Research

Students graduating with an undergraduate major in Urban Studies have been accepted into some of the premier graduate schools in the country, including but not limited to the Harvard University Law School,  the Harvard University Kennedy School of Government, Duke University,  Northwestern University, the University of Chicago, Yale University,  Columbia University, the University of Pennsylvania, Johns Hopkins University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford University, Georgetown University,  Washington University in St. Louis and  Cornell University  among others. 
 
As an internationally known research university, Washington University in St. Louis recognizes its responsibility to make substantial contributions to these efforts. The Center on Urban Research & Public Policy promises to fulfill this responsibility by becoming a national resource for education, research and public discussion on issues confronting America’s cities. While we are dedicated to the conduct of social science research in metropolitan America, we understand the social, economic and political nexus between ourselves and other cities of the world.
 
Here, you will find substantial work by Urban Studies students. All graduating students in Urban Studies must complete a senior thesis or senior honors thesis, some of which have been published in subsequent research journals. You will also find work published by CURPP and Urban Studies faculty, as well as urban scholars from around the world, that can help you further your knowledge of the issues our cities are facing.

Student Theses

All graduating students in Urban Studies must complete a senior thesis or senior honors thesis, some of which have been published in subsequent research journals.  The following list provides some of the research topics compiled by our distinguished senior students and graduates for their thesis requirement.

Former Student Research Topics

  • A Study of Race and Class in the St. Louis Metropolitan Region 
  • Social Media and News Media:  Ferguson, MO
  • Capitalism and the Carceral State: Who Profits from Mass Incarceration?
  • Urban Universities and Urban Redevelopment:  A Study of Columbia University and the University of Chicago 
  • "Benefits of the Direct Access System of Physical Therapy for Medically Underserved Populations"
  • 'Medicaid Non Expansion: "If You Don't Die from Sickness, You Die When You See the Bill."'
  • "Shaky Foundations: Structural Injustices in Ferguson, Missouri"
  • "Placemaking in Detroit: A Story of Decline, Development, and Displacement"
  • "The Big Business of Community Real Estate Development in the Post - Industrial City"
  • "(Dis) Investment: The Effects of Gentrification in Central Harlem"
  • "The Death and Life of Great American Shopping Malls: A Cultural Appraisal of America's Shopping Habits (Past, Present, and Future)"
  • "Arts Education in Urban Settings for Marginalized Youth"
  • "Urban Communities and Police: The Effects of a Militarized Police Force"
  • "Battyman Fi Dead: How Buggery Laws Impact the LGBT Population in Kingston, Jamaica"
  • "Affordable Housing in Mixed-Income Communities: Impacts on Community and Economic Development"
  • "Intent and Accident: Resistance Through Informed Development"
  • "Who Wins, Who Loses? : Host Cities and the Olympic Games"
  • The Atlanta Belt Line: How de Facto Segregation Limits its Success
  • Gender Equality or Gender Oppression? Understanding Sweden's Sex Work Paradox
  • What's Real? Race, Space, Place and the Evolution of Hip Hop in Bedford-Stuyvesant
  • Child Food Insecurity and its Implications in our Nation's Capital
  • Privately Owned Public Spaces: Are They Truly Public?
  • From Hop Alley to Parking Lot to Strip Mall: The Decentralization of Physical Space and Community Needs for Chinese Americans in St. Louis
  • Hurricane Harvey: How New Orleans' Housing Policies before and after Katrina can Inform Harvey Recovery Efforts
  • Ciudad Juarez: Violence in a Transborder Space
  • Urbanity and Art: Neighborhood Change and the Evolution of Hip-Hop in Bedford-Stuyvesant
  • Projects from earlier years:
  • "Corruption, Corporatism and Campbell's Soup:  The Story of Failed Renewal in Camden, New Jersey"
  •  "Independent Cities in the U.S.:  Two Unique Cases of Regional Fragmentation - Case Studies of St. Louis (MO) and Baltimore (MD)
  •  "Homeless Youth in Urban America"
  •  "Segregation and the Suburbs:  How Discrimination Keeps Minorities from Residential Freedom"
  •  "Sentencing War:  Disparities and Injustices in Cocaine Sentencing"
  •  "Sentencing Youth as Adults:  Childhood, Crime and Culpability"
  •  " Divided Space:  How Baltimore's Exclusionary Housing Measures Support Segregation"
  •  "An Analysis of Human Trafficking Policy and Discourse in the U.S. from 1870 to the Present"
  • "Youth and the 'Arab Spring':  Demographics, The Economy, Perceptions and Culture in Cairo"
  • "The Audy Home for Wayward Youth:  One City's Response"
  • "Eminent Domain, Urban Economic Development and Social Justice"
  • "Pain, Trains and Automobiles:  Urban Marginality and the Politics of Public Transit"
  • "Charter Schools in America:  The Ongoing Debate"
  • "Public Subsidy, Private Development and the Public Interest:  A Case Study of Public Subsidy for the Barclays Center and the Atlantic Yards Project in Brooklyn, New York"
  • "Public Housing in St. Louis:  Pruitt-Igoe and Contemporary Design"
  • "Less Punitive, More Productive - Correcting Correctional Education:  An Examination into the Roots of Post Secondary Correctional Education"
  • "Bringing Hope to East St. Louis"
  • "Beyond the Virus:  Exploring the Social Determinants of Health Among Marginalized Populations in Urban Settings through HIV/AIDS"
  • "Parole and Prisoner Reentry in the United States"
  • "The Intersection of Health Disparities, Education and Social Policy of Diabetes in the United States"
  • “U.S. Refugee Policy:  Implications for the Admission and Integration of Refugees of the Iraq War Since 2003;”
  • “Where Streets Have No Neighborhoods:  Marginality and Decline in St. Louis, Missouri;”
  • “The Social Determinants of Health, Urbanization and  Health Disparities;”
  • “Fighting the Free Market: Rethinking Community Benefits Agreements and Fourth-Wave Gentrification Resistance in Forest City Ratner's Atlantic Yards Project;”
  •  “Dump City:  Environmental Hazards of Illegal Dumping in St. Louis;”
  • “ ‘Not Far From Ethiopia:’  Immigration and the Habasha Identity in Washington, D.C.;”
  • “Privatizing the Prison Industry in the U.S.;”
  • “Urban Agriculture in Post-Industrial Cities:  A Case Study of Detroit and Its Implications for Future Urban Renewal;”
  • “Urban, Rural and Class Tensions by Comparative Advantage:  Current Domestic Conflict and International Relations in Chile;”
  • “The Landscape of Early 21st Century Urban Detroit Efforts;”
  • “Public Private Partnerships:  A Key Tool in Infrastructure Integration in Developing Economies;”
  • “Professional Sports’ Impact on Modern American Cities:  The Case of the 2004 Detroit Pistons;”
  • “Slavery by Another Name:  The Economic and Social Implications of Privatizing Prisons in the United States;”
  • “Climate Change and Urban Social Change:  The Challenge of Our Times;”
  • “Subprime and Predatory Lending and Their Effect on Low-Income and Minority Communities and Homeownership;”
  • “East St. Louis, Illinois:  Opportunities for Education and Economic Development;”
  • “Education Vouchers as a Tool for Urban Revitalization?  A Case Study of Cleveland, Ohio;”
  • “The Masters in America:  An Examination of the International Influence on Modern Architecture and Art’s Impact on Life.”
  • " 'Geography of Opportunity': A Comparative Study of Urban Neighborhoods."
  • "Housing Affordability in Pacific Rim Nations for Marginalized Populations."
  • "The Mexican Immigrant Experience in Chicago, Illinois."

the faculty bookshelf

How Americans Make Race
Transforming the Elite: Black Students and the Desegregation of Private Schools
Talkin Black Talk: Language, Education, and Social Change
Linguistics in Pursuit of Justice
Urban Ills: Twenty-first-Century Complexities of Urban Living in Global Contexts (Volume 2)
Poverty and Place: Cancer Prevention among Low-Income Women of Color

How Americans Make Race

How do people produce and reproduce identities? In How Americans Make Race, Clarissa Rile Hayward challenges what is sometimes called the “narrative identity theasis”: the idea that people produce and reproduce identities as stories. Identities have greater staying power than one would expect them to have if they were purely and simply narrative constructions, she argues, because people institutionalize identity-stories, building them into laws, rules, and other institutions that give social actors incentives to perform their identities well, and because they objectify identity-stories, building them into material forms that actors experience with their bodies. Drawing on in-depth historical analyses of the development of racialized identities and spaces in the twentieth-century United States, and also on life-narratives collected from people who live in racialized urban and suburban spaces, Hayward shows how the institutionalization and objectification of racial identity-stories enables their practical reproduction, lending them resilience in the face of challenge and critique.

Transforming the Elite: Black Students and the Desegregation of Private Schools

When traditionally white public schools in the South became sites of massive resistance in the wake of the Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education decision, numerous white students exited the public system altogether, with parents choosing homeschooling or private segregationist academies. But some historically white elite private schools opted to desegregate. The black students that attended these schools courageously navigated institutional and interpersonal racism but ultimately emerged as upwardly mobile leaders. “Transforming the Elite” tells this story. Focusing on the experiences of the first black students to desegregate Atlanta’s well-known The Westminster Schools and national efforts to diversify private schools, Michelle A. Purdy combines social history with policy analysis in a dynamic narrative that expertly re-creates this overlooked history.

Talkin Black Talk: Language, Education, and Social Change

Talkin Black Talk captures an important moment in the history of language and literacy education and the continuing struggle for equal language rights. Published 50 years after the Brown decision, this volume revisits the difficult and enduring problem of public schools' failure to educate Black children and revises our approaches to language and literacy learning in today's culturally and linguistically diverse classrooms. Bringing together some of the leading scholars in the study of Black Language, culture, and education, this book presents creative, classroom-based, hands-on pedagogical approaches (from Hip Hop Culture to the art of teaching narrative reading comprehension) within the context of the broader, global concerns that impact schooling (from linguistic emancipation to the case of Mother Tongue Education in South Africa). 

Linguistics in Pursuit of Justice

As a black child growing up in inner-city neighborhoods in Philadelphia and Los Angeles, John Baugh witnessed racial discrimination at a young age and began to notice correlations between language and race. While attending college he worked at a Laundromat serving African Americans who were often subjected to mistreatment by the police. His observations piqued his curiosity about the ways that linguistic diversity might be related to the burgeoning Civil Rights movement for racial equality in America. Baugh pursued these ideas whilst traveling internationally only to discover alternative forms of linguistic discrimination in Europe, Africa, Asia, Australia, the Caribbean and South America. He coined the phrase 'linguistic profiling' based on experimental studies of housing discrimination, and expanded upon those findings to promote equity in education, employment, medicine and the law. This book is the product of the culmination of these studies, devoted to the advancement of equality and justice globally.

Urban Ills: Twenty-first-Century Complexities of Urban Living in Global Contexts (Volume 2)

Urban Ills: Twenty First Century Complexities of Urban Living in Global Contexts is a collection of original research focused on critical challenges and dilemmas to living in cities. Volume 2 is devoted to the myriad issues involving urban health and the dynamics of urban communities and their neighborhoods. The editors define the ecology of urban living as the relationship and adjustment of humans to a highly dense, diverse, and complex environment. This approach examines the nexus between the distribution of human groups with reference to material resources and the consequential social, political, economic, and cultural patterns which evolve as a result of the sufficiency or insufficiency of those material resources. They emphasize the most vulnerable populations suffering during and after the recession in the United States and around the world, and the chapters examine traditional issues of housing and employment with respect to these communities.

Poverty and Place: Cancer Prevention among Low-Income Women of Color

This book examines ways in which cancer health disparities exist due to class and context inequities even in the most advanced society of the world. This volume, while articulating health disparities in the St. Louis, Missouri metropolitan area, including East St. Louis, Illinois, seeks to move beyond deficit models to focus on health equity. As cancer disparities continue to persist for low-income and women of color, the promotion and attainment of health equity becomes a matter of paramount importance.

Urban Studies gives me the opportunity to think critically about the racial, socioeconomic, political and historical context of communities across America. With this knowledge, my goal is to build upon the work of others who have come before me – working to shift policy and power structures to empower our most vulnerable and marginalized voices throughout this country.

―H. DanielsClass of 2020