• Field Research Project

Improving Financial Services for Low-Income Families

by Daniel Schnieder
Our project involved studying the hurdles low-income families face trying to accumulate savings while creating an intervention tool to help them save. We focused our efforts on the Earned Income Tax Credit, which provides $35 billion each year to low income families. For some people, it’s the biggest check they'll see all year, often as much as $2,000.”

Just a few weeks after I was hired as an RA, I went out to Tulsa, Oklahoma, where we coordinated with a local nonprofit that sets up free tax preparation sites to ensure that low income individuals receive their Earned Income Tax Credit. Our part of the project involved creating a way for individuals to automatically split their tax refunds between a checking and savings account, so that they didn’t have to take any extra steps to save. And if people didn’t have a checking or savings account, we worked with a local bank to help them set one up.

I went to the site on a daily basis and did everything from asking people to fill out surveys and explaining what the process was about to making sure that the tax preparers understood the splitting service. There was a lot of on-the-ground data collection and checking in with my faculty member regularly.

Once we had input and analyzed our data, we put together a draft of a paper that was eventually published in a journal and as a policy brief. It also eventually led to the creation of an IRS form that makes it easier for people to electronically deposit all or part of their refund into a savings account. I took part in the field work, data analysis, and writing; as an overall process, the work involved nonprofit organizations, banks, and other academic institutions. As one of my first experiences as an RA, it was an ideal preparation for graduate school.

 
  • Book Project

Imagining Beauty: The Global Beauty Business since 1820

by Oona Ceder
The book that we are working on—a history of the globalization of the beauty industry over the last two centuries—is based on deep archival research and interviews at companies and government archives from all parts of the world, including the United States, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Sweden, Russia, Greece, Brazil, Thailand, China, and Japan. It has been a very rewarding process to trace the evolution of an industry and the ideals associated with it.”

Because the topic and the sources are so far-reaching, you need to have a creative, open-minded approach to the research process itself. It is an intense process, and I absolutely love the work and its intellectual challenges. Recently, I returned from my fourth research trip to Europe. On this trip, I spent several weeks at one of the global giants in the beauty industry, L’Oréal, and visited the historical archives of INSEE in the French Ministry of Economy and Finance. My work as an RA has allowed me to expand on my background and training in the social sciences and philosophy, and provides an excellent spring board for my future plans in and out of academia.

 
  • Case Study

GE’s Imagination Breakthroughs: The Evo Project

by Nicole Bennett
GE is a fascinating company because it’s huge, yet nimble. For the case study, we focused on the company’s new growth strategy and their imagination breakthroughs, which are big, hundred-million-dollar-plus projects.”

From there, we honed in on their Evolution Series hybrid locomotive, which took us deep inside GE’s corporate headquarters in Fairfield, Connecticut and out to Erie, Pennsylvania, where the locomotives are made. We interviewed engineers, senior vice presidents, and board members—an incredible experience that involved talking to some of the smartest people I’ve ever met in my life. Then, last May, there was a big “Eco-Imagination” convention in Los Angeles that showcased some of GE’s products, including the new locomotive. The two faculty members coauthoring the case couldn’t go to California, so they sent me out with a video crew to film the convention and to do a series of video interviews to wrap up the case with the CEO and Chief Marketing Officer of GE Transportation. Conducting such high-level interviews on my own was an amazing amount of responsibility and a big confidence builder. The process took about two years to complete from start to finish, which is pretty unusual. We were working on other cases at the same time, but the GE case was the most continuous and the one I probably learned the most from. For that reason, it’s the project I’m most proud of from my time as an RA.