Putting the Puzzle Together

At the Moe Concert
June 24, 2014
Jessica Morris

This summer, I am working at the Western New York Law Center on research related to the mortgage foreclosure process. More specifically, I am engaging in research showing how the foreclosure settlement conference process helps protect people in Western New York who are in jeopardy of losing their homes. A normal day at work involves analyzing foreclosure data from the greater Buffalo area and determining the relationship between attending settlement conferences and the likelihood of avoiding foreclosure. The nature of this work is interesting because the individual cases have stories behind them, and finding the information to determine what happened is like solving a puzzle. There is a clear qualitative component to this work, which is different than many other data analysis projects I have worked on in the past. Considering mortgage foreclosure rates in Erie County are among the highest in the state, I find this work as practical as it is eye opening.

I am learning more about how the mortgage foreclosure process and related policies in New York State function, and am also gaining exposure to the situations that lead people to precarious financial positions. By observing the CLARO legal clinic, which provides free legal counsel to individuals with consumer debt cases, I have witnessed how most people who end up in perilous financial situations have experienced unforeseen hardship such as accidents and medical emergencies. This goes against the myth that people are solely responsible for the situations they are in, and that pure financial mismanagement is a key reason for peoples’ hardships.

The ILR School has prepared me for my High Road Fellowship project by providing me with a well rounded education. Skills I have developed from my ILR coursework include research skills, policy analysis, and data analysis. It has been interesting to watch these areas meld together as I work on my project. I feel like I am able to apply theories and information I have learned in my school work, such as law classes and statistics classes, when I am at work. My fellowship is also influencing my professional plans by solidifying my interest in data analysis, policy analysis, and research. I appreciate being able to do work related to my areas of interest while developing new skills and knowledge.

Visiting court in Genesee County

Putting the details of my project aside, I have greatly enjoyed the interpersonal relationships I have developed during my time in Buffalo thus far. My supervisor has been very nice and helpful during the training process. I work with another High Road intern, and we love the conversations we have with our coworkers in the affectionately dubbed Data Dungeon. The work environment is politically focused and concerned with the civil rights of low-income people. I have also appreciated getting to know my suitemates and the other High Road fellows better during time off work and during organized group activities. We have had a lot of fun attending concerts and visiting art galleries in Buffalo. Overall, I have had a great experience so far and look forward for what’s to come!

Paintings at the Allentown Art Festival