On May 21, 2024, the UNIGIS International Association announced that Christopher S. Hayner is the first place winner of its 2023 Academic Excellence Prize for his thesis work conducted at the University of Southern California Spatial Sciences Institute’s M.S. in Geographic Information Science and Technology (GIST) graduate program.

An independent review board analyzed master theses nominated by UIA centers, which are the world’s leading academic programs in geographic information science and systems. Using the criteria of technical quality, quality of literature review, relevance, presentation and originality, the UIA review board unanimously recognized Hayner’s thesis as the best thesis in the prestigious competition.

In his thesis entitled “Exploring the Pernicious Effects of Redlining and Discriminatory Policies on an American City: A Spatio-Temporal Case Study of New York City,” Hayner investigated the lasting impacts of racially discriminatory land use and planning policies upon American cities by closely examining its largest metropolis, New York.

To determine if and where concentrations of Black and White households are located in different neighborhoods, Hayner studied the spatial pattern of racial distribution across the city using measures of spatial autocorrelation and segregation. He then assessed the degree to which redlining, zoning or other factors explain the spatial pattern using linear and spatial regression. He conducted each of these analyses in 30-year snapshots beginning in 1960, allowing the changing influence of different variables, along with the persistence or dispersion of clusters, to be observed over time. Through this lens, he pinpointed the impact of particular policy measures, evaluated for their lasting contribution to concentrating disparate races in separate areas of the city.

In congratulating Hayner, the UNIGIS review board shared, “An excellent work, demanding in terms of GIS-related work and the depth of literature review, tackling a socially relevant and urgent problem.”

For his prize, Hayner will receive a certificate recognizing his research as an example of “good practice” for the UNIGIS community, along with 800 euros.

A 2024 graduate of the USC M.S. GIST Program, Hayner is the deputy director of zoning at the New York City Department of City Planning. He has been with the Zoning Division in the agency for over 15 years. In his current role, he helps lead a team of 12 planners in explain, evaluating, and amending the complex set of land use regulations that govern the size, shape and composition of buildings in the city.

Upon learning of this honor, Hayner said, “I am extremely honored to be chosen for the UNIGIS prize for my thesis exploring the legacy of historic injustices like ‘redlining’ in our urban environments. This recognition was a complete surprise and I find it to be a terrific conclusion to an incredibly rewarding thesis experience at USC.”

He added, “ I personally loved being able to take timely issues from my professional life as an urban planner, blend them with the sophisticated geographical analysis techniques being taught in the classroom, and synthesize it into a timely research product with the help and support of my fantastic thesis advisors. The knowledge and skills garnered through my time at the Spatial Sciences Institute have helped me to become a more thoughtful researcher, a more deliberate policymaker, and a more effective leader. I am very grateful for the experience.”

“Chris is an outstanding example of the high quality of our GIST students and alumni and of their capacity to make innovative and impactful differences in the world,” said John P. Wilson, professor and founding director of the USC Spatial Sciences Institute. “We add our congratulations to Chris for this important recognition of his ground-breaking research.”

Hayner is the eighth USC Spatial Sciences Institute MS GIST recipient of the UNIGIS Academic Excellence Prize. Dr. Elisabeth Sedano served as his Hayner’s advisor, with Dr. Darren Ruddell and Dr. Robert Vos serving on his thesis committee. Hayner also received the USC Spatial Sciences Institute M.S. GIST first place thesis prize in 2023.

To learn more about the USC Spatial Sciences Institute M.S. in Geographic Information Science and Technology program, please visit gis.usc.edu or call 877-650-9054.