Their research may take them down different paths, but the work of two California State University, Northridge professors could have lasting impact on the lives of Los Angelenos. In the meantime, it has earned them fellowships from the John Randolph Haynes and Dora Haynes Foundation.
Urban studies professor Kenya Covington and secondary education professor Monica Garcia each received a $12,000 fellowship from the Haynes Foundation, which supports social science research that has implications for policy and action in the Los Angeles region.
Covington is studying what factors impacted neighborhood stabilization in 61 Los Angeles area communities during the recent housing crisis. Garcia is looking into what factors, whether at school, at home or in the community, influence a Latina high school student’s academic success.
“It feels really good to have this kind of support for our work,” Covington said of the fellowships. “We were going against some of the top faculty at some of the top universities in the region. To get fellowships like this is quite an honor.”
“We’re looking at a topic where a lot of assumptions are made, but the solutions may be very complex,” she said.
Garcia is working with a colleague at California State University, Long Beach to find out what makes the difference for high-achieving high school Latinas.
“We’re getting some literature on how Latinas/os overcome barriers to high school graduation and achieve college readiness,” she said.
“What we are hearing so far is anecdotal,” Garcia continued. “No one has identified institutionalized programs or policies. Instead, what we hear about are individual persons or things that made the difference in a girl’s life. What are the factors at play? If we can identify them, perhaps we can find some way to use them as models to increase academic achievement for other young women.”
Covington’s research focuses on the federal government’s response during the recent housing crisis, during which the Los Angeles metropolitan area was hit hard with foreclosures and home abandonment. A neighborhood stabilization program was created to encourage creative collaborations between organizations that traditionally did not work together.
“The problem is,” said Covington, “we’re now in year three of this program, and we don’t have a comprehensive understanding of what these collaborations are, what strategies they are using and how effective they are.”
Covington and a team of four undergraduate students will be culling through governmental and community records to gather as much data as they can about the various programs in 61 neighborhoods in the Los Angeles area.
During the height of the housing crisis, Covington said government and community leaders were open to any and all ideas that might alleviate the problem.
“There were a whole mix of approaches that were used—rehabilitation of old buildings, transit-oriented development, pedestrian-oriented development and others—all over L.A.,” she said. “We need to determine how effective approaches were, and if they accomplished their goals.”
She also hopes to explore a related question: What features make some neighborhoods more resilient and do land-use patterns, such as dense residential development or walkable community designs, allow neighborhoods to be more responsive to program efforts?
Both professors are in the beginning stages of their research and hope to have some results within the next academic year.
Covington added “this generous seed money from the John Randolph Haynes and Dora Haynes Foundation will lead to further proposal development for a more extensive research project in a couple of years.”
California State University, Northridge has more than 34,000 full- and part-time students and offers 66 bachelor’s and 53 master’s degrees as well as 28 teaching credential programs. Founded in 1958, CSUN is among the largest single-campus universities in the nation and the only four-year public university in the San Fernando Valley. The university is home to dozens of nationally recognized programs where students gain valuable hands-on experience working alongside faculty and industry professionals, whether in the sciences, health care and engineering or education, political science, the arts and the social sciences. While regionally focused, the university’s faculty and administrators recognize the important role its students and alumni play in shaping the future of the state and the nation.