Friday, September 9, 2011

Lynchburg residents hear results of economics students' research

Safiyah Lopez '12, center, explains the results of a study she conducted regarding resident satisfaction in Lynchburg's Tinbridge Hill neighborhood.
Like many college seniors, Safiyah Lopez ’12 sat for the Graduate Readiness Exam on Friday.

But first, she sat down with Lynchburg residents who wanted to hear the results of her economic studies of their neighborhood and its economic progress.

Her presentation focused specifically on a neighborhood satisfaction survey that she and Shradha Shrestha ’12 administered this summer, but it represented the culmination of years of research and study by Randolph College economics students and Elizabeth Perry-Sizemore, an economics professor.

Over the years, Perry-Sizemore and her students have studied the economy of the Tinbridge Hill community as the nonprofit Lynchburg Neighborhood Development Foundation (LNDF ) has restored condemned, vacant homes there. Last year, those studies led Lopez to an internship at LNDF.

The studies have shown that LNDF’s restoration and renovation projects helped boost the values of the neighboring homes in the area.

This summer, Lopez and Shrestha participated in the College’s Summer Research Program to continue the research. They conducted an extensive survey to gauge the satisfaction or dissatisfaction of people in the Tinbridge Hill neighborhood and identify areas that people still need improvement.

The survey results showed general satisfaction with the community. In particular, they showed that many people in the neighborhood feel crime is not a current problem.

Aubrey Barbour, a community leader, said the survey provides a real benefit to Tinbridge Hill residents. It shows what progress has been made through neighborhood revitalization efforts, and it could encourage future improvements as more homes become owner occupied, he said.

“We have a lot of people now that are beginning to take ownership in the neighborhood. That means a lot,” he said. “For them to try ownership in the neighborhood affirms that something’s working. This survey should entice more people to come into the area to live.”

Perry-Sizemore said she plans to continue helping her students understand real life economics by studying Tinbridge Hill. Eventually, she wants to go through the community satisfaction survey again to measure progress.

Also, city leaders have asked for help conducting similar surveys in other neighborhoods near downtown Lynchburg.

This project is one example of the way Randolph College students get the opportunity to work on real life projects addressing real life problems. Read a recent Randolph magazine article about the project here.