Students initiate study on air pollution and unhoused people

Who in city government tracks the environmental effects of air pollution on people experiencing homelessness? When students in the 2019 Global Changes and Society class looked into it, they found that there was not an office with that responsibility. Initially, students set out to change that missing piece. But those efforts have now also resulted in a study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, as part of a special issues “Addressing public health and health inequities in marginalized and hidden populations.”

The project-based course Global Changes and Society (SUST 6000) features guest lecturers with expertise in research related to global changes and sustainability. In this course, students from different disciplines Identify a theme or focus area, begin to learn the language and approaches of other disciplines around the theme, explore perspectives and approaches of different stakeholders, and develop a team project. Recognizing that there are disproportionate environmental impacts on certain socially and geographically vulnerable communities in the Salt Lake Valley, students in the 2019 class developed projects to address some of these issues.

The student group with members including Angelina DeMarco and Rebecca Hardenbrook (GCSC Fellow 2018-19) noted that during poor air quality events such as inversions, wildfires, and heightened ozone periods, residents are urged to stay indoors when possible, but people affected by homelessness don’t have the luxury of escaping indoors on short notice to avoid poor air conditions. But it appeared that no-one had researched the effects of poor air quality on this population.

Read about the research project these students developed with GCSC faculty affiliates Daniel Mendoza (Atmospheric Sciences and City & Metropolitan Planning) and Jeff Rose (Parks, Recreation and Tourism) in At the U.

Graduate Student Paper on Interdisciplinary Education

Students in the Global Changes and Society course drew on their experience in this interdisciplinary course, and have published a paper on project-based, interdisciplinary training in the Journal of Water Resources Planning and Management.

“How society responds to increasing vulnerability and change will be a defining characteristic of the 21st century. Training students to address these multidisciplinary challenges is a critical component of the educational process…Thus, learning to work within an interdisciplinary framework is an essential skill for future professionals.”1

1. Walsh, T.C., O.L. Miller, B.B. Bowen, Z.A. Levine, and J.R. Ehleringer. 2015. The sphere of sustainability: lessons from the University of Utah’s Global Change and Society. Journal of Water Resources Planning and Environment. doi 10.1061/(ASCE)WR.1943-5452.0000514.