Research and analysis are critical elements to the Policy Studies program. Students and faculty regularly engage in projects that address real-world concerns, often in partnership with local community organizations. Examples of student research and collaboration include:
Southeast Seattle Education Coalition
Alison McNee has spent her career in the field of education. As a teacher, she has served diverse communities, working with pre-school and high school youth as well as university students. As a researcher, she has explored various social issues among Latin American and migrant communities. Alison’s rich community-based experience fueled a desire to advance social progress on a policy level. Seeking the tools to positively affect policy, Alison chose the MA in Policy Studies program.
While in the program, Alison interned with Southeast Seattle Education Coalition (SESEC). SESEC is a coalition of community-based organizations, community activists, and other stakeholders whose mission is to rally communities of color and allies to improve Southeast Seattle Schools so that all students succeed and all families are empowered. Despite Southeast Seattle’s many strengths, schools in Southeast Seattle historically and currently perform significantly worse than schools in other parts of the city. Recognizing that communities of color are traditionally left out of the solution process, SESEC acts as a convening body, advocating for policies and practices that advance student success in ways that are culturally relevant. Alison has served SESEC in several capacities, including: constructing a logic model, developing a database, assisting with grants, and conducting interviews with stakeholders. This internship has provided Alison with invaluable community organizing and education advocacy experience. She believes her time with SESEC and the Policy Studies program will position her for future role that allows her to impact education equity on a policy level.
"Working with SESEC has been an important part of my experience in the program, giving me a chance to practice the skills I've learned. Working with SESEC has taught me there are no simple solutions and underlined the importance of community participation and empowerment. Working with so many different stakeholders in SE has taught me just how essential it is to include and listen to the community to identify real problems and find creative solutions." -- Alison McNee
Oregon Center for Public Policy
Desiring an opportunity to apply the skills and methods she was studying in the Policy Studies program, Paula Matano pursued an internship with Oregon Center for Public Policy (OCPP), an organization which utilizes research and analysis to advance policies and practices that improve the economic and social opportunities of all Oregonians. At OCPP, she analyzed several different topics for OCPP’s annual publication “The State of Working Oregon,” a report that examines Oregon’s economy from the perspective of working families.
Through this experience, Paula learned how to write technical reports and fact check against legislative statements and claims. She credits her internship as a vital learning component within her graduate education and encourages fellow students to take advantage of practice-based opportunities.
"Interning with the Oregon Center for Public Policy (OCPP) was a very valuable experience. One of the great aspects of the UW Bothell Policy Studies program is that you are entrenched in real world problems and processes, and internships drive home the point of how to utilize the skills you acquire in class within a working environment. Further, the OCPP really provided an incredible learning tool in terms of collaboration and the policy publication process. I would highly recommend the internship program to everyone pursuing this degree, as it becomes a valuable learning experience, as well as a networking opportunity.” --Paula Matano
Washington Community Alliance for Self Help (C.A.S.H.)
Policy Studies graduate Maia Anderson (’11) performed an independent evaluation of Washington C.A.S.H.’s Individual Development Account (IDA) program for her capstone research project. The IDA program encourages low-income entrepreneurship through microenterprise development in King County. The program started a decade ago, recognizing a new momentum across the nation around asset building and small business ownership for those living in poverty or at risk of becoming impoverished. The IDA program offers participants a way to access microenterprise start-up and expansion capital, in addition to complementary support services, with the goal of microenterprise development improving the participants’ quality of life.
While in the Policy Studies program, Maia took courses in asset building, program evaluation, and statistics, which helped her outline an appropriate methodology and approach to carry out the project. Based on economic outcomes, Maia found that IDA graduates fared better than their control group counterparts, most notably in the areas of new business start-ups, income, and unemployment status. Differences between the two groups were statistically significant, and Maia’s evaluation strongly supports continued investment in the program.”
“Connecting with Washington C.A.S.H. was critical to building my career in asset-building and microenterprise development. My work there led to my position as Project Coordinator at Washington State Microenterprise Association (WSMA), which I accepted shortly after graduation. In essence, the Policy Studies program helped me find the right ‘door’ and instilled the confidence I needed to ‘knock.’” --Maia Anderson
Collaborative projects sometimes emerge through alumni connections. For instance, Kelsey Beck, Food Lifeline’s Public Policy Manager and Policy Studies alumna, partnered with three Policy Studies students to assess the number of meals needed to end hunger for low income families and individuals in Washington State. While there are many public and private resources for food available to hungry people in Washington State, Food Lifeline’s 2008 Unmet Need Report found that an additional 219.8 million meals were still needed annually to end statewide hunger. Food Lifeline desired updated 2010 data to assess changes in the gap in meals and to inform their continued response to the crisis.
The three students worked with Food Lifeline to document food resources by county and produced a report detailing the number of people needing food assistance, the amount of nutrition they are able to sustain using their own resources, and a comprehensive review of both public and private sources of nutrition assistance available. Food Lifeline is using the results of this report for educational purposes, political advocacy and to inform their organizational strategy.
"Working with Food Lifeline was both inspiring and insightful. As a research team, we learned about the innovative ways Food Lifeline brings food to those who are marginalized by society, such as the Produce for the People program which collects fresh produce from retailers and wholesalers and then distributes it through local food banks or other organizations. The project really opened our eyes as we were gathering the data and realizing the true volume of inequity in access to food for the poor in Washington State." --Katie Strock, participating student
Northshore Senior Center
Northshore Senior Center (NSC) has promoted positive and healthy aging services to seniors members of the Northshore community since 1972. Because seniors are the fastest growing segment of the U.S. population, NSC is continually looking for ways to build and enhance their volunteer programs. One expanding pool of volunteers is retiring Baby Boomers, who often seek volunteer opportunities that meaningfully utilize their specific skills and interests. Called “skills-based volunteers,” NSC wanted to know whether it would be advantageous to compliment their traditional volunteer programs with more skills-based opportunities.
A team of Policy Studies graduate students partnered with NSC to research this inquiry. The team’s work plan consisted of a literature review, a comparison matrix outlining how other senior centers have incorporated younger seniors into their volunteer programs, and a list of recruitment resources and evaluation tools for building a skills-based volunteer model. The team concluded that offering more skills-based volunteer opportunities would be an effective way for NSC to grow its volunteer pool in the Northshore community.
"Working with Northshore Senior Center on the Skills Based Volunteer project provided me with a great opportunity to use the theories and analysis skills I developed in the Policy Studies program. Community partners Lee Harper and Patricia Gustafson challenged and encouraged our team throughout the project, and this experience taught me the importance of communicating goals and objectives to both team members and stakeholders and developed my leadership skills in project management."
--Brandon Mayfield, participating student
City of Renton
During 2009, a team of four students partnered with the City of Renton to explore demographic changes and trends within the city. Demographic information is used by the City of Renton to identify trends and most effectively allocate social service resources. The students' research approach utilized many sources of data, including Renton School District and the US Census American Community Survey updated for 2007. The analysis compared the year 2007 data to the 2000 Census data. The team focused on four key areas: population, education, housing, and ethnicity. The students made comparisons, and the City of Renton used their findings to update its demographic report, "The Changing Faces of Renton."In addition to their final report, the students made a formal presentation to City of Renton's Department of Community Services and Renton City Council's Community Services Committee.
"I grew up in Renton, and it was very rewarding to give back by applying skills gained in the classroom to make a real world change. Our team provided the City of Renton with a product that will help them to better serve their constituents."
--Jason McKinney, participating student
Four Policy Studies students in Professor Keith Nitta's "Leadership & Organizations" put their learning to practice by partnering with the Seattle-based nonprofit, Project Ethiopia. Project Ethiopia collaborates with rural Ethiopian communities to address poverty issues through access to education, improved health conditions (clean water, family latrines and concrete floors), and farm-based business solutions. The organization's locally-driven approach focuses on transformational change, rather than transactional change, meaning communities are supported to become independent and sustainable without reliance on outside aid.
The student team provided consultation to Project Ethiopia on a variety of topics, including grant writing, funding opportunities, obtaining their nonprofit 501(c)(3) status, and long-term planning. The students' work included writing and submitting two grants and providing recommendations on resources and ways to diversify the organization's funding structure to build financial stability.
Working with Project Ethiopia gave the students a compelling environment to implement skills and strategies studied in class. The students learned a great deal from the organization's staff, who were exemplary models of the leadership fundamentals covered in Professor Nitta's course - passion, commitment to mission and vision, collaboration, and "gracious space" (a safe, supportive space where different backgrounds and ideas are valued).
"Project Ethiopia's courageous, respectful and life-changing work is an excellent example of development work which is not only effective, but which also fosters collaboration and mutual empowerment. Completing the Project Ethiopia work with my classmates gave me the opportunity to collaborate in a group environment and to apply policy skills in a real-world situation."
--Mariah Ortiz, participating student
In Fall 2008, Policy Studies graduate students in an advanced research design course partnered with CityClub, a non-profit civic engagement organization based in Seattle, Washington. In 2008, CityClub launched its first Community Matters Campaign, conducting 25 public dialogues which gave citizens a space to discuss the ways they are currently engaged in their communities and the barriers and opportunities they see to strengthening that engagement.
Employing the research design skills acquired in class, students analyzed data from the campaign to determine the extent to which participants are civically engaged, building social capital, and intending to increase their level of engagement. Students also examined whether the combination of civic engagement and social capital leads to a more robust measure of civic engagement called "civic capital." Students formally presented their results to Diane Douglas, CityClub's Executive Director, and their report is featured on the organization's website. Additionally, student recommendations will be shared with community leaders and partners and used to enhance future projects.
"Collaborating with CityClub on the vital issue of civic engagement has been exhilarating. The knowledge and experience I have gained in just a few short months has affirmed that this program is unquestionably the right choice for me!"
--Mari Taylor, participating student
Policy Studies graduate students often intern within local organizations, contributing to policy-related initiatives that impact our communities. Graduate student Jessica Bonney interned with Solid Ground, an organization dedicated to achieving a just and caring community, free from poverty, prejudice and neglect. Serving within Solid Grounds' Housing Counseling program, Jessica utilized her research and analysis skills for a housing advocacy that drafted a bill to remove barriers to accessing housing and the legal system. As it stands, people facing eviction often waive their right to a hearing because just the mere filing of a lawsuit will permanently damage their public record. Even in cases where the tenant wins in court the record of the eviction will cause them to be denied housing. While a large portion of filed evictions result in a settlement, the tenant is still marked with a negative record that impedes their ability to seek future housing. Jessica's role involved collecting and analyzing eviction and sheriff's office data from each county in Washington State, attending several coalition and advocacy group meetings, and training non-profit groups about the impact of the eviction process on the homeless and low-income tenants in Washington State.
"This experience has brought the policy process to life for me and I have been able to utilize skills learned in each of my classes to achieve social awareness and change in my community." --Jessica Bonney, participating student
Global Climate Change Policies
In Fall 2008, students in Professor Nives Dolsak's "Policy Process" class designed policies implementing two laws recently enacted in Washington state. As mandated by ESSB 6001, policy makers in Washington State have been charged with "designing and recommending a comprehensive set of policies to the legislature and the governor on how to achieve statewide reduction in greenhouse gases emissions." Further, the state government has been charged with assisting local governments in reducing greenhouse gas emissions related to growth management (ESSB 6580).
Students chose to develop policies at the state level (Carbon Dioxide market), at the city level (they chose to develop policies for a city with a strong linguistic minority, requiring policy information materials to be bi-lingual), and at the level of industry (agriculture and timber). Read more...
Seattle Traffic Congestion
In Fall 2007, Professor Nives Dolsak challenged her students to respond to Seattle's traffic congestion by exploring three concrete demand-side solutions (Congestion Pricing, GoLoco, and Ride a Bus). The class was divided into three groups with each group exploring one of the above solutions. Read more...