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Saturday, October 8, 2016
Saturday, September 10, 2016
Alleviating Nantucket's Housing Crunch
IQP team works with island group to create incentives for affordable housing
September 6, 2016
Many of us have a certain image of Nantucket (as it has been beatifically portrayed in many a movie and the affable 90s sitcom “Wings”): Independently wealthy; a haven for seekers of a simpler life; quaint artisan shops, yachts and fishing boats bobbing just off its shores.
While there’s no doubt the small island just 30 miles off of Cape Cod is stunningly beautiful, thrumming with tourism, and a desirable attraction for the well-to-do, it isn’t without its socio-economic issues.
In fact, because housing prices on Nantucket are six times the median on the nearby mainland, about half the people who call it their full-time home struggle to afford housing.
“It’s a major problem for the island,” says Dominic Golding, associate teaching professor and director of the Nantucket Project Center. “There’s a major shortage of housing, and the housing that is available is extremely expensive.”
But with some help from WPI, it’s a challenge the island is (at least a little bit) more equipped to tackle.
Based on extensive research by an IQP team, Housing Nantucket, an island nonprofit, has been able to secure certification as a Community Development Corporation (CDC). That ultimately opens it up to receive support from the state Community Investment Tax Credit (CITC) program; it is now able to offer $150,000 in state tax credits to financial backers, provided it can fundraise at least $300,000 a year.
Essentially, as Golding explained, it’s a “carrot” to potential donors.
Any money raised through the CITC program will go directly toward building and maintaining affordable rental units on the island.
Housing Nantucket, which has been around since 1994, serves year-round residents who earn between 50 and 150 percent of the Area Median Income. According to the agency, homeownership is “prohibitive” to about 90 percent of year-round residents.
As Golding explained, it has a significant impact on the island’s economy: Although 10,000 to 12,000 people live there throughout the year, that swells to about 60,000 in the summer with the influx of tourists and part-time residents. That increase equals more available jobs--but few affordable (or available) places for workers to live.
“Every person I talked to during my trip to Nantucket agreed that housing has been, and still is, a very important topic that needs to be addressed and soon,” says Nhi Phan ’17, a biomedical engineering major who worked on the project. “I'm looking forward to seeing how Housing Nantucket is going to push forward in the coming years and how this project has helped them do so.”
Over a 14-week period last year, Phan and two fellow students spent time on and off the island researching its housing situation as part of their IQP. That process involved learning about the CDC certification process, querying locals and community leaders, and interviewing other Massachusetts CDCs about their roles in their own communities, their outreach efforts, and their operations. The project culminated with an assessment of Housing Nantucket’s services and community involvement, along with an outline on how to apply for CITCs, as well as proposed recommendations to help secure CDC status.
“What surprised me most was learning that housing is truly prohibitive to the majority of Nantucket residents,” says Elizabeth Beasley ’17, an actuarial mathematics major who also worked on the project. “Housing prices on Nantucket are extremely high, as one might expect, but there isn’t a range of low cost alternatives. So the work that Housing Nantucket does to provide affordable housing options is vitally important.”
Ultimately, the project was beneficial not just for the residents, but for her and her fellow students--specifically by illustrating how great an impact an IQP can have on a community.
“I'm glad that I had this opportunity to learn not only how to coordinate as a team, but also to contribute to something much bigger than just one term project,” she says, noting the exposure to real-word problems that can be tackled with theory, practice and “great team work. I'll carry these lessons with me as I start my career, and remember that the work I do will impact not just a community, but real people.”
- By Taryn Plumb
Friday, September 2, 2016
Unbound in Portland
The Kids are Jammin’
by Taryn Plumb
When Tim Rollins arrived in the Bronx as a 26-year-old in the early ‘80s, it was, as he describes, “on fire” — literally, of course, due to the conflagrations that consumed the borough for an entire decade, but also culturally. It was an electric, inspiring and frightening backdrop for what would ultimately become his life’s work.
After growing up in rural Maine and attending the University of Maine in Augusta, he was recruited to “the toughest ghetto in America,” as he described it, to develop a curriculum fusing art, reading and writing for “at risk” youth.
What eventually resulted was the group “Kids of Survival” (K.O.S.), which over time morphed into a traveling workshop that has produced art for prestigious museums and exhibits all over the world. This fall, Tim Rollins and K.O.S. are bringing their unique and inspiring perspective, process and story to the Portland Museum of Art (PMA) in two special ways.
The first: “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” — a 13’ x 34’ work acquired by the PMA that will find a permanent home in the museum’s Selma Wolf Black Great Hall — will ultimately serve as a welcome for all visitors as they enter. The second: “Unbound: Tim Rollins and K.O.S.,” a special exhibition composed of works inspired by classic literature, poetry and music.
Saturday, July 2, 2016
Coming Full Circle
Posted on June 20, 2016 in “Staff”
Custodian-turned-engineer Michael Vaudreuil hired by aerospace firm Pratt & Whitney
For years, he hustled juggling a full schedule of classes with a full-time, second-shift custodial job. And most of the time in between (what little of it he had) was spent on his coursework and his Major Qualifying Project; he even picked up the occasional plastering gig, too.
But Michael Vaudreuil—maybe the name sounds familiar?—has finally gotten his payoff. The custodian-turned-engineer, whose story went viral after WPI’s 148th commencement ceremony on May 14, has accepted a position at Pratt & Whitney in Connecticut. As of July 11, he will be an engineer with the aerospace manufacturer’s Production Integrated Product Team (PIPT).
“I’m going to quote one of my favorite movies—they made me an offer I couldn’t refuse,” the 54-year-old says with a laugh (and shame on you if you don’t get the reference). “I’m looking forward to the satisfaction and fulfillment that will come with the job.”
It’s a fitting start to a new chapter of his life.
Vaudreuil’s story—enduring setback after professional setback, losing his home, his life savings, and for a while, his hope—has resonated with millions. From NBC Nightly News, to the UK’s Independent, dozens of media outlets around the world picked up the story about the middle-aged custodian who earned his mechanical engineering degree from the university he cleaned at night. One video of him graduating garnered more than 11 million views.
“I was certainly welcoming of it, because I thought it would help networking-wise,” he says of the media attention. “To the degree that it took off was a bit surprising. It was almost an out-of-body experience. You see this happen, things go viral—now it’s happening to me.”
Following his segment on NBC Nightly News, four people from Pratt & Whitney reached out to him on the same day, independently of each other. It was flattering, he recalled, because he could tell they saw something in him. Tom Prete, vice president, Engineering, at Pratt & Whitney, said the firm is proud to hire the recent WPI grad.
“Pratt & Whitney engineers design and develop products that change the world. As we continue to grow our global workforce, we are proud to add Michael Vaudreuil to our talented team,” says Prete. “Our employees are critical to our success and the reason we are in the midst of one of the most exciting chapters in our company’s history.”
“I feel like I kind of won the lottery,” Vaudreuil says.
Still, he hasn’t let any of that deter him from his goal. “I really haven’t lost sight of the eye-on-the-prize type of thinking,” he says. “Getting that job is always what it’s been about. That’s the moment I fought for, for so hard, all of those years.”
– BY TARYN PLUMB
Original story link.
Making Lemonade in Vermont
Gloria King Merritt’s Happy Accident
by Taryn Plumb
It basically started out as a fluke.
Four years ago, a tendon snapped in Gloria King Merritt’s thumb (the result of a 40-year-old injury). Her hand had to be rewired; she couldn’t do the simplest things, like fasten buttons or tie her shoes.
Her doctors told her that in order to get her dexterity back, she should repetitively make quarter-inch marks with a pencil on a pad. That got old pretty quickly; it was not only boring, but mind-numbing.
So instead, she picked up a tablet and a stylus and began experimenting with digital art. As she put it, she “devoured” software, and within 12 weeks, had a complete drawing.
“Now I’m addicted,” said the Woodstock, Vermont-based digital artist, whose work will be on display through July 17 as part of “Domesticated Beasts and Dreams of Home: Early Summer Group Show,” also featuring works by Bonnie Barnes, Joe Fucigna, Julie Goetz, Cynthia Kirkwood, John Matusz, Charlotte Potter and Mark Eliot Schwabe at The Bundy Modern, just off Route 100 on Bundy Road in Waitsfield, VT.
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