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    2013 Impact Award Winners for Research Benefitting the State of North Carolina

    The Graduate Student Recognition Celebration, which began in 1999, recognizes students who receive prestigious fellowships and awards. These honorees are providing leadership that is making a significant contribution to the mission of the UNC at Chapel Hill and to a wide variety of fields of study.


    2013 Impact Award Winners

    Graduate Students Serve North Carolina

    The Graduate Student Recognition Celebration, which began in 1999, recognizes students who receive prestigious fellowships and awards. These honorees are providing leadership that is making a significant contribution to the mission of the UNC at Chapel Hill and to a wide variety of fields of study.

    “Graduate students advance valuable knowledge in their fields of study, they lead community service efforts and they teach undergraduates,” said Graduate School Dean Steven W. Matson. “They make enormous contributions that benefit their University, North Carolina and the world. This annual event truly is a celebration, of graduate student accomplishments as well as the collaborative academic community that supports their success.”

    copy_of_wardlyles200.jpgPlanner Involvement Needed in Efforts to Reduce Disaster Risks
    Ward Lyles

    In the 2000s, North Carolina experienced nearly $500 million in costs from the state's eight most damaging natural disasters. As the state's communities seek to lessen storm-related damage, land-use planning and hazard mitigation need to be increasingly connected.

    "Ward's research offers an important contribution to knowledge on the effects of local decisions on mitigation planning processes, communication, and effectiveness of risk reduction outcomes," said advisor Philip Berke, Ph.D.

    Ward Lyles, Ph.D., examined local mitigation plans for 175 jurisdictions in six states, including 30 jurisdictions in North Carolina. He found that including a jurisdiction's own local planner in planning processes, which are typically led by emergency managers, is related to a 240 percent higher number of land use approaches included for future action in its hazard mitigation plan.

    He then analyzed data for two Florida counties and two North Carolina counties. In particular, the New Hanover County (N.C.) case showed that when planners had strong connections to emergency managers and were in more central positions in the mitigation stakeholder network, land use approaches were a core part of the strategy for mitigating hazards.

    Ward's results show how involving local planners in creating North Carolina's hazard mitigation plans can contribute to more proactive strategies for protecting citizens from storm hazards.

    KevinPark200.jpgNorth Carolina Housing and Mortgage Lending Data
    Kevin Park

    Foreclosure records and other housing-related data are often publicly available, but scattered in unwieldy databases.

    UNC-Chapel Hill Center for Community Capital research assistant and doctoral student Kevin Park created an interactive website ( that incorporates foreclosure data from the Administrative Office of the Courts for North Carolina's 100 counties. Site users can gain a general sense of a county's foreclosure activity by looking at the map and also learn the precise number of foreclosure starts in a given year by scrolling over a specific county. Kevin's website also incorporates data on new home construction, lending patterns, housing vacancy, unemployment and housing prices.

    "Facts are a prerequisite for sound policy efforts to increase the well being of all North Carolinians. Unfortunately, too often the information needed does not exist or is fragmented across many sources inaccessible to those who need them. Kevin's site addresses the latter problem," said advisor Roberto G. Quercia, Ph.D.

    Working with the UNC-Chapel Hill Center for Urban and Regional Studies, he also created a website that examines the economic health of 44 large N.C. municipalities (

    Providing policymakers, researchers and N.C. citizens with more streamlined access to housing and mortgage lending data can allow for a more accurate view of communities in distress and their specific economic needs.

    asteephen200.jpgBuilding Integrated Communities
    Anisha Steephen

    Nearly a decade ago, the Brookings Institution labeled three N.C. areas as "pre-emerging" immigrant metropolitan gateways: Raleigh/Durham, Greensboro/Winston-Salem and Charlotte. The need for immigrant integration strategies in the state is critical, now more than ever.

    Anisha Steephen, who received her master's degree in 2012, sought to increase understanding of local government's role in integration policies.

    As part of a two-year project, Anisha identified more than 100 best practices nationwide to inform North Carolina's local outreach to immigrants. She also worked with Hannah Gill, Ph.D., and Mai Nguyen, Ph.D., to facilitate innovative immigrant integration practices in Greenville, High Point and Orange County. Among her contributions to this project, she conducted statistical analyses of the immigrant population in each of the study sites, and interviewed stakeholders to determine the assets and needs of the immigrant community.

    "Anisha's research will have an impact by extending the knowledge about how local jurisdictions can engage in multi-institutional and multi-sector planning for immigrant integration," said advisor Mai Nguyen, Ph.D. "Her work has already had an impact in the cities of Greenville, High Point and Durham."

    Anisha's research was important in the creation of community action plans for two of the three study jurisdictions. Her findings will lead to enhanced local polices that integrate migrants into new destinations where they can make valuable contributions.

    AlyssaWhittenborn200.jpgAgricultural Nutrient Management in the Neuse River Basin
    Alyssa Wittenborn

    North Carolina has adopted regulations aimed at nitrogen pollution sources in several river basins.

    The Neuse Nutrient Management Rule requires agricultural producers in the Neuse River Basin who manage or apply fertilizer to 50 or more acres of cropland either to participate in a nutrient management training workshop or develop a farm-specific plan for managing nutrients. The rule does not require producers to take any specific actions to protect water quality.

    Using data from a telephone survey of 415 agricultural producers, Alyssa Wittenborn, Ph.D., evaluated the rule's effectiveness in encouraging voluntary adoption of best management practices regarding water quality. The N.C. Division of Water Quality funded the survey. She collaborated with N.C. State University faculty to develop the questions.

    Alyssa found that the rule increased use of practices that promote judicious application of fertilizers. However, the structure of the rule undermines the practice of planting cover crops in the winter to remove excess nitrogen from the soil and prevent it from being washed into surface waters. The study also identifies types of producers who are not well-informed about the rule.

    "As one of the few studies of its kind in the United States, this study has provided substantial insights about farmer responses and program effectiveness. Her findings contradict stereotypical views of farmer resistance to adoption of programs," said advisor David Moreau, Ph.D.

    These results can help the state more effectively target outreach, enhance design of the current rule, and develop more successful future strategies.

    Prestigious External Fellowship Winners

    The Graduate Student Recognition Celebration also recognized the following DCRP students who have won external fellowships and awards:

    • Gwen Kash, USDOT Dwight D. Eisenhower Transportation Fellowship Program; Rural and Intercity Bus Transportation Graduate Student Research Contest
    • Danielle Spurlock, Lincoln Institute Dissertation Fellowship
    • Cristian Erik Vergel, Fulbright Fellowship for Non-U.S. Students; National Planning Department of Colombia Scholarship
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