Writer: Staff Reports
University of Georgia students in the Institute of Government’s Vinson Fellows program presented capstone projects on school truancy, survey methods and remote work trends to faculty and staff in early December.
Sara Anis Ali, a second-year political science and international affairs major, explored the correlations between food insecurity and chronic school absenteeism among Georgia youth. Her mentor was Jamil Sewell, a faculty member in the Survey Research and Evaluation Support unit. Ali found that poverty and food insecurity should be considered when addressing chronically absent students (those who miss at least 15 days of school in a year) and that interventions such as probation are ineffective.
Meera Srinivasan, a second-year political science major, focused on evaluating survey methods for hard-to-reach populations guided by faculty mentor Brian Simmons in the Survey Research and Evaluation Support unit. Srinivasan—working with The Backpack Project, Inc., a student-run nonprofit that provides essentials to unhoused individuals—determined that concise, verbal surveys administered in person are more likely to result in better feedback from a group that is already difficult to count.
Jai Gonzales, who graduated in December with a bachelor’s degree in geography with certificates in urban studies and GIS, examined the remote work landscape in Georgia since the pandemic. Using census data under the guidance of Taylor Hafley, applied demographer in the State Services and Decision Support unit, Gonzales found that income, industry, education and occupation determine who works from home.
Gonzales credited the Vinson Fellows experience with providing a better understanding of how government works. Gonzales will intern with the National Park Service at the Ocmulgee Mounds National Historic Park in Macon next year.
“It was a really good way to learn about how research is done in government and which information is important. It was helpful for me to get a clearer vision of what I want to do in my life,” Gonzales said.
Vinson Fellows learn about the UGA Institute of Government’s training, applied research and technical assistance programs and other projects for state and local governments in Georgia and beyond. During the semester-long fellowship, undergraduate students engage with the institute’s diverse group of experts on research projects using proven research methods and the latest available data to address today’s complex challenges. For more information, visit https://www.cviog.uga.edu/student-opportunities/vinsonfellows/.