Run through the School of Public Policy and Administration in the College of Arts and Sciences, the Summer Undergraduate Public Policy Fellows is composed of 16 students working with three centers: the Institute for Public Administration, the Center for Community Research and Service, and the Disaster Research Center.
The program includes three field visits so that while the students work on a project in one of the three centers, they get exposed to work in all three of the centers and across different sectors.
“They’re getting to see what their peers are working on, which can spark some ideas of what they might want to explore in the future,” said Lisa Moreland, program manager and IPA policy scientist. “It brings them together, gives them a sense of camaraderie, and may spark opportunities for collaboration. It’s beneficial to the students, but also mutually beneficial to the center staff and organizations with which they are working.”
Joseph Trainor, associate professor in the School of Public Policy and Administration and program director for disaster science and management, said the project undertaken by his students combines sociological, engineering and economics approaches to explore the question of what makes a hurricane evacuation a success or a failure.
“This question is explored from two perspectives: that of the transportation agencies charged with managing an evacuation, and that of the individual households who participate in the evacuation,” said Trainor.
Using focus groups, a survey and simulations, the project will attempt to quantify these criteria into measurable variables, which can be used to form models to evaluate how much of a success or failure an evacuation is, according to these two perspectives.
“These models could be used to evaluate the impact of different evacuation strategies, in order to enable authorities to conduct evacuations that are more successful, both for the agencies that manage them and the households that participate in them,” said Trainor.
Other topics students are exploring include economics development in Delaware, best practices to engage minority communities in cycling and urban bikeshare networks, and small business trends and conditions in Delaware.
Signe Bell, director of nonprofit and community programs in the Center for Community Research and Service, said that getting students an opportunity to work in their field of study with faculty members and professionals allows them to explore and see what kinds of projects are actually happening in the field of public policy and organizational leadership.
“They learn about these projects and then they learn about themselves in the process,” said Bell. “I tell students all the time that it is just as valuable to learn what you don’t like to do as it is to find out what you love. Because you don’t want to learn that you don’t like something once you have your first full-time job doing it. This is a good, low stakes opportunity for learning.”
Moreland added that these experiences also give the students a leg up when it comes time to take the next step after graduation.
“It puts them ahead of the game for students coming from other universities when they’re trying to compete for jobs,” said Moreland. “These experiences on their resumes reflect on their work ethic and speak volumes. The bottom line that Signe, Joe and I have for our students is getting them that experience and having them put their best foot forward when they go out into their careers — whether it’s further graduate study or employment.”
Originally published in UDaily on August 1, 2017. Article by Adam Thomas. Photo by Wenbo Fan.