Student Spotlight: Spring 2018 NITC Dissertation Fellows

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The National Institute for Transportation and Communities (NITC) is proud to announce our two Spring 2018 Dissertation Fellows. Hear from the fellows about their projects below, or learn how to apply for funding through the NITC Dissertation Fellowship Grant hereProposals for Summer 2018 Dissertation Fellowships are due June 1, 2018.

Vivian Miller, University of Texas at Arlington

In November 2018, Vivian Miller published Investigating Barriers to Family Visitation of Nursing Home Residents: A Systematic Review, a paper based on her NITC-funded dissertation, in the Journal of Gerontological Social Work.

Vivian Miller is a third-year doctoral candidate in the School of Social Work at the University of Texas at Arlington. Her primary research interests are in gerontology, quality-of-life, and mental well-being among older adults through inter-professional and transdisciplinary efforts.

Her dissertation, "Transportation, Social Support by Family Visitation, and Depression of Older Adult Nursing Home Residents: A Mixed-Methods Study," will use a sequential mixed-methodological design to gather information from residents of nursing homes and their family members to measure the impact transportation system outcomes have on institutionalized older adults’ mental health.

What made you decide to attend the University of Texas at Arlington?

I decided to attend the University of Texas at Arlington primarily because of the reputability, high research activity, and motivation of the faculty members, especially those whose research interests aligned with mine (gerontological social work). The School of Social Work provides students with incredible opportunities to take part in innovative and ground-breaking projects, such as collaborative projects between the School of Social Work and the Department of Civil Engineering, which has ultimately led me to this stage of my dissertation research.

What are you most excited about, as you prepare to start your dissertation research? 

As I prepare to start my dissertation research, I am most excited to work one-on-one with older adults in the community through partnerships with nursing homes across North Central Texas. I am thrilled to be collecting data in the field and to then use these findings to create positive changes at the local level, and inform future research to come!\

Torrey Lyons, University of Utah

Torrey Lyons is a PhD candidate at the University of Utah and a graduate research assistant at the university's Metropolitan Research Center. He is currently working under Dr. Reid Ewing on projects that include improvements to the four step travel demand model, and growth management effectiveness, and the effects of polycentric development patterns. 

His dissertation, "Social Equity in Transit: Toward Social and Environmental Justice in Transportation," will explore social equity in transportation, testing the theory that improved transit service affects regional economies by moderating the effect of spatial mismatch on poverty and unemployment.

What made you decide to attend the University of Utah?

I came to the University of Utah for a Masters of Public Policy after having lived in Salt Lake City for four years. I moved here after college in 2009 to pursue a career in professional snowboarding. 

What are you most excited about, as you prepare to start your dissertation research? 

I am most excited about two things as I prepare to start my dissertation. First, I am eager to refine an index that I have created which I hope will be used by transit agencies to evaluate how service changes or scenarios will affect their ability to promote social equity. I think that if the index is adopted, it has the potential to help agencies understand their impact on social equity, and hopefully, in turn, improve the services that they provide to our communities. Second, I am excited to perform the qualitative component of my research. While I am very aware that this will be a great deal of work and time, I relish the thought of sitting down with transit managers to discuss how they see their roles in providing equitable transit systems.

This is an installment in a series of monthly Student Spotlights we'll be shining on students and alumni that are involved with NITC (National Institute for Transportation & Communites).

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