Research Grant Recipients

Ashley Tannebaum, DDes (2020)

Designing for Interdisciplinary Collaboration: A Mixed Methods Study of the Architectural and Organizational Designs of Exemplar Postsecondary Innovation Centers

College and university environments are transforming to support more transparent, interactive, and diverse learning. Architects and designers of post-secondary learning spaces, aiming to accommodate this new social approach to learning, are designing the built environment as a porous and flexible learning ecosystem rather than a collection of discrete classrooms in isolated buildings. The proliferation of the innovation center typology forms a salient example of this change in learning environment design. These centers, or post-secondary academic buildings integrating specific architectural design features to support the interdisciplinary, collaborative, and informal learning behaviors required to generate new ideas, integrate open, flexible workspaces, oversized circulation, and informal gathering places to facilitate teamwork. Due to the emerging nature of this building typology, little research has been conducted to examine how the design of innovation centers may need vary to serve its diverse range occupants. This mixed methods study will ask the question, “How does the architectural and organizational design of exemplar innovation centers best support transparent and inclusive interdisciplinary collaboration among faculty, students, and staff?”  Finally, the results of this study will be synthesized to create a design guide for architects, planners, project managers, and campus representatives to highlight the range of topics requiring consideration in the design of this new academic environment.

Samara Scheckler, Postdoctoral Fellow, Joint Center for Housing Studies (2020)

Massachusetts Home Modification Loan Program

Research conducted in the Netherlands has provocatively suggested that, for people with age-related physical disabilities, an accessible home can reduce the risk of nursing home use and increase reliance on community-based care (Diepstraten, Douven & Wouterse, 2020). Given the incredibly high cost of institutional care as well as stated the preferences of most Americans to age in a community setting, home accessibility merits the attention of American researchers and policymakers. As compared with an estimated $102,200 annual nursing home facility cost (Genworth, n.d.), modest home accessibility improvements could be an economically efficient way to enhance the well-being of disabled older adults. Little data on the American housing stock is available to estimate the need for home modification population wide. Further, relatively few programs directly target funds to support home accessibility. The Massachusetts Home Modification Loan Program stands out in this regard by offering zero interest deferred payment loans to modify the home of a medically qualified child or adult. A careful study of this program would offer insight into the scope of need for home modifications for older adult households statewide. Research would also estimate the impact of a state-run home modification loan program which could be disseminated to other states as a model program. Funding is paying for data on home modifications from the Community Economic Development Assistance Corporation (CEDAC), the manager of Massachusetts’s home modification loan program.

Katie Gourley, MUP (2018-2019)

It Starts with a Seed: Exploring Place-Based Socio-Ecological Care and Alternative Economies in Community Seed Saving Initiatives

Humans have sowed, saved, and shared seeds for millennia. Maintaining relationships with seeds allows food growers to influence yield, taste, nutrition, as well as adapt to uncertain and changing climatic conditions. Yet, in the last half century, legal and policy regimes of biotechnology, intellectual property rights, and corporate consolidation have threatened rights and freedoms to save seeds, and the knowledge of how to do so. In turn, resistance efforts seeking to get seeds into the hands of the people and protect the ability to grow out and save open-pollinated, heirloom seeds through living conservation practices (in situ conservation) have sprouted up from the global to hyper-local scales. This thesis explores particular trends in community seed saving and the seed sovereignty movement in North America through the lens of feminist political ecology. This multi-site case study of public seed libraries in the San Francisco Bay Area investigates seed saving as a material and discursive practice of place-based socio-ecological care, as well as public libraries as sites of alternative sharing economies. The stories presented here suggest that seed saving and sharing—within and across place-based communities—can stoke transformative imaginations, spur collective action, and nurture hope for dealing with the multiple crises and injustices perpetuated by the industrial agro-food system through enacting an ecological-economy of care. Emphasis is placed on the need for scholarship to make uncompensated acts of care visible and to foreground non-dominant worldviews.