Training the leaders... of tomorrow.

Summer project in the Pueblos Jovenes of Lima, Peru

 Each year, the Program in Latin America Studies at Hopkins provides a competitive travel grant to students interested in researching topics related to Latin America. With this grant, I traveled to Lima, Peru this past summer, where I conducted an exploratory, survey-based project looking at the development in Lima over the last 5 years. Peru has had the second highest GDP in Latin America in the last 10 years and I was curious to know more about the pueblos jóvenes (as the slums are called in Lima) and how they are experiencing the growing economy. 

Since the 1950s, Lima’s population has been growing dramatically. Between 1981 and 2007, Lima has doubled in size and now contains almost 9 million people--or 30 percent of the country’s population--within the metropolitan area. Although Latin America has been leading the pace in urbanization, the entire world is now more urban than rural as of 2007.

The trajectory of urban development in Lima is both interesting and worrisome.  Due to high demand for living near Peru’s economic hub, a lack of housing has left families resorting to invading empty public territory, sometimes on precarious land, in the periphery of the capitol city.  The lack of housing has been caused by bad public policy as a result of push back from traditional residents of Lima who did not want rural residents living in the capitol. The government also made attempts for the public sector to build homes for the poor, but building enough homes for over 2 million people is extremely difficult and costly. In the 1970s, another approach was actually pre-planning the invasions into small plazas; the result of which can be seen on Google Maps in the district of Villa El Salvador.  These strategies are no longer used.


My Summer Internship: Research for the Forest Collaborative

This summer, I had a wonderful three months working at RESOLVE as a policy research intern and completed my first-ever independent research – exciting, rewarding, and unforgettable!

My paper is a case study on the amount of public participation training in accredited forestry degree programs in New Brunswick, Canada. The working group within the Sustainable Forest Community-University Research Alliance (a.k.a. “Forest Collaborative”) asked me to research and answer the following question: Are there enough courses provided in New Brunswick to engage forestry students in public participation and to prepare them with necessary skills to work in the forest planning industry? The answer to this question will help the working group propose solutions for enhancing the region’s forest planning.

When I was first assigned to a group of Canadian stakeholders discussing forest planning and public participation, I literally had no idea what they were talking about. It took me almost two weeks to get familiar with terms like “collaborative efforts” and “public engagement.” It took me another two weeks to absorb all the other information I needed, including the state of forestry education, forestry planning practices, and the geography of  Canada (I did hang a huge map in my office and it’s still there). Meanwhile, I started designing the survey and began conducting phone interviews. I ended up spending more than a month talking to about 20 Canadian scholars, educators, foresters, and government officials over the phone – the first-hand notes I took in the one-on-one interviews really helped me develop the structure of my research! Thanks to their diverse perspectives, I was able to have a broader view of the issue.

Two months after I first stepped into the office, I had read and heard enough about what the issue was – enough to get me started writing.  The information I had collected, however, was just so overwhelming that I didn’t even know where to begin. My supervisor, Juliana Birkhoff, spent a lot of time helping me get on the right track. To provide a model for my paper, I looked up the work of others who have done similar analyses; some scholars from the Forest Collaborative team generously provided me with their previous working papers as references. The actual writing time was not as long as I thought it would be – it helps to have a concrete idea of what you would like to say! My lovely RESOLVE co-workers helped me review the draft paper, as did the group members of the Forest Collaborative. You can view the final version here.

Cathy Xuege Lu is a second year student at Johns Hopkins Institute for Policy Studies.


Surveys in Baltimore's gay night clubs: a summer internship studying HIV-risk behavior

For his summer internship in public policy, Bob Proctor '12 visited gay night clubs in Baltimore and interviewed men about their sexual practices. It was part of an ongoing national study that examines HIV-risk behavior. Proctor's interest in the study had less to do with public health and more to do with qualitative analysis. As he explains in this audio interview about the internship, Proctor seeks to understand the cultural context and value systems that influence policy.


IPS student Zeke Berzoff-Cohen to give keynote address

While most IPS students were trying out for a potential new employer during their summer internships, Zeke Berzoff-Cohen '12 opted to be his own boss, launching the summer phase of his nonprofit, The Intersection.


It appears to have paid off: This Saturday at 9 a.m., Cohen and teen members of his nonprofit are the keynote speakers at Activate Your Inner Citizen University, an event sponsored by the Citizens Planning and Housing Association (CPHA). The past two keynote speakers were Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and U.S. Congressman Elijah Cummings. 


Supporting New Health IT Professionals in Addressing Challenges in Long-Term-Care Insurance

Over the course of my summer with the National Academy for Social Insurance, I began to wonder if emerging tools in health information technology (IT) could be applied to problems facing long-term-care insurance. Among all of the hotly contested features of the Affordable Care Act, one issue seems insurmountable — how to finance an affordable long-term-care insurance plan. At the crux of the debate is how to increase revenue or lower health delivery costs enough to offset the often large expenses associated with long-term illness.


Student's nonprofit hosts Baltimore candidates for mayor

Zeke Berzoff-Cohen '12 is overseeing a candidate forum for Baltimore City's mayoral primary election Aug. 10. The event is free, open to the public, and any first-year IPS students should consider this an opportunity to learn more about urban politics in Baltimore. 


Internship Report: Escaping the Computer Lab and Making a Difference in Baltimore City

Elizabeth Schiemann, class of 2010, talks about her summer internship at the Center for Urban Families.

In May, once the dust settled from briefing books, exams, and a year of studying Baltimore City’s social policy from behind a desk (usually the corner one in the lab by the mailboxes), I realized I needed an internship! So, when I discovered the Center for Urban Families (CFUF) with Dr. Barnow and Dr. Nightingale’s help, I stayed up pretty much all night writing a cover letter, polishing a resume, and frantically emailing references to send off at first light (not unusual, as I was slightly nocturnal by May). What would you do if you were offered a chance to participate in change, not just pontificate on it?

The Center for Urban Families is a Baltimore-based nonprofit that serves low-income, predominantly African American clients through workforce development, responsible fatherhood and family services programming. CFUF’s Program, Planning and Evaluation (PPE) department is incorporated into each program area and develops its national, state and local policy advocacy. My internship at CFUF with PPE exceeded my expectations, encouraging participation in many facets of nonprofit management as well as creating specific project-oriented tasks within the department. Granted, I am not retooling Maryland’s entire healthcare enrollment system, but I am surrounded and inspired daily by clients, staff, and lifelong city residents who face life-altering challenges and rise to meet them every day. More importantly, CFUF staff emphasize that they work in service of communities that cannot always speak for themselves— the low-income, the incarcerated, non-custodial parents, and majority minority communities—developing partnerships and networks that help each individual and family become self-sufficient.

As my primary project, I am developing and writing CFUF’s first Community Conversations Series publication on the earned income tax credit’s (EITC) impact on low-income fathers and families. This piece is based on discussions with CFUF’s program leaders, clients, and practitioners; review of past and recent legislation and research; and the outcomes of the Community Conversation, which expanded my understanding of how tax policy impacts individuals. Hopefully, the publication will be out this fall offering information on the EITC to policymakers and practitioners as well as guidance on CFUF’s position relative to developing awareness of the EITC and possible expansions of the policy, at both the state and national level.

So, here it is, the end of August, and I am at a transition point again – enrolling in classes and bracing for two more semesters at that desk in the corner – but I consider it a summer well spent. Not only did I get eight hours of sleep a night, I learned a great deal from my colleagues. Even more importantly, I have a list of new skills to acquire in the coming year. When I emerge from behind that desk next May I will be even more prepared to engage in implementing social policy – and maybe even get a job!

Internship Report: Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene

Paul Messino, a second-year MPP student and president of the Institute for Policy Studies Student Association, is interning with the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

Although this year’s job market was tough, many of my classmates found exciting internships in their area of interest. Many of us decided to stay in Baltimore – a great idea considering all the festivals and activities the city offers in the summer. After a long week of work, people still in town often meet up for a drink that turns into policy wonking about the new policies coming out across the state and nation. Lately, it's been the congressional hurdles facing national health care reform or Baltimore City's stimulus plan (another student is tackling that at Baltimore City Public Schools). We compare work stories, and the week's best intern usually receives high praise.

This week when we meet up for drinks, I've got them beat.

Last Tuesday, my boss at the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DHMH), jumped into my cubicle to tell me that a grant application for CHIPRA the Children's Health Insurance Program Reauthorization Act; is due in nine days and the current draft "needed work." Happy to sink my teeth into the project, I told her I'd help out. Little did I know that the current draft was skeletal. Basically, the grant sought out applicants who could design and implement an outreach effort to enroll eligible, but unenrolled children from hard-to-reach populations for either the state children's health program or Mediciad. The grantee must demonstrate their ability to implement a tracking system and show that they have retained newly enrolled children.

With the help of a staffer and a classmate who is also working at DHMH, we re-wrote the whole draft, from conception to budget to implementation in seven days. Our proposal would re-work Maryland's outreach and enrollment system, pulling it into the electronic age. (I can't reveal details or, well, I'd have to kill you).

I can't wait for this weekend's meet up. I think the DHMH crew will get some high-fives.