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Georgetown Reigns Supreme at Big East Research Symposium

Claire Cushman (C’23) took home top honors and Kate Reeves (SFS’23) received an honorable mention at this year’s Big East Research Symposium, held in March at Madison Square Garden. 

The symposium, now in its second year, showcases undergraduate research and provides an opportunity for Big East schools to send up to five poster presenters to participate. Georgetown’s poster presenters included Cushman, Reeves, Matthew Carvalho (SOH’23), Lance Li (C’24) and Kathryn Yang (SFS’23).

Housing Justice and Building Resilient Communities

A girl in a dark turtleneck smiles in front of a poster filled with data.

Claire Cushman (C’23) presenting at the Big East Research Symposium.

Cushman, a psychology major in the College of Arts & Sciences, won the first place prize for her poster presentation “Neighborhood Determinants of Eviction,” which summarized her research examining community factors that can predict eviction. 

“This research contributes to the growing literature on the neighborhood determinants of eviction, and specifically highlights the finding that eviction is an issue of racial injustice which must be urgently addressed through targeted public policy,” said Cushman. “I found, among other factors, that the percentage of non-white residents of a census tract was a significant, positive predictor of eviction filings, even when controlling for the neighborhood’s median household income, poverty rate, and other relevant variables.”

Housing justice is a priority for Cushman, who volunteers with ONE DC, a nonprofit that seeks to “create and preserve racial and economic equity in Shaw and the District.” Cushman’s research builds upon an existing understanding of how racial dynamics affect access to housing and eviction filings. 

“These findings could be due to a legacy of racial discrimination in mortgage lending, or it may reflect current dynamics in the rental market that have yet to be elucidated,” said Cushman. “More research on the topic is sorely needed to determine the reason for these differences and to examine what can be done to ameliorate the disproportionate effect of eviction on communities of color.” 

Under the guidance of Jennifer Woolard, a professor in and chair of the Department of Psychology, Cushman deployed longitudinal data analysis techniques to weigh the effects of different variables on eviction filings. 

“Claire’s thesis represents the culmination of more than three years of research experience on policy-relevant concerns,” said Woolard. “Undergirded by her commitment to social justice, Claire leveraged her training in psychology and statistics to conduct a theoretically grounded project with practical implications that go well beyond the standard undergraduate thesis. I’m incredibly proud of all she has accomplished.” 

Hoyas in Manhattan

This year, Georgetown sent Tammi Damas, director of education and academic affairs in the Office of the Provost, Colleen Dougherty, assistant director of the Center for Research & Fellowships (CRF) and Rhonda Dzakpasu, associate professor of physics, to serve as judges at the symposium. Bill Cessato, the CRF deputy director, represented Georgetown on the symposium planning committee and was one of the judging coordinators.

“I’m so grateful to the Center for Research and Fellowships – especially Lauren Tuckley and Bill Cessato – for this opportunity to go to the symposium, present my thesis research, and learn about so many other incredible projects from the participating schools,” said Cushman. “It was surreal to be recognized and I am so grateful to everyone who helped me throughout the process – from my incredible thesis mentor Professor Jennifer Woolard, to my savior in the statistics department, Professor Mark Meyer, to everyone at ONE DC who are constantly informing and motivating my research by revealing the extraordinary importance of a safe and stable home for all.”

Reeves, a culture and politics major, received an honorable mention for presenting her poster “Raptured Relationships with the Rivers: Why the Right to Free, Prior, and Informed Consent Fails to Protect Indigenous Communities Against Hydroelectric Dam Development in Guatemala.” Reeves’ research was mentored by Shiloh Krupar, Provost’s Distinguished Associate Professor. 

Last year, Lauren Tuckley, the center’s director, and Cessato judged posters. Tuckley also directs the Provost’s Distinguished Undergraduate Research Fellowship Program, of which Carvalho and Cushman are members.

-by Hayden Frye (C’17)

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