UA Poverty Field Workshop Students engage in addressing Tucson low-income households

More than 100 community members, city officials and nonprofit organizers turned out to hear University of Arizona students from the Poverty in Tucson Field Workshop present the results of their semester-long efforts to collect data from low-income households across Tucson.

The Poverty in Tucson Field Workshop is a partnership involving the UA College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, the Mayor’s Commission on Poverty, and local nonprofits, and is part of the UA’s commitment to the goal of 100% Engagement.

"I liked that we actually received hands-on experience," said Chantelle Figueroa, a sociology and psychology major. "It wasn’t just sitting in the classroom. We were able to talk to people."

"Even though we know (about the problem), we wanted to learn more about what the lives were like of low-income Tucsonans," said Brian Mayer, associate professor in the UA School of Sociology, who teaches the workshop course along with sociology graduate student Julia Smith. Mayer is also a fellow in the Agnese Nelms Haury Program in Environment and Social Justice. "How are these households coping and what strategies are they using?"

Over seven weeks, the students knocked on 2,000 doors and completed 257 surveys in eight neighborhoods designated by the census as having high poverty rates. During the forum, groups of students explained posters representing their findings.

"I was surprised by how resilient people were," said Sarah Schwartz, a student in care, health and society and in nutritional sciences. "People were really struggling, but they were happy and doing what they could."

The Poverty in Tucson Field Workshop is another way UA students are engaged outside the classroom, collecting data that can be used to improve the lives of Tucson residents.