Recap of the Fall 2022 URBAN Annual Symposium

On November 4th, we hosted our Fall 2022 URBAN Annual Symposium in the Biology Research Building. A huge hank you to all those who helped organize the event! Here’s a short summary of what the event consisted of:

  • Welcoming Remarks & Overview of BU URBAN
    • Pam Templer, Director of URBAN, gave a brief overview of the program, updates on what is new at URBAN, and an overview of recent program events
    • URBAN Trainees Emma Conrad-Rooney and Katie Atherton presented reflections from the June 2022 URBAN DC Trip, planned with support from BU Federal Relations. They discussed learning from and networking with the Union of Concerned Scientists about research to policy translation and their insights from meeting with Congressional Representatives’ staffers.
  • Trainee Internship Spotlights
    • URBAN Trainees Claudia Diezmartínez, Sam Hall, and Dan Cunha shared about the research they completed as part of their URBAN internships, partnering with governmental and non-governmental organizations as well as the private sector.
  • Lightning Talks on the use of Research & Travel Awards
    • URBAN Trainees Laura Buckley, Caroline Fleming, Sarah Garvey, Kathryn Rogers, and Ian Smith shared how they used their URBAN-sponsored Research & Travel Awards during a round of lightning talks. For instance, URBAN Trainee Ian Smith, a Ph.D. student from the Earth & Environment Department presented on his research, subsidized by an URBAN Research Award, “Where do urban trees get their water?”
  • Panel Discussion
    • Last on the program was a panel discussion moderated by Katharine Lusk and included faculty advisors and an URBAN community partner as participants. The panel focused on research to policy translation to advance environmental justice.
    • Panelists: Kevin Lane (Environmental Health), Lucy Hutyra (Earth & Environment), Masanao Yajima (Math & Statistics), and David Meshoulam (Speak for the Trees, Boston)

After the event, attendees shared that one of the most valuable aspects of the Symposium for them included the overview of URBAN trainees’ internships, which helped trainees get acquainted with the diverse work of URBAN students and inspired ideas for their own internships. They were also inspired by the panel discussion about research informing policy and action that was moderated by Katharine Lusk, Co-Director and Founding Executive Director of the Initiative on Cities.

The panel discussion focused on research to policy translation to advance environmental justice and included panelists David Meshoulam (Co-founder and Executive Director of Speak for the Trees, Boston), Kevin Lane (Assistant Professor of Environmental Health), Lucy Hutyra (Associate Director of BU URBAN, Professor of Earth and Environment, Director of the Biogeoscience Department), and Masanao Yajima (Associate Professor of the Practice in the Department of Math and Statistics, Director of Master of Science in Statistical Practice Consulting). In addition to hearing from panelists about an example of research that led to policy impact, the panel focused on how BU URBAN could better equip students with the skills for research/policy that impacts pressing urban environmental challenges.

Hutyra emphasized that it is important to be able to use plain language that is not overly technical for lay audiences so that they too could engage. Lane highlighted the need for training on conflict resolution, negotiation, and leadership training and for researchers to track metrics that are relevant, have power, and connect with external audiences, including those outside of the United States. Yajima cited the importance of linking research and projects that could become part of students’ portfolios and were tied to their end goals. Meshoulam, an URBAN community partner hosting and collaborating with trainees on an EPA-funded project to map tree equity, highlighted the work of URBAN trainees who brought specimens and scientific tools to bring to life scientific concepts at a workshop for community members, where the audience could ask questions and listen, and where scientific expertise could meet everyday people who may have concerns about their environment. For the leader of Speak for the Trees, Boston, building spaces where people can share stories and science is at the core of democracy.

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