Concerned About Housing Disparities, a New York City Researcher Seeks a Ph.D.

August 31, 2023

Caitlin Waickman, of the Department of Housing Preservation and Development, explains her work and why she wants a Sociology doctorate.

Caitlin Waikman headshot
Caitlin Waickman (Photo courtesy of Waickman)

As an urban studies master’s student at Fordham University, Caitlin Waickman became passionate about disparities in housing access in New York City, she said.

“I wrote my thesis on tenant movements in New York City,” Waickman said, “and then went on to work in housing research for the City of New York. In my time doing data collection, I have spoken with so many New Yorkers who experience housing instability that affects all aspects of their lives and well-being.”

Waickman is now the deputy director of research and evaluation at the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development. And, this month, she joined the Sociology Ph.D. program at the Graduate Center, where she plans to continue researching housing instability.

Learn More About the Ph.D. Program in Sociology

Waickman recently spoke to us over email about her work, her decision to come to the Graduate Center, and her ambitions. She also shared advice for fellow doctoral degree seekers.

The Graduate Center: Can you tell us more about your role as deputy director of research at the New York City Department of Housing and Preservation?

Waickman: I have worked on various research projects at the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) for about nine years. This work has included data collection throughout New York City, developing survey instruments in multiple languages, and sharing findings with policymakers and other researchers. I have had the opportunity to learn and grow within a research environment and work across various phases of a research effort.

One of the primary surveys I work on is the New York City Housing and Vacancy Survey (NYCHVS), a representative survey of both New York City’s housing stock and population that has been conducted since 1965.

GC: What are you hoping to get out of your Graduate Center Ph.D. experience?

Waickman: I am planning to continue my career in research, and my goals for my Graduate Center Ph.D. are to hone the skills necessary to conduct robust research and support my research questions. My research experience so far has been valuable, but it is important to me that I develop the background and skills necessary to conduct research that will contribute to and further a broader understanding of housing disparities and their impacts.

GC: Why did you choose to come to the Graduate Center for a Ph.D. in Sociology?

Waickman: I chose to come to the Graduate Center after getting to know the current students and faculty in the program. After attending departmental events and accepted student’s day, it was clear that the Graduate Center was not only a good fit, but that students and faculty were genuinely interested in engaging with and supporting my research area and methods of interest. The community at the Graduate Center was important to me. I appreciate that the Graduate Center is dedicated to New York City and has a student population that reflects New York City.

GC: What do you think helped you stand out as a Ph.D. candidate?

Waickman: My experience working in research helped me to define my research interests and allowed me to demonstrate my ability to write and present on research methods. With that being said, my experience has also helped me to identify where I am hoping to learn more and develop my skills. I think a specific area of interest and research questions are important for the application process, but what I really appreciate about the Graduate Center is the diversity of areas of interest and backgrounds.

GC: What advice would you give to people who are applying for a Ph.D., based on your experience?

Waickman: I would suggest that they reach out to current students and attend department events if they are available. Ask lots of questions. Speaking with students and faculty helped me to get a higher level perspective on the program. I would also suggest that applicants talk about their application with the people in their lives whose opinion they value. It can be intimidating to ask for advice or feedback, but those conversations were essential for my writing process.

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