Six Emerging Scholars Receive Awards from RAND Gulf States Policy Institute for Research on Key Gulf Policy Questions

For Release

May 29, 2007

The RAND Gulf States Policy Institute (RGSPI) announced today that it has awarded $110,000 in scholarships to six graduate students to support their dissertation and thesis research on topics that will stimulate evidence-based policy direction for the Gulf States region.

RGSPI is a partnership between the RAND Corporation, a nonprofit research organization, and seven universities in the Gulf States region. The Institute, based in Jackson, Miss., was launched at the end of 2005, following the massive destruction to the Gulf States region by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and their aftermath.

RGSPI is cultivating evidence-based policy guidance to advance regional recovery and growth and to address social, economic, and human development challenges that confronted Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi even before the hurricanes and that persist in their aftermath.

The RGSPI Scholars Awards are made possible by a grant from the Henry Luce Foundation. The grants, which range from $20,000 each for the dissertations to $10,000 for the thesis, encourage significant policy research by graduate students at RGSPI partner universities and the Pardee RAND Graduate School on the most pressing issues facing the Gulf States region. Topics may address issues that evolved following the hurricanes, or may cover longer-term systemic issues in the region.

The selected graduate students and their research areas are:

  • Kimberly Solet, of the University of New Orleans, Urban Studies Department, for her proposed dissertation on “The Implications of Rural Gentrification through Hurricanes, Tourism and Recreational Fishing on Four Coastal Communities in the Northern Gulf of Mexico.”
  • Patricia Michelle Buzard, of the University of Southern Mississippi, Department of History, for her proposed dissertation on the transformation of racial justice from 1800 to 2006 titled “Race and Justice in Mississippi's Central Piney Woods.”
  • Jordan Fischbach, of the Pardee RAND Graduate School, policy analysis, for his proposed dissertation titled “Planning for an Unknown Storm: Managing Flood Risk in New Orleans in an Uncertain Future.”
  • Melissa Abelev, of Tulane University, Department of Sociology, for her proposed dissertation on escaping poverty titled “Habitat to Change Habitus: When People Who 'Should' be Poor, Aren't.”
  • Rebecca F. Hazen, of Tulane University, Graduate School of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, for her proposed dissertation on the extent to which population dynamics of outbreak-prone caterpillars have been decoupled as a result of the recent extreme climatic events in the Gulf States.
  • Melissa Pratt-Zossoungbo, of the University of Southern Mississippi, Coastal Sciences, for her proposed master's thesis on the development of a sea grass nursery to provide plants for restoration in Southern Mississippi.

“The dissertation proposals made by these students are exactly the kind of research and analysis needed to generate real-world solutions to help the region recover and grow strong,” said George Penick, director of RGSPI. “By supporting these young and emerging scholars we can advance our efforts to strengthen policy outcomes at the state and local level throughout the Gulf States.”

RGSPI is a collaboration between RAND, including the Pardee RAND Graduate School, and seven universities in the Gulf States region: Jackson State University, Tulane University, Tuskegee University, University of New Orleans, University of South Alabama, University of Southern Mississippi, and Xavier University of Louisiana.

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