Price PhD candidate awarded three scholarships to support research on urban mobility in Vietnam
By Matthew Kredell
Hue-Tam Webb Jamme – a Ph.D. candidate in Urban Planning and Development at the USC Price School of Public Policy – applied for three scholarships from California-based transportation organizations in hopes that she would win one to help fund field work for her dissertation. She ended up getting all three.
It started in November when she received $7,500 from the Women’s Transportation Seminar-L.A. Chapter, and over the span of six months she received additional awards totaling $4,000 from the Railway Association of Southern California Scholarship and the California Transportation Foundation Graduate School Scholarship. These are the three most prestigious scholarship opportunities funded by the practice community, noted Professor Marlon Boarnet, who chairs the USC Price Department of Urban Planning and Spatial Analysis. “The fact that Hue-Tam won all three is a strong sign of the interest in and importance of her research,” he added.
She had unsuccessfully applied to the first two during her initial year in the Ph.D. program, but after building up her research portfolio at USC Price, Webb Jamme’s persistence paid off.
“I really didn’t expect all that,” Webb Jamme said, “especially after the first time it didn’t work. During my three years here, I’ve accumulated more and more experience working on transportation projects in California.”
Over the past three years, she co-authored with USC Price faculty Deepak Bahl and Tridib Banerjee a paper on walking to school in the City Heights neighborhood of San Diego published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology, and worked on multiple research projects with Professor Boarnet related to the role of living near transit and transportation-oriented development.
“Hue-Tam’s dissertation work is doing a great job theorizing what it would mean to have a locally, contextually appropriate transportation system, and I think that is what’s resonating with these transportation scholarship funders,” said Boarnet, who is on her dissertation committee. “When our students win these awards, it shows the practice community the value of what our students are doing, which raises the Price School’s profile.”
How can transportation shape inclusive cities?
She is putting some of the proceeds to use in traveling to Vietnam to observe street life for her dissertation, titled “Mobility Development: How Transportation Planning Shapes Urban and Human Development in Ho Chi Minh City.”
Webb Jamme was born in France and her mother is Vietnamese. After completing graduate studies in France, she took an internship in Vietnam out of a curiosity to learn more about her mother’s homeland.
She ended up staying to work in Vietnam for five years, during which time she marveled at how quickly transportation in Vietnamese cities was changing. When she had visited as a child, everyone was riding a bicycle. When she started living there in 2010, mopeds were the preferred mode of transportation, but within five years she saw a move to automobiles.
“I had this sense when people were switching from motorbikes to cars that the way they were using the city was changing completely,” Webb Jamme said. “How people move around, interact with space, and with each other, are evolving together.
Mobility defines the city in how inclusive it is, how many opportunities there are for people to engage in social and economic interactions on the street.”
Webb Jamme hopes to complete her Ph.D. in 2019 or 2020, at which time she plans to pursue a position in academia.
“When I first came here, I didn’t expect the California context to be so exciting when it comes to transportation,” Webb Jamme said. “My interests were all about sustainable transportation in developing countries, where improving mobility seemed very urgent to me. Once here, having the opportunity to get involved in all the transportation projects happening at USC Price, I realized there’s so much to learn from transportation in California and so much to be done.”