PhD Candidate Receives Fellowship to Complete Dissertation on Urbanization in China

June 4, 2018
PhD candidate Chen Zhang with three faculty members
PhD candidate Chen Zhang, front right, with faculty advisors Kathy Quick, Joe Soss (back left) and Greg Lindsey. Photo: Melanie Sommer

Chen Zhang, a PhD candidate in urban and regional planning at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, is among a select number of PhD students to receive a Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship from the University of Minnesota.

The fellowship fully covers her expenses for the upcoming academic year, allowing her to devote full-time effort to conducting research and writing her dissertation.

Zhang’s research looks at the impact of urbanization in her native China, and her dissertation focuses specifically on the millions of people who live on the edge of rural and urban areas there.

“More than 26 million Chinese people live in this ‘in between’ position. And I am finding that many of them actually enjoy that identity, even though it seems unclear to outsiders,” says Zhang. “So I’m examining what planners and policymakers can do to respect their identities and choices.”

Zhang says the fellowship will support her as she spends the next several months in China doing more field work and collecting more data, and she hopes to complete her dissertation next year.

“Receiving this fellowship means a lot to me. It's a recognition of the value of my research, my thinking and my ideas, and a sign that my research could be effective and important for the community in the future,” she says. 

Zhang, who earned a Master of Urban and Regional Planning degree at the University of California, Irvine, says she selected the Humphrey School to pursue her PhD because of its interdisciplinary approach to urban planning.

“Not just the engineering and physical sides, but the social aspects as well. The human and cultural side of planning is just as important,” she says.

Zhang’s advisor, Associate Professor Kathy Quick, describes Zhang as “intellectually innovative” in her research, by exploring theoretical questions about societal identity while looking at practical implications at the same time.

Zhang is the fourth Humphrey School student to receive this fellowship since the School launched its doctoral program in 2014. 

“It’s confirmation that our doctoral students are among the best and brightest at the University of Minnesota,” says Professor Greg Lindsey, director of the School's PhD program. 

The Humphrey School welcomes its fifth cohort of PhD candidates in the fall.