2014 IAC Graduate Essay Awards

Students who had submitted abstracts for the IAC graduate conference submitted 10-15 page papers to be evaluated by Ivan Allen College faculty judges. Authors of the three top papers each received $1500 in travel funds. Below are biographies and abstracts of prize winners in 2014.

First Prize

ku-professional-picKelechi Uzochukwu (Public Policy)

Kelechi Uzochukwu is Assistant Professor at the School of Public and International Affairs, College of Public Affairs, University of Baltimore. Dr. Uzochukwu earned her Ph.D. in Public Policy at Georgia State University and Georgia Institute of Technology Joint Program, her M.P.A. in Finance at Georgia State University, and her B.S. in Civil/Environmental Engineering at North Carolina A&T State University. Her research focuses on enhancing the quality of life for distressed populations, both domestically and abroad. Her specific research interests are situated in the fields of planning, community development, and citizen participation. She enjoys teaching statistics, research methods, public policy, and urban planning. Dr. Uzochukwu has worked as the State Safe Routes to School Program Coordinator at the Georgia Department of Transportation, as a community and economic development researcher at the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, as a program consultant for other federal agencies, among other work positions.

The associations between neighborhood constructs, physical activity, and childhood obesity: Understanding race and income disparities

Abstract: Scholars suggest that children’s built and social environments play key roles in their physical activity (PA) levels and subsequent propensity toward obesity. This study examines the associations between neighborhood constructs and the race and income disparities in PA and health among children ages 10–17 years in the United States. Using the 2011–2012National Survey of Children’s Health and a series of logistic and ordinary least squares regressions, this study compares obesity and PA levels of Black, Hispanic, and low-income children with their White and more affluent counterparts, interacting demographic and neighborhood characteristics with one another. Findings reveal that non-White respondents report having more amenities and more detractions; low-income respondents report having fewer amenities and more detractions; and non-White and low-income respondents report having less social cohesion. Additionally, though amenities and cohesion improve PA and health and detractions have the reverse effect, these effects are opposite for Black, Hispanic, and low-income children. Black children with more cohesion and Hispanic children with more amenities and fewer detractions have greater odds of being obese. Findings underscore the need for improved physical and social environments in non-White and low-income communities, as well as targeted initiatives to educate parents and children on obesity and healthful activities.

Second Prize

me_headshotJohann Weber (Public Policy)

Johann Weber completed his PhD from the School of Public Policy in 2016, and is currently overseeing US projects for a technology company specializing in active transportation. While at Georgia Tech he championed a host of institute-wide initiatives on behalf of graduate students, and pursued research on local decision-making and governance in transportation. He credits Georgia Tech and the IAC with providing an environment that fosters interdisciplinary thinking, teaching, and research, and for providing so many opportunities for excellence.

Policy Analysis of Open Streets Programs as Policy Tools

Abstract: Though street festivals are commonplace around the world, the recurring closure of a street space to motor vehicle traffic for the purposes of improving public health, boosting business, and fostering community is a relatively new development. These so-called “Open Streets” programs (or Ciclovias) are structured like a special event, but are generally undertaken by local governments and partners in order to have particular policy impacts, including encouraging active lifestyles, drawing visitors to local businesses, and building stronger bonds within the community. This project seeks to better understand these programs and their impacts, particularly on local communities and businesses, by using a mixed method research strategy comprised of both a localized survey and a comparative case study employing stakeholder interviews. The survey aimed to capture the experience of businesses with regard to a local open streets program. Further, a comparative case study of programs (informed by stakeholder and program organizer interviews) was used to identify project impacts, how programs were implemented and operated, and identify what implications programs have for the use of street closures as recurring policy tools. Findings demonstrate mixed impacts on businesses, with opportunities for managing programs to maximize business impacts. Programs shared the presence of partnerships in organization and operation, and a variety of goals including transportation, economic development, public health, and community development. Programs were most successful with their programming when tailored to program goals. Lessons learned from case studies provide a set of program recommendations for municipalities considering future program implementation.

Third Prize

62791Gloria Ross (History and Sociology)




Mapping the Development of Atlanta’s Food Deserts from 1980 to 2010

Abstract: According to the United States Department of Agriculture and recent literature on the issue, food deserts are geographic areas, especially economically poor areas, where residents lack the availability of, and access to, fresh fruit and vegetables sold at supermarkets and grocery stores. This paper uses the City of Atlanta as an empirical case to test the hypothesis that non-white and low-income communities have disproportionately limited access to supermarkets. Therefore, the focus of this paper is to understand how supermarket access in non-white neighborhoods has differed from that in predominantly white neighborhoods in Atlanta from 1980 to 2010. To answer this question, the paper uses spatial and statistical analysis to better understand the development and characteristics of Atlanta’s food deserts. Supermarket data for the years 1981 and 2010 were gathered from Atlanta City Directories and the Mergent Million Dollar database of industry information. Demographic and economic data were gathered for the years 1980 and 2010 at the census tract level. These data sources were joined in ESRI ArcGIS 10 and mapped to create two food desert maps for the City of Atlanta for the years 1980 and 2010. The paper uses spatial distribution measures including cluster analysis (Getis-Ord Gi*) to measure statistically significant clusters of supermarkets within census tracts. The findings of the study indicate that access to supermarkets for low-income and non-white communities has decreased between 1980 and 2010.