The Public Policy Lab is led by our Director, Judith A. Levine and Associate Director, Colin J. Hammar.
The Public Policy Lab is grateful to our Advisory Board for advancing PPL’s mission and vision.
2023-2024 Research Fellows
Grace Bennett-Pierre is a PhD candidate in the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience at Temple University. Her research focuses on how caregivers’ beliefs and behavior shape children’s challenge-seeking and how non-rigid spatial skills support STEM and arts learning.
Project Statement: Spatial skills are crucial to STEM learning. Training students’ spatial skills leads to significant transfer to math skills, and fourth grade spatial skills predicted STEM major choice in college. However, there is heterogeneity within spatial skills, and the relationships between spatial skills performance and STEM pursuit may be complex. One relevant dimension of spatial transformations is the type of material being transformed. In rigid transformations (e.g., mental rotation) the distance between two points within an object does not change. By contrast, in non-rigid transformations (e.g., folding, bending), the distance between two points in an object does change. Non-rigid spatial skills may be particularly important for success in STEM fields that focus on non-rigid phenomena (e.g., atmospheric, ocean and geosciences; surgery in medicine) and may hold particular significance for understanding gender differences and similarities in spatial skills development. Gender differences found and replicated in some spatial skills (e.g., rigid mental rotation) are not reliably found in other spatial skills, such as mental folding. One prominent explanation for gender differences in spatial skill development is environmental exposure to spatial language and activities rich in spatial concepts. Fiber arts are both feminine-stereotyped and potentially rich in opportunities to practice non-rigid spatial skills. This project will draw on fiber arts practices and materials to 1) develop a measure of non-rigid spatial skills, 2) understand what childhood and current activities are correlated with them, 3) see if gender differences or similarities exist in performance on these skills, and 4) begin to investigate what kinds of STEM learning non-rigid spatial skills may support.
Andrew Chelius is a PhD candidate in the Department of Sociology at Temple University. Andrew’s research studies the intersection of housing precarity, addiction, race, and gender.
Project Statement: Housing First provides permanent supportive housing for chronically homeless individuals in the United States. This approach has high housing retention rates and reports other successes like initiation of drug and alcohol treatment, as well as engagement in behavioral health services. However, we lack a comprehensive understanding of the effect of providing permanent supportive housing on a person’s drug use and addiction—especially for those of different racial and gender backgrounds. Further, we lack adequate comparative analyses between individuals who obtain permanent supportive housing compared to those who are un-housed. Through participant observation, I am pursuing an investigation of Housing First in Philadelphia that explores how housing affects a person’s drug use and addiction. In doing so, I ask: does providing housing influence a person’s drug use patterns? And how is this relationship shaped by factors such as race/ethnicity and gender?
Hana Gebremariam is a PhD candidate in the Department of Sociology at Temple University. Hana's research bridges studies of health inequality, mental health, higher education, and race and racism.
Project Statement: The past decade has seen a large increase in college students’ mental illness, both in quantity and severity. Students are using mental health services more than in previous decades. As a result, colleges are attempting to meet this growing need for mental health services. Though more students use mental health services than previously, there is unequal use across racial groups. Therefore, my project will examine how students from different racial backgrounds engage college mental health services and how colleges respond to the needs of different student populations. My first set of questions examines how students from different racial backgrounds perceive their campus and its mental health care services. The second set of research questions explores how college mental health services respond to the varying perceptions and utilization of their mental health services by students of different races. My study will contribute to our understanding of the mechanisms producing inequalities in college mental health.
Dr. Kimberly Goyette is Professor and Chair in the Department of Sociology at Temple University. She specializes in the Sociology of Education, exploring inequality in secondary and higher education in the U.S., and how privatization of higher education has influenced stratification in Vietnam.
Project Statement: A 2020 UNESCO report estimates that about 1.6 billion students in 190 countries were affected by the closing of education institutions due to COVID. The disruptions caused by COVID have resulted in “learning loss;” that is, the differences in students’ achievement before COVID was first diagnosed and spread and after. The consensus is that there has been demonstrable loss in students’ math and, to a lesser extent, reading abilities, though there is variation in magnitude of these losses. These losses have been studied within particular countries: Australia, Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and the U.S., to name a few. While they have found variation across school subjects and among subgroups within nations, little research has compared losses cross-nationally using the same assessments of “learning.” The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), administered by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), tests 15-year-old students in math, reading, and science using the same instrument approximately every three years. Its last data collection was in 2018. Another wave was administered in 2022. The comparison between the 2018 and 2022 test results provides an ideal opportunity to examine learning losses in these subjects due to COVID across countries. In this research, I will describe the gaps in PISA math, reading, and science scores between 2018 and 2022 across countries. I will look at the magnitude of losses across countries; and where data are available, I will also explore whether some students within countries were more affected than others; for example, poorer compared to wealthier students, immigrant compared to native students, and/or boys compared to girls. I will attempt to correlate COVID losses and growing or shrinking inequality within countries to a variety of features of countries and their education systems. Research on how well countries’ educational systems were able to weather COVID and its related disruptions might be able to shed light on factors that may exacerbate or protect against negative learning outcomes from other exogenous events, whether related to disease, or shocks from climate events or international conflicts. Factors that are correlated with more or less loss may provide keys about how disruptions from small to large events can be managed better.
Dr. Matt Graham is Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science at Temple University. His research interests include American Politics, Political Science, Polling, Survey Research, Political Behavior.
Dr. Heather LaMarre is Associate Professor and Chair in the Department of Communication and Social Influence within the Klein College of Media and Communication. Dr. LaMarre’s research focus lies at the intersection of media psychology, health and political communication, and narrative persuasion.
Project Statement: Dr. LaMarre’s project will explore the political and human rights issues associated with green energy policies.
Dr. Melissa Noel is Assistant Professor of Criminal Justice at Temple University. Dr. Noel is a criminologist whose work focuses on the intersections of race, gender, transitions to adulthood, and parental incarceration. Utilizing qualitative research methods, her ongoing research examines parental incarceration among justice involved emerging adults and strength-based perspectives within incarcerated families.
Project Statement: Incarceration not only impacts the lives of individuals held within carceral institutions, but their children too. Children of incarcerated parents face unique barriers while trying to cultivate and maintain a parental relationship. Two of these barriers consist of acquiring access to visitations and the quality of visitations with their incarcerated parents. Based on these challenges, there is a need to consider the long-term outcomes of visitation policies, especially as children transition into young adults and can determine for themselves whether to visit a parent behind bars. In addition, little is known about the effects of visitation on young adults’ resiliency and on their reunification process after their parent’s release. Further, it is critical to explore how correctional staff and administrators implement visitation policies and how their decision-making influences positive and negative experiences for children of incarcerated parents. My study attempts to investigate all of these research questions with the ultimate aim to improve the quality of visitation policies for young adults and their parents.
Research Team Fellow
Kermit is a PhD Student in the Department of Geography and Urban Studies at Temple University. He is a writer, dreamer, and abolitionist, organizing at intersections of land, food, and environmental justice.
Project Statement: Due to a long history of discrimination, through redlining and persistent disinvestment, many Black and Brown communities in Philadelphia are low-income and under-resourced, including restricted access to healthy food, clean air and water, affordable energy. COVID-19 cast racial and economic disparities in sharp relief, long continuities of extraction and exploitation driven by the primacy of capital accumulation, and its reinforcement by state power. The pandemic also revealed a critical inflection point, the approach of a “choose your own adventure” scenario as intersecting and emergent crises (climate change, future pandemics, economic turbulence) present a mandate for building resilience.
One model, the resilience hub, provides communities with everyday services, programs, and/or material support, and further builds up its capacity to respond in times of emergency and recovery. However, one of the strengths of the resilience hub—control/ownership of a physical space—is also one of its key limitations in that where the facility is compromised, so too goes most of its ability to meet the community’s needs. How then, can the capacity of the singular hub be distributed across wider networks of people, organizations, and facilities in order to build redundancy and deepen resilience?
Sina Razzaghi Asl is a PhD student in the Department of Geography and Urban Studies at Temple University. His research focuses on how green space configuration affects environmental justice, flood vulnerability, and ecosystem services on different scales.
Project Statement: My project will examine how the existing pattern of nature-based solutions (NBS) mitigates flood regulation (FR) in urbanizing regions in Philadelphia Metropolitan Region, with the goal of supporting research on how urbanizing regions can grow without exacerbating flooding and inequities. This study seeks to provide a more comprehensive understanding of the interplay between spatio-temporal and morphological patterns of NBS, social and environmental equity, and FR in three adjacent fastest growing flooded areas in Upper Merion Township (King of Prussia), Norristown, and Conshohocken. NBS is used as a unified umbrella concept that includes green elements such as green roofs, urban parks, vegetated drainage basins, and mangroves. While NBS are becoming increasingly popular in cities around the world, few studies have addressed NBS and urban flood vulnerability to date. Furthermore, the quantity and quality of NBS in small and growing cities as well as their perceived relevance in flood vulnerability and adaptation, remain unexplored.
Research Team Fellow
Dr. Christina Rosan is Associate Professor of Geography and Urban Studies at Temple University. She is particularly interested in how we make cities more sustainable and just. Rosan is active in the Philadelphia sustainability community and is eager to use research to inform practice.
Project Statement: This project will advance work related to Planning for Resilience and Equity through Accessible Community Technology (PREACT). The idea for PREACT is to develop a multipurpose and multi-scalar climate preparedness and neighborhood planning software application informed by community needs and assets, to be piloted in the City of Philadelphia. While most planning tools are designed and built in a top-down manner, centering software developers and planners, this project will articulate a framework for technology co-production that fully takes into account the needs and experiences of community members and allows for the integration of social and scientific data for more informed decision-making. Through the process of designing and using PREACT, we anticipate creating opportunities for a more deliberative dialogue among residents, scholars, government, and business about needs and preferences for policy interventions and infrastructure investments. The goal is to co-create a socio-ecological and technological tool that promotes climate resiliency, empowers residents, and makes the government more responsive to community needs.
- Visit our Past Fellows Archive Page to view Past Fellows.