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VIDEO: An Interdisciplinary Affair

Taft Fellowship recipient helps students cross community, disciplinary lines.

Date: 4/13/2009 12:00:00 AM
By: Matt Cunningham
Phone: (513) 556-4190
Photos By: Dugan Murphy

UC ingot   Beth Walter Honadle doesn’t hesitate to share her feelings about her experience as a Taft-Niehoff Faculty Community Scholar.

“I’d do it again in a heartbeat,” said the political science professor.


Honadle spent the recent winter quarter leading an interdisciplinary team of undergraduate and graduate students in an in-depth analysis of Cincinnati’s Madisonville neighborhood. The project, funded by the Charles Phelps Taft Research Center at UC and conducted in conjunction with the College of Design, Architecture, Art and Planning’s Niehoff Urban Studio, investigated a range of issues from identifying the stakeholders in neighborhood development to analyses of the area’s physical attributes, challenges and opportunities for community advancement.

“We got to get out and work in the community,” said Dylicia Joy McGee, a second-year community planning graduate student. “I really enjoyed that. You can only learn so much from reading in class.”

Honadle said much of her work focused on the stakeholder analysis, on which McGee worked, and a Web portal that helps community members fund grassroots development projects.

“It makes it more relevant,” Honadle said. “It’s something the city’s interested in.”

“It gave us a much more realistic approach to the work,” said DAAP senior Andres Sanchez. “All the kids who did something with this had to justify it to the community.”

At the end of the quarter, the students presented their work to a group of Madisonville community members and showed attendees how they could use the information—such as intersection improvement plans and resources for project funding—as resources for planning future improvements to the Madison Road corridor.

“The students really were the driving force,” said Honadle. “They ran the workshop and did a very professional job. They really impressed the community.”

The collaborative nature of the quarter-long project formed the base for the second part of Honadle’s work as a Taft Scholar. She is now working with sociology PhD student Patrick Kennealy on a journal article about the lessons learned from this project about planning education and research.

“One of my obligations was to work with a doctoral student in a department other than my own,” she said. “He’s been great to work with—we have complementary backgrounds.”

Honadle will present a paper on the project in May at the Mid-Continent Regional Science Association’s meeting in Milwaukee, Wis. Her presentation will discuss the techniques used to complete the stakeholder analysis, based on the collaborative, interdisciplinary work done in the studio.

“It’s a lot more fertile ground for student ideas and discussions,” she said. “They learn a lot more when they have to interact with students from different disciplines and backgrounds.”

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