AMES, Iowa — Four College of Design student researchers are among 25 Iowa State University students selected to present their work at Research in the Capitol from 11:30 a.m.—1:30 p.m. Monday, April 1, in the State Capitol rotunda in Des Moines.

They include Stuart Burzette, Des Moines, senior in community and regional planning and environmental science; Ruben Hernandez, Jr., Creston, senior in community and regional planning; Zoey Mauck, Des Moines, senior in landscape architecture and community and regional planning; and Emily Vanek, Dubuque, senior in community and regional planning. The students’ project titles and abstracts follow. The 14th annual event is open to the public.

Stuart Burzette

For his “Examination of Economic Resilience and Regional Capacity in the Midwest,” Burzette looked at micropolitan areas — areas between small towns and large cities with a population over 10,000 and under 50,000 people. While these areas comprise 10 percent of the US population, they have been neglected in academic research, which makes it difficult to predict and respond to threats to their existence from economic shocks like a major employer choosing to leave a region.

Burzette’s research answers the following question: What are the economic characteristics that make certain counties with micropolitan areas more resilient than others in the Midwest? He used regression models to understand the relationship between employment growth and counties’ economic characteristics such as related entropy, dependence on agriculture and percentage of employment in manufacturing. The economic shock was measured by the different in establishments with 250 or more employees in 2008 and 2016. He used the results to make recommendations for micropolitan areas’ planners who are interested in designing strategies to increase economic resiliency.

Ruben Hernandez, Jr., and Emily Vanek

Hernandez and Vanek will were part of a team that examined “Damage, Dislocation and Displacement of Renter and Immigrant Households after Low-Attention Disasters.” They studied the impact on renter and socially vulnerable households in Marshalltown after the EF-3 tornado damaged the town last summer. Marshalltown has higher-than-average renter-occupied housing and immigrant community members for a small town, and while it was extensively affected by the tornado that struck on July 19, 2018, it was not a presidential-declared disaster until roughly two months after.

Research has shown that in events such as these, socially vulnerable and low-income neighborhoods tend to recover more slowly than more affluent neighborhoods. The team conducted surveys on a random sample of 660 households and recorded structural housing damage in the tornado path from September to November. The preliminary findings of the analysis indicate that houses in low-income neighborhoods were more heavily damaged compared to other neighborhoods, especially renter-occupied houses, and despite lack of alternative housing options these neighborhoods had not made significant progress toward repairs, due to their limited access to financial recovery resources.

Zoey Mauck

Mauck uses her research to make “The Case for Car-Free Communities.” She argues that air pollution, obesity, traffic fatalities, poverty, accessibility and overall human happiness might seem to be entirely separate issues, but there is one thing that sits at the root of them all: the car. Some issues (traffic fatalities) might seem more obvious than others (human happiness), but in the end, all deserve equal attention when considering how straightforward the solution could be: creating car-free communities.

By exploring the many reasons for and benefits generated by going car-free, providing examples of communities that have been successful in making this change already, and analyzing a small town — Perry — with great potential to go car-free as a case study, Mauck’s analysis aims to reveal how challenges can be overcome to achieve success in creating human-centered, healthy, equitable and livable communities.


Stuart Burzette, Community and Regional Planning/Environmental Science, sburzett@iastate.edu
Ruben Hernandez, Jr., Community and Regional Planning, ruben15@iastate.edu
Zoey Mauck, Community and Regional Planning/Landscape Architecture, zmauck@iastate.edu
Emily Vanek, Community and Regional Planning, evanek@iastate.edu