L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs

L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs



Two Wilder School Faculty Receive PeRQ Awards

Portraits of Sarah Jane Brubaker and Benjamin Teresa
Portraits of Sarah Jane Brubaker and Benjamin Teresa

June 14, 2018

By Pamela Stallsmith

Sarah Jane Brubaker, Ph.D., chair of the Wilder School’s doctoral program, and Benjamin Teresa, Ph.D., assistant professor in the Urban and Regional Studies and Planning program, have received VCU Presidential Research Quest Fund (PeRQ) Awards.

“This is a highly competitive program, and we are thrilled that two of our Wilder School colleagues have received these prestigious awards,” said Interim Dean Susan T. Gooden, Ph.D. “The VCU Presidential Quest Fund is designed to afford faculty internal funding opportunities to support new, emerging or continuing research, and Dr. Brubaker and Dr. Teresa are pursuing projects that are great examples of how our work impacts society.”

Brubaker received her award with Tegwyn Brickhouse, Ph.D., interim chair of the VCU Department of Oral Health Promotion and Community Outreach and an Oral Health Services Research Core Associate Professor in the School of Dentistry.

“A core intent of the PeRQ Awards is to support research that advances interdisciplinary research and inter-campus collaboration, and Teg and Sarah Jane’s research is an excellent partnership between VCU’s School of Dentistry and the Wilder School,” Gooden said.

Their project, “Identifying Health Priorities, Use of Services, and Behaviors related to Oral Health and Co-morbidities among Students in a Low-income Community in the Richmond Region”, examines health priorities and levels of utilization, with an in-depth understanding of the barriers and supports to the community’s oral health related health care needs. It will identify modifiable risk factors for poor oral health, poor overall health, and inappropriate use of health care services utilizing a mixed-methods research design.

Brickhouse is also a 2018-19 Translation Research Fellow through the Wilder School’s Office of Public Policy Outreach.  Additionally, she works with Brubaker, Wilder School Assistant Professor Sarah Raskin, Ph.D., and the other members of the iCubed Oral Health Core on a long-term project in collaboration with community partners including the Henrico Education Foundation and Glen Lea Elementary School that was also recently funded by the Children's Hospital Foundation Research Fund.

“The PeRQ grant will help us begin our project that we began conceptualizing almost two years ago,” Brubaker said. “It will help fund the first phase, a mixed methods needs assessment of the community.  I'm excited about the opportunity for involvement in a truly community-based and community-led project, collaborating with partners in Henrico County schools and social services. 

“Another aspect of the project that is so important is the truly transdisciplinary approach, bringing together scholars from multiple departments and schools on both the Monroe Park and medical campuses,” she said. “This has been a goal at VCU since I came here 15 years ago, and I'm thrilled to be a part of this innovative project that promises to serve as a model of research that can truly make a difference in people's lives.”

Teresa’s project, “The Reemergence of Land Contracts in Chicago: The Role of Institutional Investors in the Intensification of Racial Exclusion in Real Estate Markets,” examines the return of contract-for-deed home sales, an exploitative lending practice that was common in racially segregated American cities prior to fair housing legislation in 1968, and focuses on why large-scale institutional investors have entered this market since the 2008 financial crisis.

His study will detail the conditions that allow contract selling to proliferate, the effects on buyers and their communities, and political and policy responses. It fits within a broader context of recent changes in housing and real estate markets that have become dominated by large-scale investors and landlords.

There are several reasons why we should be interested in these changes, he explained, all of which point toward increasing inequality and segregation across cities in the U.S., as well as rolling back the clock on gains made in fair housing from the civil rights movement.

He will look at land contracts from a historical perspective: how could a lending practice from an era of legal racial discrimination return to contemporary housing markets? And why, this time around, would the practice be picked up by professional, large-scale institutional investors? Focusing on Chicago for fieldwork is important because historically it was the site of significant political organizing around fair housing in the 1960s.

To support current efforts to address problems from contract selling, one of the outcomes of this project will be a data tool that housing advocates and city and state experts can use to identify homes and neighborhoods at risk and who the owners and lenders are.

“The PeRQ award will help support and extend the scope of my ongoing research agenda into the changes in real estate and housing markets since the 2008 financial crisis that are exacerbating inequality and reproducing racial segregation,” Teresa said.

“I'm particularly excited that the award will provide the opportunity to include students in research that will critically assess how these trends threaten progress toward truly democratic cities and what opportunities these challenges present to communities and policymakers. I also think that by supporting this kind of research, VCU shows that it values scholarship on pressing national urban problems.”