations in Lusaka, Zambia.

SPPUA Update

Professor Bluestone honored for commitment to affordable housing

Barry Bluestone, Russell B. and Andrée B. Stearns Trustee Professor of Political Economy, was recently honored by B’nai B’rith Housing for his commitment to affordable housing in Greater Boston.

In an Oct. 26 article, Banker & Tradesman called Bluestone both an advocate and analyst. He is the co-author of the annual Greater Boston Housing Report Card, which keeps track of home prices, rents, housing production and policy, and other matters related to housing availability and affordability. The 2016 report will be published later this month. Read more.

Professor Aldrich looks at challenges of rebuilding Tohoku

Professor Daniel Aldrich has published a new paper on Japanese communities and the challenge of rebuilding Tohoku. Read more.

He was also featured in The Resilience Age, a new documentary by The Rockefeller Foundation.

According to the Rockefeller Foundation, their view of resilience is helping cities, organizations, and communities better prepare for, respond to, and transform from disruption. In the film, directed by Daniel Fries, ECD of Leroy & Clarkson, Aldrich speaks about his time in New Orleans and in the neighborhoods of Detroit, where community relationships have helped people survive and even thrive. Watch video.

Video: Professor Dukakis on ‘making the most’ of debates

In a recent short video, Distinguished Professor of Political Science Michael Dukakis calls town hall style debates “very revealing.” Dukakis, an affiliated faculty member at the School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs, is former governor of Massachusetts and the 1988 Democratic presidential nominee. Watch video.

Professor Vicino explores innovative internationalization

ProfessorThomas Vicino participated in a panel discussion on innovative internationalization at the NASPAA Annual Conference in Columbus, Ohio, on Oct. 21.

Vicino, director of the Master of Public Administration, discussed how NASPAA-member programs can make global crises relevant in the classroom by teaching students and the public about the history, problems, and policy responses to tough questions facing governments around the world. Read more.

Professor Fitzgerald speaks on urbanism, resilience

Professor Joan Fitzgerald was a presenter on a working conference, “After Fossil Fuels: The Next Economy Conference,” Oct. 6-8 at Oberlin College. National experts and thought leaders from across the nation were invited to strategize on achieving prosperity and equitable development in the post-carbon economy. Fitzgerald spoke on the role of cities in moving to a fossil-free environment. Read more.

Professor Riccio examines American democracy

Rebecca Riccio, director of the Social Impact Lab, participated in a panel on “American Democracy in the Age of Donald Trump” at the Harvard Kennedy School of Business on Oct. 27. She was joined by former Deputy National Intelligence Officer Glenn Carle; Elizabeth Dann, a lawyer, interfaith activist and president of the Board and co-founder of The Muslim Justice League; and Atul Singh, founder, CEO and editor-in-chief of Fair Observer. Panelists discussed how the erosion of public trust in institutions of American democracy and the deterioration of standards for political discourse have affected the election, as well as the prospects of healing a divided electorate and the long-term implications for civil society.
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 October that reference our knowledgeable staff and their research.

Quote of the Month

Upcoming Events

Myra Kraft Open Classroom

The topic of the Fall 2016 Myra Kraft Open Classroom—a free semester-long seminar series for students and the general public—is The Choice: Election 2016. Our lead faculty for the course are Christopher Bosso, professor of public policy and urban affairs, and Michael Dukakis, distinguished professor of political science. Classes are held on Wednesdays from 6 to 8 p.m. in West Village F, room 20. Visit our website for the course schedule, directions and materials from past sessions. Follow @NU_PolicySchool on Twitter for live tweets, and use #OCNEU and #SPPUA on social media sites.

Lives in Law and Public Policy

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 Nov. 18, "The New Architecture of American Politics" will feature David M. Shribman, executive editor of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Event Details: 1-3 p.m., 909 Renaissance Park.

The World in Your Cup: 'The Future of Cacao & Coffee: A Summit on Sustainability and Gender Equity in Two Global Supply Chains'

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 Dec. 1, from 1-4:30 p.m., at the Raytheon Amphitheatre. Register today!

Special Guests:
  • Carla Martin, Harvard University, Founder of the Fine Cocoa Institute;
  • Sarah Zoen, Senior Advisor, Private Sector Department, OxFam America;
  • Other guests, along with coffee and chocolate sponsors.

The Greater Boston Housing Report Card 2016

Join the Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy and the Boston Foundation for the release of the 2016 Greater Boston Housing Report Card Tuesday, Nov. 29, 8:30-10:30 a.m., 75 Arlington Street, 10th Floor, Boston. Continental Breakfast served at 8 a.m. Registration required.

'RESILIENCE: A Global Imperative for 21st Century Cities & Communities'

Mark your calendars for an important event on "Resilience: A Global Imperative for 21st Century Cities & Communities" with professors Matthias Ruth and Daniel Aldrich on Tuesday, Nov. 15, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., at Northeastern University - Seattle. RSVP now.

The Land: Film Screening and Panel Discussion

Watch "The Land," a short documentary about the nature of play, risk and hazard set in a Welsh "adventure" playground, and participate in a panel discussion on Monday, Nov. 21, 5:30-8 p.m., West Village F, room 20.

At The Land, children climb trees, light fires and use hammers and nails in a play-space rooted in the belief that kids are empowered when they learn to manage risks on their own. More information.

The Northeastern Way

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

Northeastern Policy School
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