November project update

November updates include a new project (with New Bedford’s Veteran’s Transition House) and a project where the deliverable was, well, delivered, but the problem–college access in the SouthCoast–is anything but solved. Instead, we may have more questions than answers, which means we’ll spend the month trying to decide what’s next.

1. Needs assessment of SouthCoast Veterans

Undergraduate research assistant Mike McCarthy has developed–and will manage–his first project, which responds to a request by the Veteran’s Transition House for a white paper documenting the met and unmet needs of the region’s Veteran population. The project will entail an analysis of existing data on Veterans in the region, but its keystone is a survey we’ll be conducting to learn what the existing data doesn’t tell us when it comes to Veterans’ current and impending needs. Mike will be looking to disseminate the survey to organizations and groups engaged with Vets across the region; if you’re interested in learning more, supporting the surveying effort, or receiving a report on the results, contact him.

2. SouthCoast health planning dashboard

Web design for this project–a site that serves as a clearinghouse for data, research, and resources related to public health in the SouthCoast–is underway. We look forward to sharing test pages and links with our partners soon, and the final product with you soon thereafter!

3. HOPE VI evaluation

Next month, we’ll submit our first annual report related to the impact of Taunton’s HOPE VI project on residents of the since-demolished Fairfax Gardens housing development on Dewert Avenue, the neighborhood, and the City of Taunton. The report will include updated statistics (compared to baseline data presented in July 2012) as well as findings from focus groups and a interviews with 25 heads of household.

4. Faculty/student partnerships

Undergraduates in Professor Sarah Cosgrove’s Urban Economics class are hard at work wrapping up three projects that the UI helped coordinate: two involve breaking down the costs of vacant properties in a neighborhood in Fall River and a neighborhood in New Bedford, respectively, while one is aimed at determining the feasibility and economic impact of connecting UMass Dartmouth students to New Bedford’s downtown in the evenings and on weekends. We look forward to sharing their findings at the end of the semester.

5. LifeWork project

The LifeWork project’s first semester is wrapping up; soon we’ll be gathering data on participants’ academic performance and combining this with baseline data to provide a report on the first cohort of students.

6. College accessHigh school interns present college access research

Last Friday, three of our 2013 high school interns presented their report on college access in the SouthCoast. They did a fantastic job sharing their findings and fielding questions from the audience, which was dynamic and engaged if smaller than we had hoped for. Indeed, one of the findings of this project is that there isn’t a committed cohort of stakeholders in the region that is working to improve college access. The few programs that do exist weren’t represented, and even the high school students had difficulty getting information about them.

This is obviously problematic on a few levels, chief among which is the fact that one of the biggest hurdles to economic development in the SouthCoast is our low level of adult educational attainment (fewer than 15 percent of adults in our cities have a Bachelor’s degree). So what do we do next? We’ll be thinking about this over the next month, and we more than welcome your ideas.


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