Friday, June 27, 2014

Worcester State University Receives Grant to Study Latino Male Education Outcomes

WORCESTER – Worcester State University's Latino Education Institute, in partnership with its Department of Urban Studies, was awarded a $200,000 grant from The Boston Foundation and The Lloyd G. Balfour Foundation to examine post-secondary outcomes for Latino males in five Massachusetts communities –Worcester, Lawrence, Boston, Springfield and Holyoke.

Called “Pathways to Higher Education: Opportunities and Outcomes for Latino Young Men in Five Massachusetts Communities,” the project’s directors will use qualitative and quantitative approaches to improve understanding of the many circumstances that affect the decision-making of young Latino males relative to career and educational opportunities.

The researchers will collect and analyze data, which is expected to inform the state's policies on how best to close the "achievement gap" -- the persistent and well-documented disparity in educational outcomes between people who come from low-opportunity environments versus those who do not. Closing the achievement gap was a central goal of the state's 2010 education reform act, and the Patrick Administration's Executive Office of Education is implementing strategies to address the problem, especially in Gateway Cities such as those targeted by the LEI grant. Indeed, the Departments of Elementary and Secondary Education and of Higher Education assisted in the development of this initiative and are expected to review the findings.

The Boston Foundation and The Lloyd G. Balfour Foundation chose Worcester State University as their sole awardee from an invitation-only pool that included some of the state’s world-renowned institutions. The project is led by Mary Jo Marion, executive director of the Latino Education Institute, and Dr. Thomas Conroy, chair and assistant professor of Urban Studies.

“This study represents a unique opportunity to identify strategies that could be used across the state to improve career and college outcomes for Latino boys. We intend to lift Latino youths’ voices in the public discourse about opportunity and achievement gaps,” says Marion.

The qualitative components, which will be done through the Vincent “Jake” Powers CityLab in the Department of Urban Studies, will comprise about 75 percent of the final study. Strategies used include focus groups, one-on-one interviews, and small group discussions with young Latino males and their families, as well as a survey of hundreds of Latino college students in the target cities. The lead researchers are Dr. Timothy Murphy of the Urban Studies Department and Dr. Francisco Vivoni of the Sociology Department, who will collaborate with other WSU professors and LEI staff. Select scholars from outside Worcester State will also be called upon to lend expertise as needed.

One of the innovative features of this participatory action research plan is the involvement of college students co-facilitating focus groups and interviews with experienced WSU faculty mentoring, coaching and co-facilitating them. The students, who come from Worcester State University, Clark University and Springfield Technical Community College, will be in the field with seasoned researchers helping, participating, and, at the same time, learning.

The quantitative portion of the study will provide data and assessments that will inform the direction of the qualitative portion. This work will be led by Elizabeth Setren, a Ph.D. candidate in Economics at MIT. As a research associate in the MIT School Effectiveness and Inequality Initiative, Setren will be looking at outcomes in both traditional public schools and charter schools in each of the five cities.

“We are particularly excited about the research approach for this project,” Dr. Conroy says. “It allows us to work collaboratively with experts from different disciplines -- including anthropology, sociology, history, economics, education and public policy – in order to investigate many dimensions of a complicated problem. At the same time, we will work closely with our students as research partners.”

The team plans to complete the research by the end of 2014, and release a report by March 2015.

Worcester State University is a nationally recognized public liberal arts university offering a wide variety of programs taught by committed, accessible faculty offering engaging research opportunities to undergraduate and graduate students alike.


Thursday, May 29, 2014

Dr. Conroy Appointed to Preservation Worcester Board of Directors

Urban Studies professor and department chairperson, Dr. Thomas Conroy, was elected to the Preservation Worcester Board of Directors at their Annual Meeting on Wednesday, May 28. 

Preservation Worcester is a private, not-for-profit membership organization dedicated to the preservation of buildings, sites, and neighborhoods which represent the culture, history, and architecture of Worcester, Massachusetts.  Its award-winning work with neighborhood groups, developers, city departments, schools, and state and local historical commissions affords many opportunities for WSU students and alums to become involved in public history, urban design, economic development, and neighborhood preservation endeavors.  

Dr. Conroy also serves as a member on the Worcester Arts Council.  

Friday, May 16, 2014

Book Shopping for CityLab

At the Friends of the Worcester Public Library book sale today, Dr. Conroy went shopping for books he will donate to CityLab.  For $4, he got:
  • William Bradford, Of Plimouth Plantation, 1620-1647
  • Frank A. Brown and Beverly K Goodale, West Boylston
  • William O. Hultgren et. Al., Worcester 1880-1920
  • Mary P. Ryan, Cradle of the Middle Class:  The Family in Onieda County, New York, 1790-1865
  • Mary P. Ryan, Women in Public:  Between Banners and Ballots, 1825-1880
  • Cary D. Wintz, Black Culture and the Harlem Renaissance
  • James Sterling Young, The Washington Community, 1800-1828

For an additional $16 in the regular WPL book store, he bought:
  • Nicholas Gage, A Place for Us (a memoir of a Greek immigrant who grew up in Worcester)
  • J. Joseph Huthmacher, Massachusetts People and Politics
  • Rae MacCollum Spencer, The Gift of Imaginative Leadership, a biography of Harry Galpin Stoddard, Affectionately called “Mr. Worcester”
  • Ronald Story, The Forging of an Aristocracy:  Harvard & the Boston Upper Class, 1800-1870

 The lesson from this?  Buy books at the WPL book store where you can save some cash and support a good cause. 

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Summer 2014 Urban Studies Class Offerings

Summer I 2014 Class Offerings

Department of Urban Studies


UR 101   Introduction to Urban Studies                       

A broad contextual overview of urban life that examines the relationship of people to their environment from an interdisciplinary perspective.  A great first class in this dynamic academic field.


MW     9:00-12:00       Alan Gordon                3 credits          S 320


UR 191    ST:  Worcester Politics/Urban Political Systems

 This class explores 20th century American urban political systems by diving deeply into the history of the Worcester government and politics. Through reading, discussion, and research projects, the class will examine the original city government (including the 100 years before the current City Manager system) to today with the bulk of our attention focusing on the period between 1900 and 2000.


TR       6:00-9:00          Dr. Thomas Conroy     3 credits         S 320




Summer II 2014 Class Offerings

Department of Urban Studies
UR 101   Introduction to Urban Studies                                           

A broad contextual overview of urban life that examines the relationship of people to their environment from an interdisciplinary perspective.


M      5:30-8:30           Dr. Timothy Murphy     3 credits        S 314

This is a hybrid course. It meets online and in class.


UR 213    ST: Human Identity and Urban Environment    
Pre-Requisite:  UR 101 

 Study of factors affecting identity in contemporary urban settings including race, ethnicity, class, age, and sex categories and roles.


TR       5:30-8:30          Dr. Timothy Murphy      3 credits       S 314


UR 290    Gender and the City                                          

 Exploration of the ways in which gender, both male and female, structures responses of individuals to urban life and spaces.


W       5:00-8:00          Dr. Madeline Campbell   3 credits     S 314

This is a hybrid course. It meets online and in class.


Monday, April 21, 2014

Urban Studies and the Annual Celebration of Scholarhip and Creativity

On April 16, 2014, WSU hosted its annual Celebration of Scholarship and Creativity, and the Department of Urban Studies turned out in force. With more than 20 graduate and undergraduate students joining the department faculty and staff to participate, the department presented one talk (Prof. Gordon) and a half-dozen posters (one that featured 3 different projects).  

Pictures of the day are at the right and the poster/presentation abstracts are below. 


Shiko Gathuo, Ph.D.
  • Ask most people what they know about Africa, and they will narrate an inevitable litany of ills: ethnic conflicts and civil wars; famine and widespread starvation; HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases; savagery and exotic traditions; despair and hopelessness. Africa is not only the butt of jokes; people are apt to make stereotypical statements about the continent without giving thought to either the truthfulness or the consequences of their statements. True, Africa has many problems, and many of its people live in poverty. There is, however, always more than one side to any story. For Africa, only one side has emerged. The mission of Dignify Africa Movement is to dignify Africa and its people by changing the existing narrative about the continent. We do this in two ways with this poster presentation: 1) we showcase Africa by highlighting the untold everyday stories and positive developments, and 2) we fight the negative stereotypes, falsehoods and misrepresentation perpetrated against the continent. 

Kaleigh McManus

Faculty Advisor: Thomas Conroy, Ph.D.
  • As the pressure to reduce the national debt remains the driving force behind budget cuts in the national budget, Head Start is a program affected deeper than other organizations. Head Start runs on a budget that is inadequate for the amount of resources that the program needs. During the 2013 sequester, Head Start programs across the country closed their doors, reduced the number of children served, and laid off teachers and staff. This not only hurt the students, but their parents and society as a whole. If every child who lived in poverty had access to a Head Start program, the economy as a whole would be stronger, and the government could avoid the cost of future services that would not be so greatly relied upon as a result of the availability of Head Start. These services can include after-school programs, tutoring for students, social services or even incarceration later in life. This research paper and poster presentation will prove that cutting funding for Head Start programs results in financial repercussions for state and national governments.

Samuel Demma, Jean Abdulla, Dannielle Morrow, Tom Savini
Faculty Advisor: Madeline Otis Campbell, Ph.D.

  • The English Language Learners program, sponsored by the Intergenerational Urban Institute and the department of Urban Studies, facilitates relationships among WSU students and English language learners of all ages from the community. This for-credit practicum is an experiential learning course, which provides students with the opportunity to teach conversational English, assist community members preparing for citizenship, and form community based relationships. In the process, an intercultural exchange happens as tutors and learners share their stories and perspectives. Recently the program has expanded beyond the WSU classroom to three off-site locations in the Worcester community: an elder Worcester Housing Authority site, the Worcester Senior Center, and the Nu Cafe. WSU students tutor Iraqi, Lebanese, Albanian, Russian, Chinese, and Colombian learners, filling a need in the community and receiving a uniquely personal, global perspective. This poster will highlight the work of the ELL program, identifying the student as well as community outcomes achieved.

Dannielle Morrow, Jenny Velez

Faculty Advisor Thomas Conroy, Ph.D., Madeline Otis Campbell, Ph.D.
  • During spring 2013, the Latino Education Institute at Worcester State University and the Worcester Education Collaborative analyzed demographic and suspension data related to the Worcester Public Schools system. This data came from federal, state, and local sources, particularly from the Office of Civil Rights, the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, and the Worcester Public Schools data warehouse.

Barbara Lucci, Thea Aschkenase, Marta Baclawska, Amy Boucher, Mary Chenaille, Rachel Geary, Judy Knight, Mary Ellen Macuen, LissaAnn Minichiello, Jenifer Seifart
Faculty Advisor: Maureen Power, Ph.D.

  • This poster presentation will demonstrate the ways the Hunger Outreach Team (HOT) located in Urban Studies continues to fight hunger in the Worcester community. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps, is a federal program that helps put food on the table. HOT is an intergenerational advocacy group of students, ages 20 to 90, that assists elders in the community and students on campus in applying for SNAP benefits. The team uses a SNAP Bingo game to educate elders at senior centers. Only one-third of eligible elders apply for SNAP, and many Worcester State University students are unaware they are eligible. Every $5 in SNAP benefits stimulates $9 in the local economy. Congress reduced SNAP benefits by nearly 40 billion, making it even more important for those eligible to receive the benefits. HOT members advocate for legislative reform in hunger disparities. The annual Empty Bowl event on campus raises funds for local assistance.

Desiree Cunningham, Michael Falzarano
Faculty Advisor: Thomas Conroy, Ph.D.

  • Through a combination of research objectives, this project aims to reveal possible methods that community members and the city of Worcester can employ to actively participate in determining the future of Lincoln Square. By addressing blight with architectural solutions, geography-based data and a myriad of strategic planning initiatives, Worcester’s historically endangered Lincoln Square could again become an integral part of the city’s urban landscape.

George Ayanga, Rachel Geary, Breana Hatch, Jack Kelly, Tyler Levine, Brogan Mulligan, Jenifer Seifart, Linda Barrett, Mary Chenaille, Eileen Rodgers, Pam Saffer, Dorothea Simmons
Faculty Advisor: Maureen Power, Ph.D.

  • Now in its third growing season, the Garden for ALL Ages adjacent to Chandler Magnet School has transformed what once was a neighborhood eyesore into a rich and beautiful outdoor learning environment. Not only vegetables, but flowers and herbs grow in this garden; relationships do as well. This poster presentation will show how residents of neighboring Bet Shalom, eight Chandler Magnet classes (two of which are special needs), and the Worcester State University garden team are working together to expand the garden and the growing season. To offset the cold winter, portable greenhouses (with support from Theme Semester) have been erected in the Bet Shalom community room and the Chandler Magnet classrooms. Plans for higher raised beds and special pathways will make it wheelchair accessible. Bird houses, a butterfly garden, and medicinal native plants and herbs will make it a great community resource and rich learning environment for all ages.

Alan Ira Gordon, Instructor

  • This study was published in the winter of 2014 issue of the Historical Journal of Massachusetts and compares the municipal, medical and social responses in Worcester to the 1849 and 1866 national cholera outbreaks. While public attitudes towards both epidemics demonstrated the misguided idea that cholera was a disease of immoral intemperance, the medical and municipal responses to the later epidemic reveal a shift from finding a cure to preventing the disease. When confronting the later epidemic, Worcester’s municipal leaders mobilized resources to promote sanitation. Worcester’s response to these two epidemics offers a case study of the important role that cholera played in the rise of the public health movement in America.


Thursday, March 27, 2014

A New Season at the WSU Garden for All Ages

Even though it's still cold out there, the days are getting longer and they're slowly warming up.  At least, we hope they are.  

But in the Department of Urban Studies, we're also making preparations for this year's growing season at the WSU Garden for All Ages. 

Members of the garden team have been meeting all semester and now they're putting their plans into motion. They've installed small greenhouses in Chandler Magnet School and Bet Shalom Apartments, and they're working with students, teachers, and community members to stock them with seedlings in anticipation of the warmer days.  

At left (or below depending on your browser), Urban Studies student Tyler Levine works with a Bet Shalom resident installing the first of the greenhouse seedlings. 

We're anticipating a great year in the garden.  If you are interested in learning more or helping out, drop us a line at  

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

NSF, Art of Science Learning Fellows

Urban Studies students Dannielle Morrow and Nick Beaudoin (pictured at the right), along with Dr. Thomas Conroy, began their year-long fellowships with the National Science Foundation, Art of Science Learning this weekend.  

The project has three national "incubator cities" 
across the country, each working on a separate civil problem. San Diego is working on water resources; Chicago is working on urban nutrition, and the Worcester incubator is working on transportation. 

The first session was at the Ecotarium, a local NSF partner.  Other sessions will be held at Clark University and Worcester Polytechnic Institute.  

For more information, click for a Worcester Telegram article about it.