Students in our program are not waiting to graduate to make a difference. Working with faculty and community partners, they are advancing creative solutions today.

Graduate students tie academics to community impact
A new graduate course in program evaluation gives students the opportunity to develop real world solutions for the nearby city of Glendale, Ariz. Chris Hayter, assistant professor in the School of Public Affairs, is collaborating with the Morrison Institute for Public Policy on a year-long graduate course where students actively learn skills related to program evaluation through dynamic exercises. 

Throughout the course, students will develop two projects for the city of Glendale and will tackle very different challenges – homelessness and water conservation. Students begin the class by submitting individual proposals to be a part of the team. They evaluated bids from surrounding cities to take on a wide range of projects, ultimately choosing three. While Glendale doesn’t have a systemic challenge with homelessness, it is affected by surrounding areas. City leaders want to know how they fit in to the larger picture, and how to measure the impact of their efforts. The city is also interested in water use. A successful individual homeowner program is in place, but they would like to explore strategies to incentivize business.

The city of Goodyear, Ariz. also wants to explore creating a wellness park on a large area of land surrounded by a cancer center and hospital. Students will examine similar projects as a benchmark to make recommendations for sustainability of the park in the long term. Throughout the course of the year, students will gain real-world insight from client interaction and Morrison Institute analysts. Hayter says he aims to expand the excercise in subsequent years.

Decision tool helps impact on Phoenix transportation plan
An ASU team led by Dr. John Harlow with professors Eric Hekler, Erik Johnston and graduate student Zoë Yeh, collaborated with Phoenix’s Public Transit and Street Transportation Departments and the Citizens Committee on the Future of Phoenix Transportation (CCFPT) in the development of Proposition 104, the recently passed transportation plan for Phoenix. 

The proposal funds the next 35 years of transportation in Phoenix, with an estimated $31.5 billion raised through a 0.7% citywide sales tax. The bill covers expanded bus service hours, increased bus service frequency, complete streets investments, and new bus and light rail routes.

The ASU team established a process that simplified the complexity of producing a 35-year, citywide transportation plan into a series of information-rich decisions represented by tactile game pieces. The game was prototyped and refined in two ASU graduate courses in behavior change and public administration. The objective was to create an information-rich decision environment, in which CCFPT members could articulate and explain their perspectives.

The overall experience became a central component of Harlow’s Ph.D. dissertation from the School of Sustainability at ASU under the supervision of ASU professors
Eric Hekler, Aaron Golub, Erik Johnston, and Arnim Wiek.