Every year the University of Washington offers several Mary Gates Research Scholarships to enhance the educational experiences of undergraduate students engaged in research with faculty. In 2012-2013 the University offered two rounds of these competitive scholarships, one in the Autumn Quarter and one this Winter Quarter. The Department of Geography is proud to announce that four of its students won the scholarship across these two periods. A big congratulations goes out to winners Katy Lundgren, Sam Nowak, Helen Olsen, and Zak Lee! Learn a bit about their research below:
Katy is working with Dr. Lucy Jarosz on her Mary Gates Research project. She will be doing qualitative research consisting of interviews and participant observation on two faith-based organizations addressing homelessness in Seattle. She came to do this research because, as a person of faith, a Comparative Religions minor, and a background in social justice, she was curious about intersections between faith, geography, and care. She is considering the possibility of attending seminary or divinity school a few years down the road, and hopes that this research will shape the way she chooses to be involved with ministry in the future.
Sam will be working with Dr. Lucy Jarosz on his project, but has also received a great deal of support and advising from Dr. Sarah Elwood along the way. Sam describes his project in the following abstract, which will become a part of his presentation at the UW Undergraduate Research Symposium:
On October 29th, 2012, King County Metro of Washington State implemented a set of congestion reduction policies, including the elimination of the Ride Free Area (RFA) in downtown Seattle, which was once an area in which any individual could ride a Metro bus without charge. The elimination of such a service stands to have a disproportionate impact on low-income and homeless individuals as many once used the RFA to reach social service agencies and other vital services in the downtown area and will now have to pay to reach those destinations. This research works to understand how different groups in the city have reacted and adapted to the end of the RFA (including activists, social service agencies, bus drivers, and low-income or no-income individuals) in order to theorize around (im)mobilities of homelessness in the city. I draw on qualitative interviews, participant observation, and archival research in order to build an inductive, exploratory analysis of how homeless individuals are adapting to this policy implementation. In doing so, I call attention to the need for further research on the intersections of homelessness, mobility studies, public transportation policy in human geography.
Sam became involved in the project after working downtown in Pioneer Square as a volunteer at Real Change, Seattle's street paper. While he was volunteering there the cuts had just gone through King County Council and he spoke to staff and vendors of the paper who were worried about how those cuts would impact how their vendors would reach the offices to buy papers as well as the vital services that they need that are spread out over downtown. The project has felt timely to Sam because public transportation is in such a crisis right now and in times of post-recession austerity. He is very interested in how the most transit dependent were adapting to austerity in the practices of their everyday lives. The elimination of the Ride Free Area gave him a focal point to approach those practices. Academically, the project pulls together urban geography and political geographies of homelessness, two bodies of research that have been enormously important to him throughout his undergraduate education. He finds the project even more exciting in that it allows him to explore mobilities and geographies of transportation which he hadn't delved into prior to this project. Professionally, the process of designing, implementing, and writing up a project of this scope has been enormously beneficial for Sam. As he moves forward in his education he believes having those experiences will be invaluable.
Helen will be performing her research with Drs. Lucy Jarosz, Sarah Elwood, and Vicky Lawson. Her project looks to explore the emergence of public-private partnerships in response to widening disparities and cutbacks in women's reproductive health care access and provisioning within Washington State. Using an NGO based in King County as a case study, she hopes to demonstrate that these partnerships constitute new models of public health provisioning, which are working to fill the void left by the rollback of state-sponsored public health programs. This project, and especially questions of health governance, is somewhat of a transitional moment for Helen. She is in the process of applying to graduate school and her proposed research hinges on questions of health, governance, and gendered inequality in post-conflict West Africa. Her research this year will expose her to literature that she hopes she will continue to work within for the foreseeable future. It will also offer her a great opportunity to engage in independent, primary research.
Zak will be working with Drs. Luke Bergmann and Lucy Jarosz. His research studies the relationship between public transit services and socioeconomic inequality in Seattle using mixed methods (qualitative and quantitative) GIScience techniques. He has always been fascinated by what makes cities work and why, and the courses he has taken in the Geography Department have pushed him to critical examine these interests. His research in the department has allowed him to explore his own questions that he feels are relevant to understanding the human condition in our urbanizing world. The positive, enlightening experience working on research projects has also factored into his decision to apply geography in a professional setting, and it has also contributed to a desire to ultimately continue on to graduate studies.