Students Research Policy Changes for City Government

Tulane Professor Brian Brox with students at New Orleans at City Hall this summer

School of Liberal Arts students recently saw their research in action when New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell launched CleanUpNOLA, a new initiative that aims to reduce litter and blight across the city.

In summer 2018, seven Tulane students researched two important topics in the city—litter and progressive traffic fines—for the Mayor’s office during the Policy Research Shop, a key course in the School of Liberal Arts’ Summer Minor in U.S. Public Policy. During the Policy Research Shop, students worked closely with Associate Professor of Political Science Brian Brox and members of the mayor’s office to identify areas of concern in the city, research those issues, and suggest solutions via policy research briefs and presentations at City Hall.

Brox said that the skills taught in the summer program “can be applied to a future career in public policy or even more broadly to any job that requires analysis, from literature review, data collection, and quantitative or qualitative analysis, to drawing conclusions based on evidence.” In addition, the participating students “also benefit from the contacts they make within local government.”

Associate Professor J. Celeste Lay, who founded the Summer Minor in U.S. Public Policy in 2014, remarked, “the shop model offers a great opportunity for students to learn how to conduct policy research for the real world, and gain experience in presenting their ideas to policymakers.” Lay and Brox see firsthand how inspiring it is for students to present research that can potentially affect the way New Orleans is governed.

Matthew Fein (LA ’19), a senior majoring in political science and computer science, worked on the litter research brief in the Policy Research Shop this summer, and described a great deal of overlap between CleanUpNOLA and the research presented by the Tulane team, specifically in regard to the students’ suggestion to increase trash receptacles throughout the city. But he also expressed a desire for more education to be present in the initiative, explaining that this was a necessary component to changing people’s habits. Fein plans to pursue a career in policy as it relates to technology, and said his “ability to go through the whole process in a real-world setting has been a very valuable experience.”

(Back row, left to right) Jesse Beeson, Jason Fujinaga, Andrew Guillory, (front row, left to right) Katharine Poole, Dorothy Slater, Caroline Kacmarsky, and Matthew Fein outside City Hall.
Students in the Policy Research Shop, part of the School of Liberal Arts' Summer Minor in U.S. Public Policy, discuss their findings with members of New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell's staff on June 22, 2018.