Jasper Dwyer

Jasper Dwyer, fourth year social policy & public service and urban studies double major, is the undergrad recipient of the 2023 Justice and Equity Research Paper Award. The honor – which includes a $1000 prize – recognizes top graduate and undergraduate research papers addressing race, justice and related topics. Below, the soon to be grad from San Francisco talks about her award-winning work - “Beyond the Subsidy: Factors Influencing the Quality of Life of Low-Income Individuals Living in Subsidized Housing” - and how she plans to apply it to make cities more livable, equitable, accessible, and sustainable.

What made you decide to pair social policy & public service with urban studies, and specifically at UCI? What interests you most about your work?

In what was supposed to be my last quarter at UCI, spring 2023, I decided to take a leap of faith and go after something I never thought I could achieve in the time I had here – a double major! I want to thank my Social Sciences Academic Advisor, Chika Kono, for helping me achieve what once felt impossible. I am pursuing a double major in urban studies on top of my major in social policy & public service to finish my undergrad college experience in the summer. After college, I want to gain hands-on experience in the field of urban planning and design to see what subfield I would like to further specialize in, perhaps through a master’s, or even a Ph.D. program.

I love how interdisciplinary my future work will be in a field of community development and urban planning. I love that my future work in urban planning has a direct impact on the quality of life of the people affected, and that I will get to help implement what communities want to change.

What would you consider your biggest accomplishment at UCI?

My biggest accomplishment would probably be winning this Justice and Equity Research Paper Award for “Beyond the Subsidy: Factors Influencing the Quality of Life of Low-Income Individuals Living in Subsidized Housing” which is my capstone ethnographic research project for my social policy & public service major. For this work, I evaluated themes such as urban accessibility, neighborhood quality, financial security, and social support networks and their impacts on quality of life. I had always been interested in how affordable housing policy can have a meaningful impact in low-income affordable housing residents’ lives beyond the rental subsidy. I feel so grateful to have gained the insight that I did from the ethnographic interviews I conducted in my research project, as I got to learn directly from the perspective of those affected by the policies I hope to shape in the future. Additionally, winning this award has really inspired me to go after things I never thought I could achieve. It validated my hard work and made me feel like I could succeed in a place like graduate school. So, thanks in part to winning this award, I am now more seriously considering pursuing graduate school in a field related to urban studies and/or urban design after getting some hands-on experience in the field!

Outside of research, what other activities have you been involved with as an Anteater?

I am currently interning with an affordable housing developer! Also, I am the Public Relations Chair for the Phi Alpha Delta Pre-Law Fraternity! I love being able to practice graphic design while serving a community I love.

Who at UCI would you consider your mentor?

Throughout the duration of creating this research project, Dr. Castellanos has really emphasized that I should make this project meaningful to me. I want to thank Dr. C for expressing her passion for her work to her students, as it trickles down to inspire us.

What life experiences have played a major role in where and who you are today?

Growing up low-income in the inner city of San Francisco enabled me to see the world from different perspectives than my own. It really informed my career choice, in that I knew I wanted to have a career that values people and benefits the community. I remember a time when my mother’s car broke down, and, although a struggle, we were able to move about the city through alternative modes of transportation, such as biking and public transit. Not all low-income families have the privilege of living in such an accessible area. I recognize that for low-income individuals, car-centric infrastructure and development patterns pose a unique challenge. Growing up in San Francisco definitely emphasized that I want to work on urban planning and affordable housing policy to make cities more livable, equitable, accessible, and sustainable for the communities that live there.

Where can you most often be found on campus?

Especially this quarter, I have really loved the study environment ALP provides.  The clean and modern space makes me feel proud to be at UC Irvine.

What’s your best memory thus far from your undergraduate experience at UCI?

I can attribute so much of my happiness at UC Irvine to joining the Phi Alpha Delta Pre-Law Fraternity. Before joining I felt quite isolated at UCI, but now, I have met amazing people which really helped me have a memorable experience here.

Any other interesting tidbits you would like to share?

Graphic design is a creative outlet for me, and I hope that in my future career I can incorporate it into my work.

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