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The Rappaport Institute for Greater Boston offers students a variety of opportunities to learn about Greater Boston and to become more involved in the region’s governance. By connecting students who are writing senior theses and major research papers to information, research, and policy networks, the Institute transforms the Boston region into a "living laboratory." The Institute's participation with Harvard graduate and undergraduate classes has been highlighted in the Harvard Gazette. Institute staff also assist students by brainstorming about topics, defining feasible research questions, and connecting students to policy makers and civic leaders within the Greater Boston community. In order to stimulate informed discussion, the Institute highlights research on Greater Boston produced by student researchers. Finally, the Institute also works with student groups to develop and host other public events on policy-related issues in the region.
Graduate students at the Harvard Kennedy School are eligible to enroll in Professor Linda Bilmes' Budgeting and Financial Management courses in both the fall and spring semesters. Students participating in Bilmes' classes have worked for public officials in Boston, Somerville, and Newton on projects focusing on activity based budgeting and other financials management systems. Their work has been profiled in The Boston Herald, Harvard Gazette, HKS Bulletin, and the HKS website. The Institute has helped students analyze challenging issues identified by Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino, Lisa Signori, Boston’s head of administration and finance, and other senior city officials in Boston. Projects have included assessing the economics of expanding trash and recycling collections to include some non-profits; using capacity and cost analyses to develop strategies for expanding usage of Harbor Islands; developing and modeling options for providing sustainable financing for the Rose Kennedy Greenway; estimating savings that might be gained by from restructuring the claims process for health and safety accidents among firefighters, police officers, and other city employees; and analyzing potential cost savings if the city consolidates in-person payment systems for property taxes, parking fines, and other fees and taxes. Student work in Somerville has implemented activity based costing throughout the city and worked with the Somerville School Department, the fire department, as well as the Mayor's Office.
The Institute has assisted a Kennedy School class on Operations Management taught by Mark Fagan to analyze existing processes and make recommendations on how they could be improved for public and non-profit entities in greater Boston. Teams of students examined whether the city of Boston could improve fleet operations by contracting with a car-sharing vendor; improve the efficiency of collections from parking meters; and simplify the permitting process for new restaurants in the city’s neighborhoods. In addition, a student team examined whether Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Boston could improve and streamline operations for its previously separate departments of Development, Marketing and Communications, and Grants/Foundation Management. Students also helped the Codman Square Community Health Center evaluate its emergency preparedness plans and helped Family Services of Greater Boston assess the structure and operations of its core operations.
"Reinventing Boston," an undergraduate course that is part of the university’s new General Education curriculum, if offered frequently by the Sociology Department. Taught by Robert Sampson, the course introduces students to a variety of urban issues via readings, neighborhood visits, research, and talks. In their fi nal evaluations last fall, more than three quarters of the students said they would recommend it to others (including 51 percent who said they would do so "with enthusiasm.") Previous classes have been "taught" by guest speakers such as Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino, Boston Police Commissioner Ed Davis, former Massachusetts Secretary of Transportation Fred Salvucci, and Paul Grogan, President of the Boston Foundation.
More information on Boston-related courses at other local graduate schools can be found at the Boston Area Research Initiative.