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NSF REU Site: Research Institute in Sociology and Social Inequality – Projects and Faculty

The Texas A&M Sociology Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) offers summer fellowships to do world class research.

This program is funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) under grant #1757813.

Faculty Research Mentors and Research Projects

The faculty research mentors for this project are accomplished researchers with expertise in the area of social disparities. They have published extensively on this topic and collectively have mentored hundreds of undergraduate and graduate student projects in this area. They have supervised many dozens of doctoral dissertations and supervised hundreds of students in writing articles and reports and making presentations at professional conferences. The following provides a brief discussion of some of the mentors and the research project opportunities they will provide to the students in our program. Each summer there will also be additional opportunities that are available, contingent on mentors’ availability.

Mary Campbell

Dr. Mary Campbell (Associate Professor, Sociology) has interests in racial identification and racial inequality, with a special focus on multiracial groups and interracial relationships. She has mentored 11 undergraduates working on research projects, several of whom went on to win research awards for their projects. She will mentor students on projects testing how proposed changes to the measurement of race and ethnicity would affect our estimates of racial and ethnic inequality in the United States. The new design would result in more information about ethnicity for some racial groups than was collected in the 2010 Census, and will change the measurement of multiracial identification for Hispanic/Latinx groups. It could also add information on Middle Eastern and North African ancestry, a category not collected in Census data before (one that used to be included in the “White” category). Undergraduate researchers will participate in survey analysis using data collected by the Census Bureau and the Racial and Ethnic Studies Institute to test how this new information may shape our estimates of racial and ethnic inequality. For example, they will test research questions such as (but not limited to): Do people who identify with the “Middle Eastern/North African” category have the same socioeconomic characteristics as White non-Latinx, the group that they have been placed into in the past? Do individuals who identify as Hispanic/Latinx and White have the same socioeconomic characteristics as those who identify as only Hispanic/Latinx? These are questions of great significance for understanding racial and ethnic inequality in the United States today and how it is measured.

Robert J. Durán

Dr. Robert J. Durán (Associate Professor, Sociology) has interests in criminology and race, urban ethnography, and juvenile delinquency/justice. He plans to have students collect officer-involved shooting data for several large cities in Texas (Austin, Dallas, El Paso, Houston, Fort Worth, and San Antonio). Student research projects could focus on any one of these cities, investigating the circumstances of officer-involved shootings and analyzing patterns.

Mark Fossett

Dr. Mark Fossett (Professor, Sociology; Executive Director – TXRDC) has interests in stratification, social inequality, demography of ethnic groups, and residential segregation. He has mentored many students (about 18) in past REU Sites and has supervised several students who participated in our previous REU sites to complete masters and doctoral degrees. Fossett offers the opportunity to undertake projects investigating trends and patterns in residential segregation. Examples include: (1) Investigate trends and patterns in racial/ethnic segregation over time using a comprehensive database of segregation scores covering communities across the entire US for the three census years of 1990, 2000, and 2010.  (2) Perform detailed case studies investigating trends/patterns in residential segregation for one or a few selected cities using descriptive quantitative methods and GIS-based analytic maps. (3) Use computer simulation methods to explore how different sociological processes can produce segregation of different forms.  (4) Investigate segregation in urban areas 1910-1940 using newly released historical data that make it possible to study segregation in this time frame for the first time with modern research methods. (5) Study variation in attitudes about segregation and residential preferences.  (6) Many other options that can emerge from conversations about mutual interests and possibilities.

Holly Foster

Dr. Holly Foster (Professor, Sociology) has interests in the effects of parental incarceration on children, women’s imprisonment and children’s exposure to violence. She is beginning a collaboration with a group in Houston that mentors children of incarcerated parents. She is working with a group of student volunteers in gathering descriptive data on the youth they are recruiting into their program though presentations to fathers in TX prisons.  She is developing an arts-based research study (n=100 children aged 10-17) using photovoice methods to provide a unique window into the experiences of these children. One of the intended products of this qualitative study is around educational efforts and tools to create inclusive environments for these children. For example, a study with vignettes has shown that teachers form lower competency expectancies when they learn a child has an incarcerated parent (Dallaire et al. 2010). These results may lead to developing materials that may resonate with students and future teachers.

Sarah Gatson

Dr. Sarah Gatson (Associate Professor, Sociology) studies community food security and food justice in the Brazos Valley. Using both a research and service-learning approach, she and her team of researchers investigate historical and contemporary community food security and access to agriculture. They build and help maintain residential and third-space food gardens in the Brazos Valley, using a participatory action/multi-sited & extended case method ethnographic approach.

Patrick Rubio Goldsmith

Dr. Patrick Rubio Goldsmith (Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Admissions, Sociology) has research interests that focus on how residential segregation and school segregation impact racial/ethnic inequality in educational, socioeconomic, and residential outcomes. He has an active grant from the American Educational Research Association and will involve students in projects that use data sets from the National Center for Educational Statistics. The student project will use the Educational Longitudinal Study, a data set widely used in education research, to assess how residential changes impact students’ educational progression and attainment. Example research questions would be “Do Black/Latino students who move from predominantly Black/Latino neighborhoods to predominantly White neighborhoods, or the reverse, differ from Black (Latino) students who reside continuously in White or Black/Latino neighborhoods on educational outcomes?”

Nancy Plankey-Videla

Dr. Nancy Plankey-Videla (Associate Professor, Sociology) focuses on issues around immigration and the deportability of migrants, workers’ rights and labor issues, and intersectionality. She has participated in the most recent REU, mentoring students conducting interviews with local day laborers about labor and migration conditions in the local area. She plans to work with students on research that centers around the concept of citizenship, the process of choosing to become a United States citizen, and mobilization for labor equity.

Harland Prechel

Dr. Harland Prechel (Professor, Sociology) has two research projects that are currently accepting new students. (1) The organizational and political-legal sources of class-based inequality.  This project uses historical methods that examines government documents and other historical data. (2) The organizational and political-legal and community bases of environment pollution with a focus on greenhouse grass emissions and toxic emissions.  In the current stage, this project employs primarily quantitative methods.

Selected Research Facilities

Our REU Site will draw on the combined resources of the broader university (TAMU), the Sociology department, and multiple research centers (described below).

Students will have full access to the excellent research library at Texas A&M University and multiple options for seminar classroom space and conference rooms. They also will have access to relevant software and hardware in the SOCI Computer Lab and GIS Labs. These labs will give students access to state-of-the-art computer workstations with research related software, high-speed network connections, and printers and other relevant peripheral equipment (e.g., scanners, plotters, etc.). Students also have support from the SOCI and CLA IT support staff.

As mentioned above, faculty mentors are affiliated or directing a host of centers around the campus, which means students, will have access to these facilities and expertise as part of this REU program. Some of the centers include the following: