SPPUA in Action | February 2016
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Dear friends,
We have a lot to talk about. Our faculty have been busy conducting solution-oriented research on critical issues, and our research centers and labs continue to release crucial reports that are helping to shape public policy decisions.
In this issue, you hear from Rebecca Riccio, director of our Social Impact Lab, and her philanthropist counterpart in Saudi Arabia who are developing an experiential philanthropy education program in Saudi universities.
You get a snapshot of Assistant Professor Daniel O’Brien’s current research projects in which he uses Big Data to shed light on the dynamics of urban neighborhoods.
You meet Steve Farrell, a new member of our Advisory Committee, and you learn how Matt Gardner, a MURP alum, became interested in GIS and data analysis.
I invite you to stay up-to-date with our news and accomplishments by visiting our website regularly and following us on Facebook and Twitter.
Matthias Ruth
Director and Professor, School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs
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Faculty Research

Reaching new heights with philanthropy education

A Northeastern University professor has partnered with folks in Saudi Arabia to develop an experiential philanthropy education program in Saudi universities.
Rebecca Riccio, director of Northeastern’s Social Impact Lab, is sharing her knowledge of philanthropy education to develop a course that is socially, culturally, economically, and legally appropriate in Saudi’s context. Read more.

Using Big Data to shed light on the dynamics of urban neighborhoods

"We now have the opportunity to precisely understand patterns and processes, and what gives rise to those things that we all see and experience. And this knowledge directly informs how the policy maker might better serve the city.” Read more.

Get to Know

Matt Gardner, MURP Alumnus, Research Analyst, Metropolitan Area Planning Council

“I’m contributing to the long-term community planning process and helping organizations understand where their cities will be in several decades. It’s gratifying to share this data and see them use data to make informed decisions about their communities.” Read more.

Meet our Advisory Committee: Steve Farrell

“I foresee SPPUA straddling the distance between embracing Boston as a laboratory for its research and Northeastern’s position as a national and global leader on topics ranging from affordable housing, entrepreneurship, infrastructure, and homeland security.” Read more.

GUEST COLUMN: 5 reasons I ditched the private sector for public service

By Robin Blatt-Eisengart MURP Alum, Financial Analyst/Program Manager, MassDOT
1. To address the most pressing challenges of our day. We are living in a time of great transition and many of the great public institutions of the 20th century no longer fit the needs of the 21st century. The recent Great Recession exposed how delicate our economic system is. Healthcare reform, public pension reform and transportation reform are being implemented and revisited in quick succession, with great implications for the future. I wanted to be in the arena where the most pressing policy challenges of our times are being addressed so I could contribute to their resolution. Read more.

Student News

Antonio Vazquez Brust, a student in our new M.S. in Urban Informatics, has been invited to join the Boston Area Research Initiative where he will use Big Data to identify indicators of gentrification, track them across time, and assess their impact with the goal of capturing insights that might shed light on the gentrification process, as well as obtaining a full set of indicators that might be shared with policymakers. Read more.

Did you miss graduate student Lauren Costello’s witty blog about studying in Amsterdam last semester? She is back to business – this time documenting her final capstone project. The former Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy research assistant is participating in this year's Affordable Housing Design Competition hosted by FHLB Boston. Follow her blog, Completing the Capstone, for weekly posts about her team's progress.

SPPUA Update

On Friday, Jan. 22, Barry Bluestone and Catherine Tumber released the Dukakis Center report “The Critical Importance of Vocational Education in the Commonwealth” at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston. The report was commissioned by the Alliance for Vocational Technical Education, a new multi-partnership organization that formally launched at the event and presented a list of state policy recommendations. Presenting the study’s findings to some 230 attendees, Bluestone shared the podium with (among others) Governor Charlie Baker and Upper Cape Cod Regional Technical School student Tatyana Foskey, who told the crowd of her plans to become a wastewater treatment plant manager.

The School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs is in the midst of a strategic planning process to guide the School into the future. The process is organized around a set of key questions about challenges and opportunities facing the School. To answer these important questions effectively, the School is holding multiple rounds of discussions, and gathering feedback from key stakeholders – faculty, staff, students, alumni, Advisory Committee members, and more – that will be used to formulate recommendations about crucial topics to the planning process such as the development of programs and curricula, as well as external relations and partnerships. The more extensive the contributions we receive on any and all of these topics, the more successful the planning process will be, and the implementation of action items thereafter. We therefore invite all SPPUA members to share their thoughts and perspective through our online forum.

Timothy Hoff, professor of Management, Health Care Systems, and Health Policy, gave two lectures at Oxford University in December. Hoff, a visiting associate fellow at Oxford’s Green-Templeton College, spoke to faculty, staff, and community health care personnel associated with Green-Templeton College about how Obamacare is working for Americans. In the second lecture, Hoff addressed faculty and students of Oxford-Brookes University about “Achieving the Right Care Delivery in a Results-Pressured System.” Read more.

The February calendar page of the Metropolitan Area Planning Council features data collected and analyzed in partnership with Daniel O’Brien and Matt Blackburn of the Boston Area Research Initiative and Northeastern University’s School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs.

SPPUA Director Matthias Ruth, affiliate faculty Jon Grabowski, and Steven Scyphers, postdoctoral researcher at Northeastern’s Marine Science Center, are co-principal investigators of a $469,374 grant from the National Academy of Sciences, working with Dottie Byrons (principal investigator) of the Dauphin Island Sea Lab and her colleagues. 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 January that reference our knowledgeable staff and their research.

Quote of the Month

Upcoming Events

Spurred by the city of Boston’s Imagine Boston 2030 initiative, which is developing Boston’s first comprehensive master plan since 1965, the Myra Kraft Open Classroom is focused on “Shaping Boston’s Future: Aspirations, Opportunities, and Challenges.” Speakers include several city officials and consultants working on the Imagine Boston 2030 initiative and related city initiatives focusing on housing, transportation, and the arts as well as notable civic leaders, local scholars, and state officials. 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. We’ll live tweet from every session using #OCNEU and #SPPUA. The free semester-long seminar series is open to students, staff, and the general public.

Join us for “Lives in Law and Public Policy,” an annual speaker series that allows members of the Northeastern community to meet leading figures in the law and policy arena. Discussions are held at 6 p.m. at 310 Renaissance Park. This year’s lineup includes:
  • Feb. 17: Quentin Palfrey, former White House staffer and executive director of J-PAL North America;
  • Feb. 18: Michael Sulmeyer, Belfer Center's Cyber Security Project director at Harvard Kennedy School;
  • Feb. 24:  Erica Melito, Northeastern graduate with a minor in Law and Public Policy, and legal affairs associate at Bain Capital. Note: This presentation will start at 6:30 p.m.
  • March 31: David Friedman, former US Supreme Court clerk, vice president and general counsel of the Boston Red Sox.
Sessions will be recorded and videos will be posted to our YouTube channel.
SPPUA Unveiled: Starting Feb. 10, join faculty and staff on Wednesdays from 5 to 6 p.m. in West Village F, room 114, for a free drop-in information session before our Myra Kraft Open Classroom.

The School of Public Policy and Urban Affairs, in collaboration with the Northeastern Association for Public Policy Students (NAPPS), will hold a career forum for SPPUA students on Friday, Feb. 19, at 5 p.m. in the Northeastern University Alumni Center, 716 Columbus Ave. RSVP by Feb. 12.


SPPUA Detective — Do you know where this is?

If you know the answer, send your name and location of the subject in the photo to Your name will appear in the forthcoming newsletter!
Last month’s photo was taken at the School’s front desk in Renaissance Park.
Do you have what it takes to become a detective and stump the SPPUA community? We are looking for mystery photo submissions for the SPPUA Detective series. Email your mystery photos to Be sure to include the location of the image in the photograph.

The Northeastern Way

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