Monday, February 24, 2014

Student research: funding structure for HOPE Scholarship

Written by Shaun Kleber, UGA sophomore from Atlanta and Carl Vinson Institute of Government Student Fellow. He is pursuing a dual degree in international affairs and political science.

Since its inception in 1993, the HOPE Scholarship has disbursed billions of dollars to hundreds of thousands of Georgia students. It has helped the University of Georgia transform from a school with below-average admissions selectively to one of the top public schools in the nation. And, probably most importantly, it has provided economically disadvantaged students with an opportunity at higher education they may not have had otherwise.

But because of the unreliability of lottery funds-the source of funding for the HOPE Scholarship-the program is potentially facing dramatic changes and even cuts.

The Carl Vinson Institute of Government strives to improve government at many levels, and as a Vinson Institute Fellow this semester, I am hoping to further that goal by investigating the best way to improve the funding structure for the HOPE Scholarship.

I am working with faculty mentor Wes Clarke, senior public service associate at the Institute of Government, who researched the efficacy of this scholarship program in the early 2000s and has an impressive background in economic research. While my background and interests lie more in education policy than economics, I am looking forward to working with Dr. Clarke to investigate this timely topic that is relevant to so many students at UGA and other colleges and universities around the state.

Student research: policy for change in Georgia's coastal communities

Written by Kirstie Hostetter, a UGA sophomore and Carl Vinson Institute of Government Student Fellow. She is pursuing a degree in environmental economics and management. 

When I was little, I dreamed of being the first female president of the United States. I wanted to fix people's problems, and thought the best way of doing that was through politics. Later, at UGA, I discovered an organization called the Roosevelt Institute, and I realized that for me a better way to help people is through policy, not politics. And so began my love of public policy research.

Through the Roosevelt Institute, a student-run policy think tank, I learned how to identify a problem in society, research it, and come up with policy alternatives. And through Roosevelt, I got the opportunity to participate in the Vinson Institute Fellows Program and conduct a semester-long policy research project.

Interning at the Carl Vinson Institute of Government has been a thrilling and enlightening experience. I am working this semester with my faculty mentor, Jason Evans, an environmental sustainability analyst, to develop policy solutions for coastal communities throughout the state of Georgia and elsewhere that address the dangers of rising sea levels.

The experience has been intensive -- the amount of literature on the science of sea level rise is incredible, not to mention the studies of how it affects individual communities differently. What keeps me motivated is the drive and dedication of the team of people I work with. They work with these communities as if they were their own, listening to scientific experts but also equally to the concerns of people who live there and know the area more intimately.

In many ways I think public policy, when done with a genuine desire to help, can be a gift to a community. It provides the voiceless with an outlet for their concerns and their troubles. The people I work with at the Institute of Government have really highlighted this element of the policy process for me. When you focus on listening instead of fixing, you come up with a better solution and people who are truly grateful for your involvement.

I hope to carry this lesson with me into the future and apply it to all my endeavors, public policy-related or not. My experience so far in the Fellows Program has given me a greater desire than ever to make sure that my future includes public service through policy development.

Student research: preparing for pandemic in Georgia communities

Written by Amelia Watson, a UGA sophomore and Carl Vinson Institute of Government Student Fellow. She is pursuing a bachelor's of environmental health science and a master's in public health.

This semester as a Fellow at the Carl Vinson Institute of Government, I am planning to research how prepared Georgia's communities are for different types of health disasters and explore the relationships between different parts of the preparedness community.

On the first day of my fellowship I was filled with nervous butterflies, but this feeling subsided after meeting with my amazing mentor, Stacy Jones, the Institute's associate director of governmental training, education and development. As we discussed which research projects I could tackle, we began to hone in on the topic of pandemic preparedness at the community level in Georgia.

In March 2013, Congress reauthorized the Pandemic and All Hazards Preparedness Act to affirm the important of pandemic preparedness throughout the country. This law, complementing the original legislation adopted in 2006, seeks to further strengthen national health security by authorizing grants for preparedness capacity programs at the state, local and hospital levels. These grants emphasize participation in disaster exercises and building partnerships within local, state and federal authorities.

The amount of time between disaster identification and response is critical to the health of the community in many ways. I will be researching how communities in Georgia are preparing in accordance with this.

The Pandemic Preparedness Act gives new flexibility to the state health departments for how they spend resources during a disaster; states can temporarily reassign federally funded personnel to urgent events like a pandemic, even if their normal job is not related to the emergency. The Georgia Department of Public Health is preparing by partnering with both public and private sectors to ensure Georgia's citizens are taken care of during a health emergency. In addition, Georgia's court system and the Georgia Department of Education have released documents on what they would do in the midst of a pandemic.

Coordinating efforts is very important, as is maintaining critical relationships during a health emergency. Training for this type of emergency is crucial because miscommunication and the lack of proper planning could be disastrous for Georgia communities. I look forward to working on this project, as well as the rest of my semester at the Institute of Government.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Student research: CVIOG Fellow looks at the harmful effects of child marriages overseas

Written by Kathleen Wilson, UGA sophomore and Carl Vinson Institute of Government Student Fellow. She is a double major in economic and international affairs with minors in French and Arabic.

This semester, I am one of four Vinson Institute Fellows at UGA's Carl Vinson Institute of Government. I'm working in the Institute's International Center with Director Rusty Brooks. As soon as I met Dr. Brooks, I was impressed with his vast experience in international policy and relations. He is very supportive of my interest in international women's rights policy and has encouraged me to pursue research in the areas that most interest me. Having spent last semester researching female literacy policy in Afghanistan, I have decided to expand my knowledge of international women's rights policy and examine child marriages in refugee camps during my semester in the Vinson Institute Fellows Program.

Why? It has been well-demonstrated that child marriages are physically, intellectually and emotionally harmful to the well-being of child brides. In refugee camps, without many medical facilities or economic opportunities, children forced into marriages face even larger risks for these negative effects of child marriages. Yet, child marriages often occur at higher rates within refugee camps because parents view marriage as one of the only ways to provide for their children's future. Thus, parents who think they are doing what is best for their children are actually subjecting them to more potential harm. Through my research this semester, I will be analyzing child marriages in refugee camps and exploring different policies that can help decrease these marriages. It is my goal to establish a framework that will help protect these victims of child marriages in refugee camps and increase their future opportunities.