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Spring 2019 Projects and Theses

Posted by on Monday, May 6, 2019 in Final Projects and Theses, .

CDA students are required to complete, at a minimum, 30 hours of coursework, 300 hours of practicum work, and one of two final assessment options: a master’s thesis or a final project. The master’s thesis is an experience in independent scholarly research which is intended to contribute to the field of community development. The final project integrates the CDA core philosophy, coursework, and field experience.

Congratulations to our May 2019 Graduates on their successful completion of these milestones! Keep reading to learn more about some of their Final Projects & Theses…

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Erin Boddy
Final Project
Thistle U: Empowerment and Employment at Thistle Farms and Beyond

I completed my practicum hours and final project at Thistle Farms’, a social enterprise run by women who have experienced trafficking, prostitution, and addiction. For my project, I led the creation and implementation of “Thistle U,” a program that was developed in response to a growing recognition of the need for further education and job preparedness skills for residents and graduates of the residential program. Its central goal is to expand participants’ opportunity for economic independence and upward mobility.


Alexis R. Butler
Improving Federal Housing Inspection Standards Through the Implementation of Change Management Strategies

Due to federal budget cuts, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has experienced difficulties in maintaining safe and sanitary housing for all homes within its portfolio. In addition to a lack of resources, the agency has faced further challenges following reports of inefficient and erroneous inspection procedures that have adversely impacted the quality of life for those residing in HUD subsidized properties. Through an internship with the Virtual Student Federal Service (VSFS) program, this project uses interviews, a review of the literature, and case studies to explore the applicability of change management strategies in bureaucratic systems. By providing a framework for facilitating organizational change, this project aims to support HUD’s efforts to produce federal housing standards that are informed, replicable, and scalable. Consequently, this project begins the change management process through the collection and analysis of feedback from agency employees. Findings from this project accentuate a key strength of the agency’s internal infrastructure: its employees; and demonstrates support for the use of change management strategies in improving the housing inspection process.



Jordan Jurinsky, M.Ed.

The Association Between Marital Communication and Depressive Symptomology Among Men and Women in Rural Uganda

Depression is a major contributor to the global burden of disease. Previous research has shown that spousal support can impact psychological well-being; however, little is known about how spousal communication may impact psychological well-being in low- and middle-income countries. This study aims to explore the extent to which perceived frequency of easy spousal communication is associated with probable depression among men and women in rural Uganda. Data were collected from 961 adults who were married or had a main partner. Adults resided in eight villages across southwest rural Uganda and had participated in a cross-sectional, population-based study (response rate = 96%). An adapted Hopkins Symptom Checklist for Depression measured depression symptom severity, and multivariate logistic regression analyses were conducted. Women who reported that it is never easy to talk about issues with their partner were 7.3 times (95% CI 2.7, 20.8) more likely to have probable depression compared to women who thought it was always easy, and women who thought it was rarely easy were 2.9 times (95% CI 1.7, 5.0) more likely. There were no significant associations for men. In a context with strict gender roles, limited mental health resources, and significant stigma, strategies are needed to identify and support people experiencing depression symptoms. Trainings and workshops on communication strategies led by community health workers might be a novel pathway to address this need.

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Hanna Naum-Stoian
“Now I Feel Like I Can Make a Difference”: Evaluating the Effects of a Placemaking PAR Project on Youth Psychological Empowerment

Youth-led Participatory Action Research (YPAR) is a collaboration in which experienced researchers assist youth in facilitating research that answers questions that directly impact their lives. The majority of previous studies focused on YPAR tend to scrutinize research conducted by youth and outcomes produced, but little attention has been given to how the process conducting this research affects the youth themselves. To address this gap in the literature, this study seeks to understand the influence of a three-week YPAR placemaking project on the (14) youth researchers that conducted it. This evaluation was performed through individual semi-structured interviews. Specific items were created in alignment with Zimmerman’s (2000) aspects of psychological empowerment in mind. Responses were coded to reflect whether a participant expressed a sense of competence in mobilizing community action and research, of control in creating social change, and of a sociopolitical understanding of the issues facing their neighborhood and/or their city. Additional items explored the youth’s overall experience during the project. As the research was conducted in the area surrounding a cultural and religious site with which the majority of the participants were affiliated, some items were designed to understand how conducting action research in this context specifically influenced the youth. These additional items were analyzed using a grounded theory approach. All participants displayed some form of psychological empowerment in their responses. Additional themes from the interviews included the importance of lived experience and community belonging, the ways youth may be influenced by a tight-knit community, the importance of diverse perspectives, gatherings as a stage upon which change can be set, the importance of public spaces that are cost-free, and placemaking as a way to keep communities culturally tied.

Lauren Pearce
The Invisible Land

This critical discourse analysis of a representative World Bank land acquisition research document analyzes the development themes, assumptions, and values present in the discursive event, evaluating the document as both indicative of and influential on greater land development discourse. It seeks to understand how the World Bank utilizes and then positions itself within the greater development discussion. The conceptions and representations of land, labor, and peoples found in the discursive event reflect development beliefs that render invisible non-industry-oriented values and uses. Contradictions were present, with select statements condemning development assumptions present elsewhere in the document. Evaluative, production-oriented development assumptions are found to be applied to both land user and external investor. Discursive elements found in the document serve to obfuscate the subaltern knowledges, non-production and capital-based land uses, and non-binary relationships between the Global North and the Global South. These are elements already present in development discussion and further solidified through the influence of the World Bank. There is a need for further research on the discursive elements of the peoples affected by land grabs as well.


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