Professional Studies and Fine Arts

Professional Studies and Fine Arts

Public Administration Students Partner with City of El Cajon

Public Administration students conduct research to benefit the City of El Cajon

Public Administration Students Partner with City of El Cajon

by Nora Leyva

January 27, 2020

San Diego State University has been an advocate of high impact practices (HIPS) as a means to increase retention rates and student engagement. The School of Public Affairs promotes HIPs by offering courses to study abroad, complete an internship, engage in community-based learning and conduct undergraduate research.

Public Administration students enrolled in PA 497: Investigation and Report, taught by Dr. Anna Joo Kim, recently partnered with the City of El Cajon for the El Cajon Immigrant & Refugee Resident Community Engagement Project.

The partnership with the City of El Cajon began when City Manager Graham Mitchell heard faculty member Dr. Anna Kim speak at the School of Public Affairs’ Task Force meeting. Mitchell became interested in her work on immigration and invited Dr. Kim to spend time in El Cajon, which has a large immigrant population.

“Dr. Kim’s class provided the City with hundreds of hours of data collection, which is perceived as unbiased. The data will be used by many departments (Police, Recreation, Community Development, and Human Resources) to understand the needs of the community and those we are charged to serve,” said Mitchell.

Students in the PA 497 course were split into four different research areas according to their interests: community services and housing, jobs and economic development, parks and recreation, and crime and public safety.

Public Administration student Maddie Shute shared she chose community services and housing as her research area given her interest in community housing, the lack of affordable housing and potential impacts on the City’s communities.

According to Dr. Kim, students collected more than 150 surveys, which were also translated from English into Arabic. The survey included key demographic questions and other questions related to each of the research areas. This opportunity was an introduction to research for many of these undergraduate students.

“Participating in undergraduate research activities in partnership with the City continued to solidify my love of planning and wanting to become a city planner. I plan to attend graduate school for city planning, hopefully here at San Diego State University,” said Shute.

Michael Lopes, an undergraduate student in the Public Administration program, said “having been part of a field study and asked to analyze data from residents was an amazing experience because it was a change of scene from the conventional classroom lecture course.”

While enrolling in an undergraduate research course is one of many high impact practice opportunities for students in the School of Public Affairs, Shute and Lopes encouraged students to participate in the research courses. “This was a great opportunity to become more involved with a local municipality, to attain a network of professionals, and it was an educational and informative class on research techniques,” said Shute. Lopes’ short and to-the-point words of advice were “DO IT.”

“While I think that learning the steps of the research process: beginning with a question, thinking through methodology, collecting data, and analyzing that data to hopefully answer some part of the question, is important, I think that one of the most impactful experiences for undergraduate students is to work in partnership with communities while conducting research that has some level of community benefits,” said Dr. Kim.

Students’ engagement with the City’s immigrant community was appreciated by the City’s leadership and staff. “I am grateful for the students that spent time in El Cajon, meeting our residents, and collecting data. I know that this was performed as a class assignment, but it is important to know that the work performed will not be simply graded and discarded. The data collected will have an influence on the City of El Cajon’s operations,” said Mitchell.

Learn more about HIPS at SDSU here.

The content within this article has been edited by Lizbeth Persons.

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