McCormack Speaks

January 23, 2018
by McCormack Speaks

Center for Social Policy: Students Inspiring Optimism

by Susan Crandall, Director, Center for Social Policy

Today, our very survival depends on our ability to stay awake, to adjust to new ideas, to remain vigilant and to face the challenge of change.” Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

image of college students

It is said that history repeats itself, but who knew it would do so all at once? Daily living is like walking into a control room where screens are blaring a century worth of news simultaneously: growing income inequality, the rise of Nazism, the threat of nuclear war, massive civil unrest, presidential abuse of power, and so on—with destructive natural disasters occurring in rapid succession.

My secret to finding hope during these times? Working with, and learning from, our Center for Social Policy students, whom I count on for a fresh perspective, insightful analysis, and new directions leading to a much brighter future. Let me introduce you to a few of them:

Vishakha Agarwal is a second year doctoral student in public policy at the McCormack Graduate School, interested in improving access and quality of education for low-income students. One of our Werby interns, she is analyzing data on cliff effects, generating solutions so that increases in earnings from work do not cause low-income families to lose essential benefits like housing and childcare.

Vishakha’s colleague, fellow Werby Intern Jason Wright, is also a second year doctoral student in public policy. He is interested in the politics of poverty and the application of systems thinking to social policy. Jason is identifying policy levers to resolve cliff effects, which we will provide to our On Solid Ground coalition partners, who advocate for housing stability and economic mobility.

Rolando DelVillar supports economic mobility through his work on the Commonwealth Workforce Coalition, which builds the capacity of job training providers across the state to help unemployed workers access better careers. A senior in the College of Management studying leadership and organizational change, Rolando was selected to participate in the Mayor’s Symposium on Housing for a Changing City (where our colleague, Public Policy Professor Michael Johnson will be facilitating). There Rolando will collaborate with UMass Boston students to generate new approaches to improve housing for low-income communities, which will be shared with elected officials.

Bianca Ortiz-Wythe is a second year doctoral student in public policy, researching the creative economy in Roxbury. She’s excited about the project because it amplifies youth voices from the community, which often go unheard when conversations of equitable development arise. Her research interests include rural poverty, the politics of poverty reduction, and gender and ethnic minority issues. She would like to gain experience as a policymaker and run for public office.

Learn more about the Werby Internship program which helps students contribute their gifts to the Center for Social Policy, and to create a better future for all families.


The Center for Social Policy strives to reshape poverty policy by connecting research, evaluation, and communities with lived experiences in Boston and beyond.

October 20, 2017
by McCormack Speaks

Center for Social Policy’s Research on Cliff Effects Drives Systems Change

two women testifying at the State HouseFor over a decade, the Center for Social Policy has been a pioneer in “cliff effects” research. CSP Senior Research Fellow Randy Albelda has conducted extensive research to show how a small increase in earning can result in the sudden loss of public assistance that can leave a family with lower total net resources–known as the cliff effect. As demonstrated in CSP’s signature On Solid Ground Report, cliff effects are a growing concern due to the rising costs of living, especially housing, coupled with stagnating wages, making it nearly impossible for thousands of low-income working families to make ends meet without supports from public benefits.

Transforming Research into Policy

Consistent with its strong commitment to turn its research efforts into action, the Center for Social Policy is the lead research partner for the On Solid Ground Coalition, a cross-sector group of over 40 partners committed to a research-based, family-centered approach to ensuring access to housing stability and economic mobility for Massachusetts families. Now in its third year, with major support from the Oak Foundation, the coalition is led by CSP, Citizens Housing and Planning Association (CHAPA), and Homes for Families (HFF). Research Associate Marija Bingulac (Public Policy PhD, ’17), senior project manager of the coalition, ensures alignment between research and advocacy efforts, encouraging cross-regional collaboration, and engaging families impacted by cliff effects. Continue Reading →

July 25, 2017
by McCormack Speaks

Center for Social Policy Highlights FY 2017

Center for Social Policy team

CSP Research Director Francoise Carre, Administrative Assistant Rolando Del Villar, and Director Susan Crandall

As the new fiscal year gets off to a warm start, the Center for Social Policy (CSP) reviews its accomplishments over the past year to celebrate successes as they gear up for the year ahead.

The center focused on releasing  impactful research, influencing policy, building capacity in the field, supporting student growth, and sharing their scholarship with the media.

CSP Director Susan Crandall notes, “I am grateful for the support of our constituent advisors, the Emerging Leaders Program, our partners, sponsors, and funders. I look forward to our ongoing work together!”

Continue Reading →

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