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.
2022-2023 Research Fellows
Elias Blinkoff is a PhD candidate in the Department of Psychology at Temple University. His research explores the intersections between the science of learning, classroom pedagogy, and education policy from kindergarten through higher education.
Project Statement: New Hampshire amended its Substantive Educational Content of an Adequate Education law (RSA 193-E:2-a) in 2018 to mandate play-based kindergarten. This policy change was consistent with evidence from child development and the science of learning demonstrating the importance of play as a developmentally appropriate approach to early childhood education. It also provided an opportunity to form a research-practice-policy partnership between academic researchers, working educators, and New Hampshire’s Department of Education to offer professional development on evidence-based playful learning pedagogy and its alignment with a set of 21st century skills known as the “6 Cs” (i.e., collaboration, communication, content, critical thinking, creative innovation, and confidence; Golinkoff & Hirsh-Pasek, 2016; Hirsh-Pasek et al., 2020) to the state’s kindergarten teachers. Following the success of an initial feasibility study, my project will rigorously evaluate how providing kindergarten teachers with embedded instructional coaching addressing both principles of playful learning and the “6 Cs” outcomes affected their own experiences in the classroom and those of their students during the 2021-22 school year. Mixed methods surveys and classroom observations will document teachers’ perceptions of the coaching model and any pedagogical changes they made as a result of the experience. These methods will also capture changes in students’ behaviors in the classroom, which are hypothesized to be consistent with the playful learning model. It is further hypothesized that surveys will indicate student growth in the “6 Cs.” Broadly, this research has the potential to demonstrate the effectiveness of embedded coaching to support the implementation of evidence-based playful learning in collaboration with educators.
Dr. Eunice Chen is Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology at Temple University. Her research interests include eating and weight disorders.
Project Statement: Ultraprocessed food is ubiquitous in the United States. Exposure to ultraprocessed food is high, particularly among African Americans and Hispanic individuals. Ultraprocessed food exposure may be more prevalent in the context of food insecurity, and poverty. Some individuals report symptoms of “addiction” to these foods—although it is unknown in the US what the prevalence of “ultraprocessed food addiction” is. Ultraprocessed food addiction has overlap with an eating disorder, Binge Eating Disorder, and with the chronic medical conditions of obesity and Type II diabetes. However, the overlap between ultraprocessed food addiction and these three disorders—Binge Eating Disorder, obesity, and Type II diabetes—is unknown. This is particularly important in the US where, although exposure to ultraprocessed foods is high, understanding exposure’s overlap with other disorders and its effect on psychological and neuropsychological functioning is poorly understood. If we better understand the overlap between ultraprocessed food addiction and other disorders, and its effects on psychological and neuropsychological functioning, this may motivate public health prevention strategies to limit access to ultraprocessed foods.
Stanley Jamal Collins is a PhD candidate in the Department of Sociology at Temple University. Stanley’s research sits at the intersection of race, culture, and the political economy of gentrification.
Project Statement: In 1997 Philadelphia’s City Council passed a 10-year residential and real estate tax abatement. Concerned with the high number of vacant homes and an aging population, Philadelphia’s City Council saw this tax abatement as an opportunity to spur growth, vitalization, and attract new, young homebuyers. Three years after its passing, the bill went into effect, ultimately spawning growth beyond what councilmembers could have imagined. Now, some 20 years later, the city has experienced an unprecedented, and uneven, rate of real estate development. In particular, Fishtown, a neighborhood in Philadelphia along the Delaware River, has experienced some of the most aggressive development in the city. In my dissertation research, I argue that the 10-year tax abatement, along with the rise of music venues, have transformed the neighborhood’s social, geographic, and economic landscape. The tax abatement offered developers and homebuyers alike an incentive for developing in, and moving to, Fishtown; meanwhile, music venues offered an aesthetic identity that was alluring: something “cool” and “hip” to attract homebuyers and visitors. Using qualitative interviews, photography, and GIS mapping, my research aims to explore the ways in which music venues transform space and how policy informs development.
Dr. Alexandra Guisinger is Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science at Temple University. Her research investigates the link between public opinion and foreign policy by considering how the public forms preferences and when these preferences do or do not matter to domestic politicians.
Project Statement: Foreign policy has conventionally been treated as a unifying issue in which "politics stops at the water's edge." Yet, US foreign economic policy is increasingly controversial at home, not only affecting relations with trading partners but increasingly implicating income inequality, social justice, and national security. In contrast to the expectation that domestic stakeholders should share a vision for foreign policy, I propose in this project to consider how diverse economic and identity groups differ. What do different groups—especially those defined by gender, race, and ethnicity—know about how foreign economic policy affects them? How do different groups learn about foreign economic policy, and what role do information sources—politicians, news and social media, co-workers, friends, and family—play in shaping opinion? And finally, how does information framing shape public opinion on foreign economic policy?
Dr. Jane Manners is Assistant Professor in the Temple University Beasley School of Law. She is a legal historian who focuses on the relationship between the legislative and executive branches of government in the nineteenth century US, with a particular emphasis on Congress.
Project Statement: My book project, Congress and the Problem of Legislative Legitimacy, 1790-1890, explores the legal logics employed by members of Congress in the nineteenth century as they confronted constitutional arguments deployed to limit their power to address political and economic crises. Only decades into America’s experiment in representative democracy, these legislators struggled to articulate what made legislation legitimate. My project, which surfaces the importance of claims of right and of necessity in overcoming political obstacles to legislation, offers valuable lessons for prominent political dilemmas of our time, including battles over the legitimacy of the administrative state. The evolution of Congress’s constitutional understanding, meanwhile, helps us to better understand the political roots of doctrines that continue to inform constitutional interpretation today.
Through a series of case studies—one examining Congress’s response to the Great New York Fire of 1835, one exploring the early nineteenth century congressional practice of officer indemnification, one investigating the legislative theory of the radical Republican senator Charles Sumner, and one focused on the creation of the 1887 Interstate Commerce Commission—I aim to capture a theory of legislation before progressivism. Together, the book's chapters will help to explain the roots of our country’s enduring mistrust of legislatures by recovering a forgotten nineteenth century understanding of the legislative role. Situated in the context of recent work on nineteenth century legislative petitioning, opposition to class legislation at the state level, and the growth of the administrative state, the book focuses on legislative legitimacy and congressional practice to explain why, over time, Congress chose to delegate much of its authority to the executive branch, and how that decision has impacted contemporary notions of separation of powers and other aspects of the United States’ particular constitutional arrangement.
Dr. Rebbeca Tesfai is Associate Professor in the Department of Sociology at Temple University. As a demographer and sociologist specializing in the field of immigration, she uses quantitative methods to study Black immigrants’ economic and residential incorporation over time and across place.
Project Statement: The United States has always prided itself on providing safe haven to those who are persecuted. Yet it was not until 1980 that the United States developed a consistent and permanent refugee policy. The purpose of the Refugee Act of 1980 was to turn US refugee policy away from preferencing refugees based on political considerations to procedures more in line with international standards. Despite its stated intentions of responding to the urgent needs of persons subject to persecution, the Refugee Act left both the process of admitting refugees, and the resettlement benefits provided, open to interpretation. In this project, I argue that this openness enabled race to play an important role in determining (1) who is considered a refugee of special humanitarian concern to the United States, (2) public and political perceptions of refugee policy, and (3) changes to refugee funding and policy over time. Because of race’s role in the refugee process, US resettlement policy may not meet its primary goal of helping refugees attain economic self-sufficiency. My project will examine the economic outcomes among major refugee groups entering the US since 1980 to determine whether refugee policy is successful in this stated goal. By examining the long-term economic performance of refugees in the United States in both the labor and housing markets, I will explore how refugees’ long-term economic incorporation varies based on the race of refugees and the resettlement policy in place at the time of arrival.
Melissa Tolosa is a PhD student in the Department of Geography and Urban Studies at Temple University. Her research focuses on the understanding of undocumented immigrant women’s mobility and the ways they navigate carceral spaces.
Project Statement: My project will examine how the spatiality of the carceral state shapes undocumented immigrant women’s im/mobility, safety, and identities in Philadelphia, PA. Philadelphia is a “sanctuary city” whose mayor and district attorney refuse to cooperate with the federal government to deport undocumented immigrants. But there are reports still occurring of harassment from ICE agencies against immigrants in the city. My research draws upon feminist political geography and Latinx geography to examine women’s sense of safety and identity as well as their daily and long-term mobility as they navigate everyday life as undocumented immigrants. Drawing upon theories of feminist geopolitics will help to better understand how undocumented women navigate carceral spaces as it focuses on how gender intersects with other relations of power, identity, mobility and violence at multiple scales. By investigating a sanctuary city, there will be a better understanding of the ways in which organizations have helped change the policies shaping women’s experiences as well as assisting with their individual needs.
Dr. Rely Vîlcică is Associate Professor in the Department of Criminal Justice where she also serves as the Undergraduate Chair. Her research focuses on advancing understanding of criminal justice decision making and policy, especially as they affect individual liberty (e.g., bail/pretrial release decisions and practices, the criminal adjudication process, and parole/correctional processes and interventions). Her policy analysis and evaluation research embrace a systemic perspective, often incorporating comparative elements.
Project Statement: Dr. Vîlcică’s Fellowship will expand her research program on justice decision making and policy by focusing on the role of the prosecutor in the American criminal justice system and recent progressive prosecutorial-led reform and its potential to effect change. The project is titled “Redefining the Role of the Prosecutor in the American Criminal Justice System: The Progressive Prosecutorial-Led Reform and Its Potential to Effect Change.” Under the umbrella of the “progressive” prosecution movement, the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office (DAO) has recently embarked on a broad criminal justice reform agenda, seeking to end mass incarceration and overuse of supervision, improve equity in the distribution of justice, and enhance trust and confidence in the criminal justice system. The current administration’s policies represent a seismic shift in philosophy, policies, and practices in Philadelphia. Yet it must be recognized that within the bureaucracies of the American justice system, it is quite common for DAs to find themselves at odds with other justice decisionmakers and stakeholders and even their own staffs. Collectively, this has the potential to significantly mitigate the effects of planned change. This study will investigate whether the recent prosecutorial-led reforms can bring about identifiable and sustained changes to both the operation and the outcomes of the Philadelphia criminal justice system and to the wider community that it serves. Analyses will focus on identifying facilitators to success and barriers to policy implementation. To this end, the project will draw on rich qualitative data, specifically interviews with prosecutors and other criminal justice stakeholders in Philadelphia (currently ongoing), as well as efforts to assess implementation fidelity quantitatively (survey data). Shifting the focus nationwide, it is also critical to understand variation in reform change around the country as well as identify local-level dynamics and factors that hinder or promote the expansion of the prosecutorial-led reform movement on a larger scale. Thus, the project will also develop a proposal for a comparative, cross-jurisdictional investigation of progressive prosecution reforms around the country.
Abby Whitaker is a PhD candidate in the Department of History at Temple University. Her work focuses on the intersections of US political history and popular culture.
Project Statement: My project “Sesame Street and the Making of Fuzzy Liberalism” reframes the popular children’s television series as a vital political text emerging out of the 1960s. The creators of Sesame Street saw television as the best tool available to them to solve several pressing social problems, like inequitable education, poverty and racial discrimination. Creating Sesame Street was their opportunity to reimagine liberal politics in a new form that I call fuzzy liberalism. Sesame Street’s production of fuzzy liberalism not only informed children’s understanding of the world, but, as I argue, it also shaped political culture and public policy, from early childhood education to the regulation of public television. Grounded in archival research and a close reading of popular culture, my project seeks to understand the interconnected histories of post-1960s US political culture, parenting, policy, and popular culture.
Hayley Wight is a PhD student in the Department of Criminal Justice at Temple University. Hayley began engaging in criminal justice research during her undergraduate studies and has been involved in various projects on topics including prisoner reentry and reintegration, gangs and gun violence, and the evaluation of an overdose rapid response intervention by transit police in Philadelphia. Hayley is passionate about engaging in field research and is continuing to study the evolving public health role of police in Philadelphia’s opioid crisis.
Project Statement: There have been accelerated calls for a more social-service oriented response to people in vulnerable conditions, such as those suffering from mental health issues, addiction, and homelessness. Southeastern Pennsylvania Transit Authority (SEPTA)’s Serving a Vulnerable Entity (SAVE) initiative delivers a service-oriented response to vulnerable populations that are sheltering in transit stations and routinely encountered by transit officers. This project is a randomized, controlled field experiment to test the effectiveness of adding a social worker to a police frontline team dedicated to helping move vulnerable people suffering a variety of public health challenges into appropriate shelter or treatment. As part of this research, I will conduct detailed interviews and field observations with transit officers and outreach workers involved in the research in order to assess dosage, experimental fidelity, and implementation mechanisms around how police officers and social workers approach vulnerable people. The fieldwork also seeks a more open-ended understanding of perceptions of the project and the target communities, and the best conditions for implementation of the social workers into the SAVE police team.
- Visit our Past Fellows Archive Page to view Past Fellows.