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Headshot of Dr. Amy Hillier

Amy Hillier, PhD

  • Director, MS in Social Policy Program

  • Associate Professor, School of Social Policy & Practice

  • Associate Professor, Department of City and Regional Planning, PennDesign

3718 Locust Walk, McNeil Building, Room 518
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6214
  • office: 215.898.5512
  • fax: 215.573.2099

Research Interests

With her colleague Dr. Stephanie Boddie, Dr. Hillier directs The Ward: Race and Class in Du Bois’ Seventh Ward, a curriculum, research, and public history project aimed at recreating W.E.B. Du Bois’s 1896 foot survey of downtown Philadelphia. The Ward features an interactive GIS with individual and household-level 1900 US Census data for the households making up the Seventh Ward that Du Bois studied. The project also included work with the Philadelphia Mural Arts Program on a mural honoring Du Bois and the historically segregated black fire house, Engine Company 11. Dr. Hillier and her team have developed a five-day high school curriculum based on The Philadelphia Negro that aims to engage students in an honest dialogue about the role of race and racism in their lives, today. The curriculum includes a board game and a 19-minute documentary, “A Legacy of Courage: W.E.B. Du Bois and The Philadelphia Negro.” To read more about this project, visit the project website: www.dubois-theward.org.

Dr. Hillier’s dissertation and post-doctoral research, funded by grants from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, used GIS and spatial statistical analysis to understand the impact of the Home Owners’ Loan Corporations Residential Security Maps on historical mortgage redlining in Philadelphia. With Dr. Dennis Culhane, she was contracted by the Philadelphia Affordable Housing Coalition to conduct a study of affordable housing, published in 2003. She has also studied supportive housing and housing insecurity.

Dr. Hillier has led and collaborated on numerous funded research studies about access to healthful foods and food shopping, most of which involve significant participation by community members and field data collection. Her research has consistently found that people across income and racial/ethnic groups frequently travel beyond the closest food store for their shopping and emphasized the importance of understanding human agency for understanding choices about food shopping. Much of her research on food access using GIS and spatial analysis. It has also included door-to-door resident surveys, surveys of the availability of healthful foods in food stores using the Nutrition Environment Measure Survey for Stores (NEMS-S), surveys and interviews with WIC participants, and self-administered 24-hour food recalls. Most recently, she and her research team conducted an evaluation of the impact of the nonprofit market, Fare & Square, in Chester, PA.

In conjunction with the City of Philadelphia’s Get Healthy Philly initiative, Dr. Hillier and her research team surveyed ads for tobacco and sugary beverages inside and outside of 2500 tobacco outlets in the city. They will also interview store managers and conduct focus groups with residents. In an earlier five-city study, she worked with a team of Cheyney University students to collect images and the location of ads within five zip code areas in Philadelphia and used GIS and spatial statistical analysis to document clustering of ads for unhealthy products around child-serving institutions.

Most recently, Dr. Hillier has partnered with staff and youth from The Attic to initiate policy and research projects relating to the rights of transgender and gender non-conforming high school students. For more about the policy work, watch this short video. With colleagues from SP2, the LGBT Center, School of Nursing, Graduate School of Education, Alice Paul Center for Research on Women, Gender and Sexuality, and CHOP’s Gender and Sexuality Development Clinic, she is working on a range of curriculum, research, and advocacy projects focused on “Queering Penn” and beyond.

Amy Hillier currently teaches courses for SP2 (MSW and MSSP), PennDesign (City & Regional Planning), and the undergraduate Urban Studies program. These include introductory-level Geographic Information Systems (GIS) courses in the fall and spring semesters and within the MSW program’s racism sequence. She has also taught courses on community development, public health and the environment, and research methods. She received a BA in History from Middlebury College and her MSW and PhD from the University of Pennsylvania.

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