Howard's dissertation is titled "'More than Shelter': Community, Identity, and Spatial Politics in San Francisco Public Housing, 1938-2000" and centers on public housing projects in San Francisco.
"I looked at how residents in these projects came together across racial and ethnic lines to form communities and turn their projects into homes," Howard said. "Faced with project mismanagement, increases in crime, occasional infighting, and the scorn of surrounding communities, these people engaged in a range of actions to enact social change." In one instance, about 200 tenants participated in a rent strike to force improvements.
Howard was also honored with a Distinguished Dissertation Award from the Arts & Sciences Graduate Studies Advisory Board for "exemplary scholarship that contributes significantly to the discipline"; and received honorable mention for the Ralph Henry Gabriel Prize awarded by the American Studies Association for best doctoral dissertation.
In April 2006 Professor Howard spoke at a meeting of the Graduate Studies Advisory Board, describing how her dissertation research helped to shape her career path. "I had an amazing experience at William and Mary. All of the assistantships I had there really made a difference, both in preparing me for the great job I have now and in distinguishing me from hundreds of other applicants."