2020 Sentinels Fellows

2020 Sentinels Fellows’ names and report titles are listed below.  To read the abstract of each report, please click on the “+” to expand the content areas.

  • Most nonmetropolitan areas have suffered from some form of deindustrialization, and have found it difficult to rebound when the U.S. economy shifted from an industrial economy to an economy that places a greater emphasis on knowledge, technology, and a high skill-set. North Berkshire is no stranger to the challenges that this evolving economy has given to smaller regions, which have offered these secluded areas a harsh ultimatum: either adapt to the changing circumstances, or run the risk of failing economically. To adjust to the new economy, North Berkshire focused its energy on developing its tourism industry, cultural amenities, and the Arts. But, tourism's seasonal aspects complicated with the challenges of COVID-19 have rendered tourism to be ineffective as North Berkshire's primary producer of economic development. This raises the following question: What can North Berkshire do to revive their economy?

    This research project focuses on one aspect of North Berkshire's Economic Development, small business development. The report highlights the current problems with small business development in North Berkshire, and offers some solutions for how it can be improved. In this report, I compare the North Berkshire region to Lewiston, Maine, an area with a similar industrial history and a strong Liberal Arts College at its focus. My objective in doing a case study on these two areas is to find out what the government of Lewiston has been doing to help small business development compared to North Berkshire. By researching and comparing each region’s demographic characteristics, small business-related policies, allocation of funding, and use of private/public partnerships, I pinpointed areas where some of North Berkshire's policies fell short in helping small business development, and offered policy improvements or suggested alternative courses of action to override policy effects on small business development. Ultimately, I found that North Berkshire’s small business development can be improved through economic diversification, and business ventures outside of the Tourism sector should be supported and encouraged. I close out my report discussing some short-term solutions to help bring new economic opportunities to the area, as well as mentioning economic diversification efforts that have had a positive impact on the North Berkshire region.

  • Adrienne ConzaThe opioid epidemic is a salient topic in the U.S. today with increasing rates of opioid use and abuse across the country with Berkshire County being particularly hard hit. Drug policy in the U.S. is polarizing with disconnect and disparate policies between states as well as between federal and state levels of legislation. In contract, Portugal enacted a novel drug policy in the early 2000s to decriminalize all drugs of abuse. In my project, I address the social and political factors that made decriminalization in Portugal possible and successful thus far, and whether or not decriminalization would be a viable option for the U.S. and Berkshire County in particular. I used a combination of literature research as well as interviews with local Berkshire Legislators Paul Mark and Tricia Farley-Bouvier as well as representatives from Spectrum Health Center to learn more about Berkshire County's unique social and political context and their experience with the opioid epidemic thus far and determine whether or not decriminalization makes sense for Berkshire County.

    Analysis of data from Portugal suggests decriminalization has been successful so far in reducing rates of drug use, decreasing strain on the criminal justice system, and using resources in more efficient ways in Portugal. However, because of differences between the Berkshires and Portugal, the exact policy changes enacted in Portugal would not be successful in Berkshire County. Complete decriminalization would most likely be met with opposition in the Berkshires, so community education efforts about the science behind addiction are a necessary first step towards creating better long-term policy that leans towards decriminalization and acceptance of medication assisted treatment. Policy should focus on shifting resources from criminal justice efforts to community education and increasing accessibility to treatment facilities which is a major drawback due to Berkshire County's rural status. Shifting the attitude towards drug use and abuse from a criminal justice problem to a public health issue is essential and paves the way for future decriminalization policy to be enacted and successfully implemented.

  • Regina Fink

    This report details the failures of public transportation into northern Bergen County, New Jersey, specifically Tenafly’s rejection of the Northern Branch extension of the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail (HBLR) line. It outlines how this policy failure disproportionately impacts low-income residents of color by presenting a brief national history of segregation and injustice, as well as Bergen County's own history of separatism and anti-regionalism. It focuses on the separation from and hierarchy between the urban (southern Bergen County, Hudson County, and New York City) and the suburban. This report additionally addresses the emerging Northern Valley Greenway project, and situates its goals within Tenafly’s history of segregation and earlier anti-rail efforts. After deconstructing the plan’s greenwashing efforts, the report recommends Concept C, outlined in the Technical Planning Assistance report, to keep the tracks available for future light rail in the towns through which the Greenway would run. Although, as outlined in this report, Concept A can be more ecological as well as justice-focused, the preference for Concept C is supported by environmental, economic, and justice-oriented concerns.

  • Kayla GillmanTo confront the realities of the American carceral system, we have to bring the prison, which is often hidden from public consciousness, into our lives, our collective vision, and our societal imagination. My project looks at prison education as a potential site for this work. I survey existing prison education programs that aim to interrogate the criminal legal system, and then propose my own plan, pulling from each surveyed program. Additionally, my proposal responds to a paradox that I see as particularly pressing in the criminal legal system: the criminal legal system leaves us seeing one another as statistics, while we are individuals, but seeing each other only as individuals disallows us from seeing the system as a whole. So the question arises: can we see each other and the system, and simultaneously create a better world and a better system for righting wrongs and supporting one another? I do not purport to solve this, but in my proposal, I lay out a prison education program that seeks to hold this question at its core. How can we see each other and the system at once? I propose a program predicated on imagination.

    This work is intended to serve as the preliminary research for a course that I hope to actually teach in the Berkshire County Jail and House of Corrections in 2021. For the purpose of this report, I have used dates for Fall of 2020 on my proposed syllabus.

  • This report is meant to highlight the current state of the manufacturing industry located in Berkshire County with an emphasis on advanced manufacturing firms. A survey was conducted to assess the sector in a multitude of fields including R&D, technology, capabilities, local resources, and workforce. These findings are analyzed throughout this report as well as used to support public policy to ensure continued growth among local manufacturers. Sustainable manufacturing, an increase in the supply of skilled labor, and more business collaboration opportunities are examples of improvements within the sector that can be facilitated through both public and private sector assistance. Moreover, this report focuses on ways in which the Berkshire Innovation Center can expand its efforts to help support the growth of the sector. Through its community of members and resources, the BIC has the opportunity to facilitate R&D opportunities, recruit skilled workers, and create partnerships between local resources and businesses. Both the results of the survey and the suggested actions outlined in this report will be used to inform and educate local government legislators, economic development organizations, and local businesses on the successes and needs of the local manufacturing sector. My hope is that this research will encourage further discussions and inspire creative solutions among the private and public sectors to ensure growth within the Berkshire County economy.

  • Jennifer Hernandez

    Despite a growing number of undocumented immigrants and mixed legal status families, undocumented immigrants residing in the United States are often treated as secondclass residents. However, their growing presence demands policymakers pay attention to and account for the increased need for their identification and safe access to transportation. As of August 2020, less than 20 states have legalized granting driver’s licenses to undocumented drivers. For many undocumented immigrants who have access to reliable private transportation, this represents a greater sense of security and easier access to employment while ensuring greater safety for all drivers. My research looked into the labor market outcomes of the undocumented community when their state of residence passed a more inclusive driver’s license policy. Also, I considered how local communities and their economies can benefit from this policy in the form of public safety and greater revenue as a result of higher private transportation use.

    While my project focuses heavily on the effect of granting driver's licenses for the undocumented community, there is also discussion on how transportation policy and accessibility can leave a major impact on the labor market outcomes of marginalized and low-income populations. I was interested in how research dedicated to improving transportation access for families on welfare and other low-income assistance programs could be applied to undocumented families, who experience higher rates of economic instability than families whose parents have legal status. I also go into depth about why relying solely on public transportation is not enough to uplift undocumented workers, especially those living in southern/midwestern metropolitan areas and rural areas.

    In order to examine the effect this policy has on undocumented workers, I examined the wages of likely undocumented workers in California 3 years prior to and after the policy was implemented. I contrasted these results with likely undocumented workers in Arizona, where the policy has not yet passed. I found that while average wages had not been significantly impacted in the three years after the passage of this policy, labor participation rates for likely undocumented women did experience an increase of nearly 2% one year after the policy enacted. This led me to the conclusion that increasing access to driver’s licenses is correlated with positive labor market outcomes for undocumented workers, specifically undocumented women.

    This Sentinels report provides insight into how undocumented communities themselves experience positive economic benefits by providing empirical research and discussion of other relevant literature.

  • Elizabeth Hughes

    This report examines the relationship between state level voting procedures and methods on overall voter turnout for the 2020 presidential primary elections. A literature review revealed that voter turnout is heavily impacted by individual cost and benefit analysis and demographic group membership. A state level analysis of primary turnout data and seven state case studies at the county level determined that the overall primary turnout was generally higher in states that instituted measures to increase the ease and accessibility of voting, such as sending all registered voters ballot application forms. The county level case studies indicate that these states also generally experienced lower rates of repressed turnout among historically underrepresented demographic groups. While there is no one method that can ensure elevated turnout across all geographic areas and demographic groups, the results of the 2020 primaries are evidence in support of robust and accessible vote by mail options being implemented at the state level in addition to potential in-person voting opportunities.

  • Ethan Kendall

    Since its beginnings in late 2007, the peer-to-peer hospitality company Airbnb has come to radically transform and ultimately dominate the marketplace for short-term rentals in cities and other destinations around the world. Now only twelve years operating, Airbnb boasts more than seven million listings worldwide: that's more listings than the six largest global hotel groups have rooms, combined. While the short-term rental of residential property by travelers and tourists has been a popular and widespread practice for at least two hundred years, the supercharged growth of Airbnb and resulting short-term rental activity across the United States has garnered considerable focus and concern from policymakers, critics and local permanent residents. As Airbnb has increasingly populated American cities with these types of rental properties, it has often been blamed for contributing to an array of serious social and economic issues ranging from urban decay, declining neighborhood quality and community dysfunction to homelessness and a lack of affordable housing.

    One of the most common complaints about short-term rental properties is that the visitors attracted by these rentals generate localized adverse consequences for permanent residents, making the neighborhoods in which these properties are located less attractive to live in. In this analysis we present a variety of approaches for estimating the impact of increased short-term rental activity on local neighborhood quality, using publicly available data on Airbnb rental activity and city service requests to implement these approaches in the context of New York City, Airbnb's largest domestic market. Using neighborhood complaints from the city's 311 system as a proxy for neighborhood quality in the most conventional sense, we estimate highly statistically significant positive effects across modeling designs and different measures of short-term rental activity, though the magnitude of these effects range significantly in some cases. These estimates suggest that doubling local short-term rental activity results in an increase in neighborhood complaints likely ranging from 10.8% to 25.8%, though effects may be as small 2.4%. All together, this research makes us more confident that there are substantial and consistently occurring localized externalities— noise, parties, increased parking difficulties and increased traffic— that result from short-term rental activity in city neighborhoods.

  • Isaiah Krugman

    My research focused on undergraduate advising models in the United States. In my report, I outline some of the major challenges facing higher education today, particularly higher education's inability to keep pace with the needs of expanding and diversifying student bodies. I likewise list the current goals of advising programs as they stand and new problems which advising programs might be able to solve. I then delineate three major types of advising practices: teaching, coaching, and mentoring. Each of these practices has benefits and deficiencies, but advising as coaching or mentoring have the greatest potential to fulfill the student needs gap. I contextualize these practices by showing the different types of "systems" in which advising is found. Each system revolves around who is serving as the advisor, be it faculty, professional advisors, or student peers. Each system is better suited to the particular challenges faced by some institutions more than others and better able to support some advising practices more than others. Ultimately, I conclude a holistic and team-based approach, modified for the challenges of a particular institution, is most able to meet the needs of the whole student.

  • Lydia Kurtz

    My research evaluates the impacts of the Opportunity Zone Bill– a provision of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that seeks to encourage private development in distressed areas through tax credits– on neighborhood redevelopment trends in Cincinnati, Ohio. I was specifically interested in evaluating whether the Opportunity Zone Bill has had direct impacts on the property valuation and development patterns in Cincinnati's urban core. To evaluate these trends, I compared and contrasted property sales data in Opportunity Zones vs. non-Opportunity Zones. Throughout my analysis I paid particular attention to the impacts of investment from public-private partnerships on redevelopment trends. Specifically, the Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation (3CDC). After completing my analysis of the Opportunity Zone Bill and its impacts on neighborhood redevelopment processes in Cincinnati, Ohio, I have concluded that there have been significant changes in investor tendencies –associated with the work of 3CDC– that correlate strongly with the timeline of the implementation of the Opportunity Zone designation; however, at this point in time, it is not clear whether the long term implications of these trends will have positive impacts on neighborhood revitalization in Cincinnati.

  • Jason Mazique

    While many states and countries experimented with some form of cost-control or hospital rate setting over the past half-century, Maryland is the only state to successfully employ and maintain an all-payer rate setting system. All-payer rate setting promotes joint private-public collaboration through the creation of an independent commission comprised of top healthcare and insurance officials which set hospital prices for all major procedures and conditions. Despite this success, there is a notable lack of research into disaggregating the effects of Maryland’s all-payer model on certain demographics, including rural and urban residents, that disproportionately suffer from adverse health effects within the state. As a result, a mixed method analysis offers insight into the manners in which the all-payer rate setting system affects rural and urban subpopulations in Maryland in comparison to other states. Quantitative results indicate that Maryland achieved notable improvement with regards to both Age/Sex Adjusted Rate of Discharge per 100,000 persons and hospital-wide and condition-specific Risk-Standardized Readmissions Rates while simultaneously reducing variation in Mean Cost Per Stay between rural and urban counties. Among other quality, cost, and communication metrics, Maryland performed equivalent to Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and the national average or slightly worse. Qualitative results, however, highlight that Maryland's all-payer system may not account for the increasing complexity of comorbidities in healthcare, the contribution of other systemic factors to poor health outcomes, and the diminishing returns of state-led incentivization programs.

  • Eli MillerAs New York City's coronavirus outbreak surged in late March 2020, city officials took measures to depopulate the New York City jail system by discharging hundreds of inmates. As a result, the jail population dropped from about 5,000 to about 3,300 in the span of two weeks. From my analysis of the dataset made available on NYC Open Data, I find that the March 2020 drop in population was largely driven by a higher-than-expected number of detainee discharges, a slightly higher-than-expected number of city sentenced inmate discharges, and crucially, a dramatic drop in inmate admissions. Length of time spent in jail was much more closely correlated with likelihood of discharge than inmate age. In other words, the inmates discharged tended to fit the profile of inmates that the city felt needed to be in jail the least. This indicates that the de Blasio administration's discharge and admission policies at this time were focussed on reducing the jail population as much as possible, rather than purely discharging specific at-risk individuals. It also indicates that, even after multiple efforts by the city and state government to reduce jail populations and prevent "unnecessary" detentions, there were still people in jail in March 2020, who by some standards did not "need" to be there.

  • Nikhil OstranderNuclear power has been an integral part of the Northeastern US power grid over the past half century. From 1966-1979, eight nuclear power stations were commissioned in the region, including three in New York, two in Massachusetts, one in Connecticut, one in Maine, and one in Vermont. Yet, many of these nuclear power generating facilities are nearing the end of their useful life cycles. A majority of the nuclear power sites in the Northeast have either been decommissioned or are approaching their decommissioning dates, with a few already cleared of power generation facilities.

    In the process of decommissioning, buildings and reactors are removed from the nuclear site and the highly radioactive nuclear wastes generated in power production are safely disposed of. For low level radioactive wastes, disposal has proven to be relatively simple in the Northeast as there exist many depositories for low level waste in New England and New York. However, disposal of high level waste has proven difficult, as there does not exist a national high level radioactive waste depository in the United States.

    Contained within the commissioning agreements for these nuclear power sites is a Department of Energy obligation to remove spent nuclear fuel and other radioactive material from nuclear sites a year after the respective site is decommissioned. The DOE has failed to meet this obligation for nuclear power plants decommissioned in the Northeast, resulting in these high level wastes being stored on their respective nuclear power generation site in dry-cask storage containers. Leaving these high level wastes on site is problematic in a variety of ways: it has left the DOE vulnerable to litigation from nuclear site owners and poses a potential additional cost burden on the communities surrounding these sites.

    This report addresses questions centered around this public policy failure. Is the impact on the market value of residential property reduced by halting commercial nuclear power generation at the site? Does the presence of high level dry-cask nuclear waste storage have a clearly measurable impact on the market value of residential property? What can be stated about the cost burden of the public policy failure to provide a permanent solution for high-level nuclear waste storage?

  • Halle Schweizer

    Whether scraping a knee, losing a softball game, or failing a test, everyone experiences mild adversity as a child. These inconveniences and disappointments build resilience: our capacity to recover from adversity in a healthy way and continue along our previous trajectories. However, many children experience much more intense and frequent adversity that actually threatens their resilience and diminishes their feelings of hope and predictability. These instances are not uncommon, either: nearly 35 million children in the United States have experienced at least one type of trauma (Souers and Hall, 2016). Even among children ages 2-5, one study found that 52 percent of them had already experienced severe adversity in their lifetime. When shocks to a child's environment and sense of safety are so strong, persistent, and overwhelming, a child is experiencing trauma or, as this paper will further explain, Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs).

    Having conducted an extensive literature review from fields such as public health, psychology, biology, and economics, I synthesize common themes from different disciplines that, in combination, represent the current understandings of the lifetime trajectory of children who experience trauma. Part I establishes the scope and magnitude of childhood trauma and its associated health and economic outcomes. Part II evaluates the biological mechanisms through which early adversity affects one's health and economic trajectory. This section discusses education and health as forms of human capital that help to explain the pathway from childhood trauma to adverse outcomes in adulthood. Finally, Part III is designed specifically for educators and examines the mitigating factors that buffer the effects of childhood trauma, including social support and trauma-informed pedagogy.

  • The achievement gap is the persistent disparities in academic performance between students due to their SES (socioeconomic status), race/ethnicity, and gender. This report utilizes current psychology research on effective educational strategies to inform policy reform regarding the achievement gap on the state level. It aims to not only inform the public about policy reform but also encourage educators to employ effective teaching methods, instead of those based on traditions or hearsay, so more Black, low-SES students can receive high-quality education. I accomplished this by first identifying effective educational practices that could narrow the achievement gap by examining the latest psychology research, answering questions on what effective teaching practices and optimal school environments look like, and investigating how certain schools were able to defy the achievement gap, such as the KIPP (Knowledge Is Power Program) Charter School Network and the HCZ (Harlem’s Children's Zone). I found that although the most effective interventions in addressing the achievement gap are during early childhood, in-school factors, which account for one-third of the achievement gap, are more important for middle and high school students. The most effective school practices are spaced learning over time and using quizzes to re-expose students to information; when analyzing schools that defy the achievement gap, the most common practices include many crossovers with those recommended by research as well as a “whatever it takes” mentality and ensuring high-quality instruction in the classroom. Due to the crossovers between strongly effective educational practices indicated by research and those employed by KIPP and HCZ, there could be a causal relationship between the employment of effective school practices and the narrowing of the racial and SES achievement gap.

    I compared these findings to the United States educational policy; through the comparisons, I posited whether the achievement gap can be linked to ineffective state education policy and, if so, outline my recommendations for state policy reform. My conclusion is that although implications for the state educational policy remain uncertain, I recommend the policy to have a lesser focus on community, more detailed requirements on the specific school practices, and a larger budget to build local school structures.