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Recent Grants:  Research



Creating a Civic Innovation Ecosystem to Improve Transportation Infrastructure in San Diego

Steven P. Dow, Cognitive Science, UC San Diego


This proposal aims to improve the transportation infrastructure in San Diego and, by extension support upward mobility by fostering a collective innovation ecosystem. We have created a novel program called D4SD (Design for San Diego) that structures a large-scale participatory design process that seeks to diversify teams and concepts and to increase participation by underrepresented populations. Our research focuses on creating strategies and tools to engage larger and more diverse populations throughout a process of framing questions, discovering specific issues, and brainstorming and prototyping specific solutions. We will assess the effectiveness of these strategies for collective innovation by measuring the amount and diversity of participation, and the readiness of solutions that emerge from the process. To ensure success, we have fostered a number of key partnerships with professional design and urban planning, including the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG), which is the region's primary public planning and transportation agency. PI Dow is also a key member of the interdisciplinary Design Lab at UC San Diego which has promised to contribute matching funds to kick start this initiative.


Family-Centered Newcomers Program:

An Integrated, Multigenerational, and Multidisciplinary Approach

Yen Le Espiritu, Ethnic Studies, UC San Diego

Caren Holtzman, Education Studies, UC San Diego

Vanesa Ribas, Sociology, UC San Diego

A major source of San Diego’s diverse profile is its large population of newcomers to the U.S.

The foreign-born population comprises around one million people in the San Diego-Carlsbad region, and it is estimated that over 20 percent of these are unauthorized migrants. San Diego County serves further as an important hub for the resettlement of refugees admitted to the country by federal authorities, and these newcomers number over 10,000 for the 2014-2018 fiscal years. In 2017, the County of San Diego received more refugee arrivals than any other county in the state. In the city of San Diego itself, particular neighborhoods like City Heights are home to a greater than average share of such newcomers. The continued influx of refugees, combined with immigrants who arrive across the adjacent international border, contribute to San Diego’s ever growing newcomer population. These newcomers face the daunting task of adjusting to American society. Given the deteriorating political climate surrounding newcomers in American society, and the drastic cutbacks in public funds, the urgency of intervention has been amplified.

Although a variety of agencies and organizational networks exist currently in San Diego to address the incorporation needs of newcomers, community feedback indicates a lack of integrated and comprehensive services that are designed with and by newcomers and that prioritize their experiences, needs and perspectives. We will conduct interview-based research with newcomers (immigrants and refugees who have arrived in San Diego in the last five years) and local service providers and educators in order to design an integrated, multigenerational, and multidisciplinary settlement and integration program that would assist newcomers and their families in adjusting to their local schools, jobs, and living environment.


Assessing the Impact of Local Election Timing on Minority Representation and Local Spending

Zoltan Hajnal, Political Science and School of Global Policy and Strategy, UC San Diego

One of the most regularly repeated and deep-seated criticisms of American democracy is that it tends to represent the interests of the privileged few over of the broader concerns of the masses (Schattschneider 1970). The obvious next question is whether there is anything that we can do about it. To date scholars have had difficulty identifying viable policy reforms that could rectify the imbalance in American politics. This project seeks to assess the impact of one potential reform on outcomes in local democracy. Specifically, it seeks to assess the impact of shifting the timing of local elections from stand-alone off-cycle contests to on-cycle elections that are held on the same date as national election. The logic of on-cycle local elections is compelling. If we move to on-cycle elections that occur on the same day as Presidential or mid-term contests, we would make local voting essentially costless. Citizens who are already voting for higher level offices would only have to check off a few more boxes further down the ballot. In this project, I seek to use existing variation in local election timing to assess the impact of on-cycle elections on the descriptive representation of racial and ethnic minorities on city councils, on the degree to which cities spend on redistributional functions like welfare, housing, and education, and the degree to which cities rely on progressive taxes (e.g. property taxes) or regressive taxes (e.g. sales taxes) for funding.


African-American Achievement Summit Follow-Up: Examining Opportunity Gaps for SDUSD African-American Students in Fourth-Year Mathematics

Osvaldo Soto, UC San Diego Math Project & Executive Director, Math for America San Diego Kirk Rogers, Jr., Education Studies, UC San Diego

Erica Heinzman, Education Studies, UC San Diego

The proposed action research project seeks funding to partner with the San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD) to examine African American secondary school students’ math course taking habits and patterns, and to co-design with the school district potential remedies for the students’ suspected low fourth-year mathematics course taking and completion rates. While focused as a mobility-focused, action-research study, we believe the study’s question and potential remedies could prove significant far beyond the SDUSD as this problem – how to encourage more robust fourth-year math course enrollment among underrepresented minority (URM) students – is reflected in most K12 school systems that serve low-income, URM students.


Before 2018: