Mess Hall: Desirable Qualities of Urban Greenways

Graduate Student Collaboration Research Fellow Joseph Cunanan offered insight into the qualities that residents find desirable in urban paths, greenways, and trails.  Cunanan based his research on the 606 Trail in Humboldt park, which is set to open to the public on June 6, 2015.


The talk was informative and included a brief description of the generations of definitions of greenways:

1st: 1700s-1960s, exemplified by the motto adopted by Chicago in the 1830s Urbs in horto “City in a Garden”.  This mode focused on boulevards connected by parks, thus creating in Chicago an “emerald necklace”.

2nd: 1960s-1985, where greenways were primarily recreational- a response to the rise of the automobile.

3rd: 1985-present, where greenways are seen as a response to urban condition, a counter balance to the loss of natural spaces.  Also seen as multi-purpose (transportation, growth management, recreational).

For the project, he employed mixed methods deploying both an anonymous survey and also interviews of stakeholders.  Individuals living in Humboldt park rated “closeness to nature”, “good maintenance” and “safety” as being the top three qualities of urban greenways/paths.  The order of preference varied according to the distance that respondents lived from the trail.

In all, the presentation was well-attended and informative.

Call for Presenters

Mess Hall is a series of short, informal sessions in which DePaul scholars (faculty, students, and staff) share their work with an audience, mess and all. These sessions are intended to be a safe space to acknowledge the messiness inherent to all kinds of scholarship.  The primary goal of the Mess Hall series is to help DePaul scholars—regardless of their affiliation or status—network with and support each other around their scholarship. This support may take the form of feedback on a presentation, troubleshooting a methodological issue, getting advice about a project, recruiting collaborators for a project, and so on.

We’re looking for Mess Hall presenters. Faculty, students, and staff are all welcome to present on their scholarship. Mess Hall sessions are a low-risk environment for people to talk about their work with colleagues from all over the university. Past sessions have focused on getting methodological advice, getting feedback on book proposals, and simply sharing research.

To propose a session, fill out this simple form.

Darsie Bowden’s Investigation into the Role of Instructor Feedback on Students’ Writing Efforts

Students care about feedback and consider comments on their papers much more carefully than instructors often give them credit for.  That’s one of the encouraging discoveries Writing, Rhetoric and Discourse Professor Darsie Bowden and a team of WRD student researchers are finding as they approach the analysis stage in a project examining how students utilize instructor feedback.


Teachers commonly complain that students ignore their written comments on assignments.  Some have even tried different approaches to commenting, including audio-recording their suggestions, conferencing with students or soliciting feedback—probably impractical on a large scale.  Darsie, who has taught writing to teachers and students for 30 years at three institutions and has administered DePaul’s first-year writing program, is approaching this conundrum from the perspective of the student.

“We’re looking at the wrong thing when we look at the final draft,” she said.  “It’s static.”  Why?  It leaves out what she is finding to be a critical aspect: “students’ reflections on how they got there.”

Over the past two years Darsie has been attempting to identify precisely what transpires from the moment when students confront teacher feedback through the decision-making process that results in their submission of a revised draft.  She and her researchers have been meeting from one to three times a week in the SSRC’s computer lab since last summer where they are using NVivo software to structure and analyze data collected from 47 students—primarily freshmen—from 12 sections of WRD 103, Composition and Rhetoric I, a course on college-level writing standards and expectations required of most first-year DPU students.  The data consists of written drafts, survey information and interviews assembled, transcribed and coded by Darsie, her researchers and staff from The University Center for Writing-based Leadership at DePaul.

The interviews have provoked “wonderful conversations with students,” said Darsie, opening a window on to their thought processes, starting from students’ initial reaction to teacher feedback and progressing from planning to execution and the revising of their papers.  Each project participant gave two interviews—first, upon receiving written comments where students discussed how they felt about the feedback, how they interpreted it and how they planned to address it.  The subsequent interview came after they submitted a revised paper.  That conversation focused on how they’d incorporated their instructor’s comments into both their thinking and their writing, including what influenced their choices and revisions.

Darsie was taken aback to find that 36 of the 47 (77%) subjects in her study expressed confusion over at least one comment from the instructor.  “That’s distressing!” she said.  However, a fuller depiction emerged as students talked through their processes, sharing with interviewers such moments as when a puzzling comment suddenly gelled, be it an idea or the reason behind a grammar rule.

That point might occur far down the road, a finding that could have significant implications for how teachers define writing.  “We may have to conceive of writing in a broader sense,” said Darsie, as a process that unfolds over time, even up to years.  “How are you going to open those doors such that instructors can understand what’s going on and intervene in productive ways that will actually help students become better writers and thinkers?” she asks.

Through the analysis, Darsie hopes to pinpoint what sort of comments help students most and why they follow, ignore or reject suggestions.  Previous investigations of this type have concentrated on student writers from specific types of schools (such as Ivy League or two-year institutions) or on best practice recommendations for teacher feedback.  She wants to scrutinize the thought and writing process of a broad range of students, including strong and unconfident writers.  She thinks her sample “pretty nicely” represents the demographics of first-year DePaul students across colleges, including non-native speakers, students who struggle with learning disabilities, transfer students and high-achievers.

Her project has received financial support from DePaul’s Quality of Instruction Council, the University Research Council and LAS Summer Research Grants as well as a prestigious Research Initiative award from the Conference on College Composition and Communication.  She appreciates the suggestions on how to utilize NVivo coming from her research team—WRD graduate students Bridget Wagner, Meaghan Young-Stephens, Katie Martin and former student Jeff Melichar.  NVivo’s search, query and visualization functions let them match and apply coded data from the writing drafts, interviews and demographic surveys that include GPA and ACT/SAT scores as well as the students’ own assessments of their writing ability to form a sophisticated analysis and a rich picture of project participants.

Darsie plans to summarize her findings in a journal article by the end of summer.  Longer term, she is contemplating a book-length assessment that would expand upon how students handle feedback and what determines strong or weak processing of suggestions.  Her ultimate aim is to provide evidence-based guidance for instructors across disciplines on how to best serve all student writers.

Bishop’s Loop Office Hours

office hours

Every other Thursday SSRC Methodologist holds office hours in the conference room of the Department of Social Work (Room 906 of 14 East Jackson Blvd).  The next date is Thursday May 14th.  This is a perfect time to drop in and discuss any research questions you might have, without making the trek all the way to Lincoln Park!!.  No appointment is necessary!  Office hours are 11a-1pm, so bring your lunch or your coffee and your questions!!

Primary Data Sources for Geospatial and Non-Geospatial Data


I am often asked, ‘where can I find good data for my research?’ which prompted me to put together a list of good data sources for both geospatial and non-geospatial data.

Geography: Chicago

Description: The City of Chicago Data Portal includes more than 250 datasets, both spatial and non-spatial, organized into 16 different categories ranging from transportation and sanitation to education and economic development. Users can visualize the data as maps, graphs and charts, by specifying filtering criteria. Experienced users can download the information as datasets in various formats for further analysis.


Geography: Cook County

Description: Similar to the Chicago’s data portal, the Cook County Open Portal also has an extensive collection of geospatial and non-geospatial datasets. The data is organized into 8 main categories such as courts, economic development, finance and administration, forest preserves, health care, public safety, property tax and GIS/Maps. Users can download the data into various formats or visualize it within the portal, even embedding the visuals into their own sites.


Geography: Illinois

Description: The University of Illinois Springfield has compiled a list of data sources related to Illinois and the United States, grouped by 5 different topics, and including both spatial and non-spatial data.


Geography: USA


(1) U.S. Census is the first place to go for data related to population or housing. It provides new census data every 10 years and annual data from the American Community Survey in between its decennial censuses. Two decades of both spatial and non-spatial data are available concerning demographic, socio-economic and housing characteristics for various geographic extents and units of analysis. The information can be downloaded as raw data files or as summary tables, and sometimes as maps.

URL: (Raw Data) (All other)

(2) is the U.S. Government’s open data portal for federal, state and local data including tools and resources to conduct research and design data visualizations. The data is grouped into 14 main industries ranging from agriculture, manufacturing and energy to education, consumer and government. The data comes from hundreds of organizations, including federal and non-federal government agencies.


(3) The Pew Research Center’s data site consists of a multitude of key national, political, economic and demographic trends gathered over time on issues, attitudes and trends for the U.S. and also world polling/survey data.

URL: (Indicators)

Geography: World


(1) The World Bank’s open data site consists of datasets, databases, pre-formatted tables, reports and other resources aggregated by countries, regions or sub-regions over multiple decades. Similar to other data portals, this site also lets users download data, filter it by criteria and/or visualize it.

URL: (Catalog) (Reports)

(2) The UN has more than 60 million datasets spanning decades and covering a wide range of topics including agriculture, crime, education, employment, energy, environment, health, HIV/AIDS, human development, industry, population, refugees, tourism and trade, to name just some. The site not only allows downloading data based on filtering criteria, but also provides easy access to country profiles.


(3) put together a list of 10 free, downloadable, geospatial data sources for global data from various reputable sources. The link shows a list of sites, their advantages and categories by data types.


Where else can you find good data?

How Jessi Bishop-Royse Works


Location: My office in The Center for Centers (located in Lincoln Park).
Current Gig: Senior Research Methodologist
One word that best describes how you work: Anywhere and Everywhere.
Current mobile device: iPhone 5c (yellow)
Current computer: I have recently joined the Mac bandwagon- so my personal machine is a MacBook Pro. My office machine is a non-descript Dell “Optiplex” tower.

What apps/software/tools can’t you live without? Stata is the one statistical package to rule them all. If I can’t do it in Stata, it doesn’t need to be done. I discovered Boxer for email last year. I tried going back to regular email- turns out, it’s really overwhelming with how much junk mail I receive- and I always feel like I am missing an important email because I scrolled past it amidst the 204994095843 emails I get a day. Boxer automates a lot of the email- Amazon confirmations, social media notifications, etc. Its worth every penny.

I like Evernote for note taking, project planning, drafting emails, and such because I can access it with all of my devices- so I am never slowed down by the fact that I don’t I have X notebook with me, or having to switch between personal and work accounts (*glares at Microsoft One Note for being unreasonable). I am starting to play with the Evernote Smart Notebook (which allows for digital integration of handwritten notes), but the jury is still out on that.

What’s your workspace setup like? I have an office with a window in 990 W. Fullerton, which is quite lovely this time of year, when the sun is setting.  During the winter, it’s nice to sit in a sun beam around 4pm, as my day is winding down. Aside from that, I have a two monitor setup on top of a Varidesk, which allows me to either stand (for unimportant tasks like email) or sit (for tasks requiring concentration). It is criminal that there are offices in 2015 that aren’t equipped with desks that allow workers to stand. In fact, I think we are going to look back offices without standing desk options in 2015 the way we look at all the office drinking and smoking that happens in Mad Men.

What’s your best time-saving shortcut/life hack? Do you automate something that used to be a time sink? Do you relegate email to an hour a day? I use a planner to plan out my weeks. I try to coral meetings on the same days of the week, just because when I lose focus on a task, it usually ends with me on Buzzfeed or Gawker reading an article about the 10 worst characters on Game of Thrones or The Craziest Moments from Last Night’s Walking Dead.

I try to do “batch work” as much as possible- to minimize switching from task to task, where frankly, I have the greatest likelihood of getting distracted. This started with weekly meal preps on the weekends, where I cook a bunch of food and pack for lunch. I also use it for digitizing hard copies of things, setting to-dos and reminders, etc.  My week goes a lot better if I sit down on Monday and review my calendar.  I try to take 10-15 minutes to review my email and get requests for meetings into the appropriate time slots, so I know what is happening when.

Also, I have taken a cold hard look at some of my activities and ruthlessly cut to the quick any that require more time than they are worth.  Since I am a grownup with a real job and a kid, I don’t have that kind of time anymore, so back in 2013 I started CrossFitting (at Bucktown CrossFit).  It’s super convenient, less than a mile from the Lincoln Park campus.   I can jog, or bike there, do my workout and can be back at the office in 1.5 hours. Sometimes it’s an ass-kicking, but most days it is the exact thing I need to break up the day.

Also, I multi-task as much as possible.  I know that all the efficiency experts say that no one multitasks well, but I think that is b.s.  I will call my mom or listen to an audiobook while I am in the car on the way home.  Or I will “watch” an episode of a tv show I am following on an ipad while I do dishes or fold laundry.

What’s your favorite to-do list manager? My planner. See below.

Besides your phone and computer, what gadget can’t you live without and why? I have tried almost every digital/app-based planner there is. After graduating, I spent a long time trying to figure out my planner system (it was a running joke in the SSRC), because in addition to hard and fast dates and times when things need to happen (like appointments), I need a place to do project planning. So, I spent a long time experimenting with Moleskine planners, disc planners, digital planners, Day/Time Runners, monthly, weekly, biweekly, daily planners, systems like GTD and bullet journals. Last year, I finally developed a system.

It requires a little time to set up, but it allows me to have all the things that I am dealing with in a week- from meetings, appointments, when I need to send bills, etc. Since I use a softcover moleskin book, I can tuck stamps, envelopes, parking tickets or bills into the extra pocket- and because I never lose my planner, I always have these things on me, if I need them. Anyone could take this system and modify for their own situation- because if we are all honest here, we often have things that come up in different realms of our lives.


What everyday thing are you better at than everyone else? What’s your secret? I am not a smart woman, but I know what hard work is (say this in your best Forrest Gump accent).  I am good at out working problems.   I think that getting a PhD is a practice in this… figuring out how to tackle a problem and having a contingency list. If solution A isn’t working, I am not afraid to move onto solution B, C or X, if I have to. And worst case scenario, if I have to, I will resort to doing things “the hard way”. True story: I spent the summer of 2005 manually matching death certificate records for infants born in Florida in 1980 to their birth records, because it was the only way it could be done.

What do you listen to while you work? Depends on the kind of work I am doing. I recently discovered Pandora’s 1990s and 2000s Rap and Hip Hop stations, which are are are on point.  They are perfect when I am doing tasks that don’t require a lot of concentration, like answering email or tasking out events. Silence is deafening to me- so I always have some noise in the background.  So, on tasks the require concentration, I will turn to a solid list of classical musical pieces such as Goldberg’s variations, Barber’s Adagio for Strings, and Bach’s Cello Suite No. 1.

What do you do to stay inspired? Who are some of your favorite artists? Last year, I joined an accountability group that meets every other week. In those meetings, we set goals for the next two weeks and update the group on progress from the last week. Every other week, it’s a shot in the arm- motivating me to get to work and encouraging me to be like the cool kids who are kicking ass on the regular. Also, if I am not up against a deadline, I find that TedTalks are fantastic during lunch in my office or riding the train. The breadth of topics on which there are talks is astounding- and I can always find something that is applicable to my research.

What sort of work are you up to now? We have a couple of research projects that I am trying to breathe life into. We are wrapping up data collection for our “Seasons of Violence” project with MSW faculty member Noam Ostrander.  In it, we are analyzing weather patterns and violent crime in 100 US cities.  Two other graduate students have begun preliminary analysis using longitudinal educational data.  We’re looking for patterns in socioeconomic and educational outcomes among various groups of African-American high school students.

What are you currently reading? Like most people, I usually have several books I am reading at once. I am about half-way through J. Scott Long’s “The Workflow of Data Analysis Using Stata”, which is cool, because 10 years on, I am still learning new tricks with Stata.  Since Qualitative guru Jessica Speer left the SSRC for greener passages, I have been forced to pick up some of the slack on requests for qualitative consults.  So, I started “Qualitative Data Analysis: Practical Strategies” by Pat Bazeley.  It’s not reading, but I am 29 hours into the audio book version of George RR Martin’s “Song of Fire and Ice” by George RR Martin.

Are you more of an introvert or an extrovert? Maybe both? Definitely an introvert.

What’s your sleep routine like? Not great… I am tired all the time. It’s rare if I can get in bed before 11. Because I have a kid that starts school at 730, I am usually up at 515-530, in order to get my act together before trying to get him out the door. I try to catch up on the weekends, but it’s hard when you are trying to surf to the end of the internet. I have gotten close a couple of times… but no dice.

Fill in the blank: I’d love to see _________ answer these same questions. Why? Fernando DeMaio- because he’s super productive. He published a book last year and is starting the Center for Community Health Equity this year.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? Time is the most valuable commodity we have. Every person on this planet only has 24 hours in a day. When it’s all said and done, we should all try to do more of the things we like doing and fewer of the things we dislike doing. As such, I can be ruthless when it comes to my time being wasted: I suffer no fools in this regard.

Is there anything else you’d like to add that might be interesting to readers and fans? Growing up, we had a phrase in my family, “Do it or don’t bother me with it”, which I think adequately sums up my approach to life. “Gonna do _______” doesn’t mean anything to me. Therefore, I try not to commit to things I have no intention to follow through on.

The How I Work series featured on the re/search blog is shamelessly stolen from Life Hacker’s How I Work series.  The SSRC’s version asks DePaul’s heroes, experts, and individuals of note to share their shortcuts, workspaces, routines, and more. Have someone you want to see featured, or questions you think we should ask? Email your suggestion to Jessi Bishop-Royse at jbishopr [at] depaul dot edu.