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Emerging Scholars Projects

Emerging Scholars Faculty Projects 2018-2019

These are the Emerging Scholars Project for the current year. Check out past projects below.

Amber HorningRuf, Assistant Professor, School of Criminology and Justice Studies
Outside In: Unaccompanied Minor Refugees’ Strain and Risk Pathways

The aim of Outside In is to contribute significant new knowledge about unaccompanied minor refugees (UCRs) and how their stress relates to their susceptibility and engagement in pathways of risk while they are waiting for an asylum decision. This project investigates how these young people present a double-edged risk (being at-risk and risky). Many UCR’s coming to Sweden are from worn-torn countries, such as Afghanistan or Syria, and are often fleeing threats and violence from groups, such as the Taliban, and/or they are fleeing military conscription (Wallin & Ahlström, 2005). This indicates that members of this demographic have multiple, stressful life events. Unaccompanied minor refugees are under 18 years old, outside of their country of origin and separated from both parents and other legal caregivers (Separated Children in Europe Programme, 2004), which for many UCR’s is an acute stressor and increases their at-risk status (Fazel et al., 2012). Currently, there are no studies testing the development of radical beliefs among UCR’s. They are at-risk, but they may also be risky due to the same vulnerabilities. Utilizing mix-method techniques, we explore how strain relates to engagement in risk pathways during the one-year period when these UCR’s are waiting in limbo. The findings from this study will allow for a deeper understanding of what happens during this limbo period and how the double-edged risk status of refugees take shape during this acutely stressful period.

Ingrid Hess, Assistant Professor of Graphic Design in the Art & Design Department
They Called Lowell Home: A City’s Immigrant and Refugee History Brought to Life

The Lowell Immigration Project seeks an Emerging Scholar to assist with the development of an archive (in the form of a website) where scholars, educators, students, immigrant groups and others can access information on Lowell immigrant groups. Currently there is an enormous amount of information on Lowell immigration, but most of it is inaccessible to the public. The selected Emerging Scholar would play an important role in bringing immigrant narratives (groups include Native Americans, the Congo, Eastern European Jews, Armenia, Poland, Iraq, Brazil, Columbia, Syria, Lebanon and Vietnam) to life through motion graphics. Additionally, he/she would meet regularly with other members of the project to discuss overall progress as well as work with members of Lowell’s immigrant communities to record narratives. Especially now when immigration policy is being debated across the country, having easy access to accurate information about immigration is critical. This extensive digital site will provide such access. An Emerging Scholar will be an important part of creating access to teachers and students on immigration history, leading to more dialogue and research on this topic.

Jason Rydberg, Assistant Professor, School of Criminology and Justice Studies
Estimating the Impact of Sex Offender Residence Restrictions on Sexual Assault across Multiple States

Since the mid-1990s States have passed an array of policies designed to regulate sex offenders in the community, driven by perceptions of the threat imposed by sexual predators. Sex Offender Residence Restrictions (SORR) are one such policy, which attempts to limit where registered sex offenders can legally reside by placing protective boundaries (e.g., 1,000ft) around places like schools, day care centers, and bus stops. Although such polices have been implemented at a statewide level in dozens of states, there is little to no evidence that they are effective in reducing sexual offending and promoting public safety. However, examining whether policies cause changes in some social phenomena is a difficult endeavor. We are going to try and look at the effectiveness of these policies through a new analytic framework known as synthetic control. Basically, this means that for any state that implements SORR at a specific time, we are going to identify states that have not adopted SORR to serve as possible comparisons, and use those to generate more valid conclusions about what would have happened to sexual assault in the SORR state had they never implemented the policy. In other words, this statistical technique gives us a new angle on the question of, “compared to what?”

Robert Forrant, Distinguished University Professor of History
Bringing Lowell’s Immigrant and Refugee Stories to Life: Building a Digital History

Immigration has transformed the city of Lowell and its surroundings for nearly two centuries. Making this story accessible to a wider audience is vital at a moment when so much of this history is being presented through a distorted lens. The vast majority of immigration material is inaccessible to scholars, classroom teachers, and students because it is ‘locked away’ in places that remain largely inaccessible to the public. This project aims to tell these untold stories through voice-overs and digital animation to ultimately be housed on a website with oral histories, images and resources for teachers. Building on the work of other UMass Lowell students, the Emerging Scholar would work closely with Professor Forrant to research and write new stories for the digital site and be a part of bi-weekly meetings on the progress of the digital site. This work includes spending time in local archives finding images to animate the stories. And, it could include conducting interviews with Lowellians interested in having their stories recorded, transcribed, and placed in the immigrant history collection at UMass Lowell’s Center for Lowell History. The ultimate goal of the year-long effort is to further advance the content of the digital history of Lowell immigration and to help us field test the site with area educators and students. This could not be a timelier project in light of our current acrimonious and usually uninformed debates on immigrants, refugees, and immigration policy.

Cheryl Llewellyn, Assistant Professor Sociology
Threat, Burdens, Victims, Humans: Gendered Narratives of Refugees in the U.S. Media

Though immigration has been a historically contested issue, the post 9-11 United States population has become fearful of immigration pathways, including the refugee system. While the U.S. increasingly restricts access to its borders in the name of national security, the number of refugees from the Middle East also increases with growing instability in the region. In our project, we turn to the media as a site of knowledge production about refugee issues in the United States. We want to better understand the role of the media in constructing narratives about refugees and the refugee program. In our prior research, we have analyzed a large number of newspaper articles and identified four dominant narratives in the data, including refugees as: threats, burdens, victims, and empowered humans. In this specific project for the Emerging Scholars program, we will identify the role that gender plays in the construction of these narratives. For example, we expect to find a feminization of the victim narrative and masculinization of the threat narrative. We will analyze how these narratives shift over time and are strategically employed in debates about immigration specifically and global politics generally. The undergraduate student will work in collaboration with a faculty member and graduate student and will gain valuable skills in collecting, coding, and analyzing data both statistically and qualitatively. The student will be involved in constructing at least one article for publication.

Judith Davidson, Associate Professor, Research Methods and Program Evaluation in Education Ph.D. Program, College of Education
“A Comparison of Modern Day Qualitative Methods and Ancient Greece”

Ekphrasis is a philosophical discussion that comes to us through the Ancient Greeks, who were concerned about ways to document their art and culture through texts. Qualitative research is a modern form of research methodology that emphasizes the study of human society and culture through the study of texts (in the broadest sense of that term). The goal of this study is to develop a deep understanding of ekphrasis as it has come down to us through the ages and to compare and contrast this philosophical view with the practices of qualitative research. Ultimately, I want to use this knowledge to develop an ekphrasitic framework for the conduct of qualitative research, emphasizing the application to writing strategies in qualitative research. In other words, this project will compare ancient and modern-day research techniques in order to better inform today’s writing. In today’s world writing techniques are pivotal to success, making this project ever more important. Not only will the Emerging Scholar be able to better understand ancient and modern research techniques, but will be better prepared to succeed in future career aspirations.

Kimberly Kras, Assistant Professor School of Criminology and Justice Studies
Sex Offender Management and Supervision: A National Survey of Policies and Practices

Over the past two decades, community-based sex offender management and supervision (SOMS) has become a prominent topic within the criminal justice system, amidst heightened public concern over the perceived risk of individuals convicted of sex offenses. SOMS practices vary greatly from state to state, and even between jurisdictions within states. Despite the majority of states sharing a common understanding and goals regarding supervising this population, few easily accessible resources serve as guides for areas seeking to evaluate and adjust their SOMS practices. The SOMS project is a multi-stage, multi-method research study aiming to depict the national scope of sex offender management and supervision policies and practices across the United States. Primary research questions include: 1) What is the landscape of SOMS policies and practices in the United States? 2) How are these policies and practices implemented? 3) What are perspectives of key stakeholders about these policies? 4) How can we translate this knowledge into evidence-based practices for supervising individuals convicted of sex offenses in the community to prevent recidivism and enhance public safety? The study will answer these questions by gathering policies and procedural documents from jurisdictions in all 50 states and Washington, DC, conduct interviews with key informants in select jurisdictions, develop and administer a national survey to current probation and parole officers supervising this population, compare and contrast these findings to produce a description of the current state of operations around sex offender community management, and begin building new theories regarding the supervision of this special population.

Ryan Shields, Assistant Professor School of Criminology and Justice Studies
Evaluating the Effectiveness of Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Messaging

The World Health Organization recognizes child sexual abuse as a leading preventable risk factor that contributes to the global burden of disease. In the United States, approximately 10-17 percent of girls and 4-5 percent of boys experience child sexual abuse, which confers greater risk of physical, mental, and behavioral health problems over the life course. Despite a consistent call from experts for a public health approach to the prevention of child sexual abuse, the public continues to view child sexual abuse as “unpreventable.” Plainly, there is a disconnect between public health messaging about child sexual abuse and how the public views this issue. As a result, it is important to evaluate child sexual abuse prevention messaging to determine whether these strategies effectively promote the message that child sexual abuse is preventable. One particular form of messaging that bears further investigation is the use of images and graphics in child sexual abuse prevention marketing materials. Specifically, what images or graphics are particularly effective in communicating that child sexual abuse is preventable? Alternatively, what images and graphics communicate the message that child sexual abuse is inevitable? To answer these questions, this research project will compile images and graphics used in child sexual abuse prevention marketing materials and evaluate their effectiveness in promoting a prevention message. The Emerging Scholar will assist in the identification and cataloging of images and graphics used in child sexual abuse prevention messaging, conduct a literature review, and develop a pilot focus group to evaluate the effectiveness of these messaging strategies.

Jill Portnoy, Assistant Professor of Criminology and Justice Studies
Stress, Health, and Aggression

The key goal of this study will be to examine the impact of stress on health and aggression in adults. We will investigate the way in which stress across the life span impacts heart rate, sweat rate, anxiety, and aggression. The student partner would be involved in collecting data during participants’ visits to the laboratory. The student would administer a stress inventory and behavioral questionnaires. The student would also attach sensors to the study participants and record heart rate and sweat rate. The student should be hard working and possess strong inter-personal skills. Attention to detail is also very important. The student will work with the faculty mentor to develop a poster that will be presented at a national conference.

Urmitapa Dutta, Assistant Professor in Psychology

Negotiating Youth Belonging and Citizenship in Postcolonial Contexts

Understandings of belonging have an individualistic and ahistorical tradition in the discipline of Psychology, which typically relies on individual and group identities to predict phenomena such as social inclusion, social cohesion and identity. Such an approach has been critiqued for its limited applicability in countries such as South Africa, India, Ireland, and USA that share troubled histories marked by segregation and legislated domination and oppression. This project is part of a small but growing body of scholarship on citizenship and belonging in Psychology that focuses on the microdynamics of everyday life to explore lived experiences of belonging and citizenship. We aim to do this through a transnational study examining the dynamics of everyday citizenship and belonging in two countries marked by deeply entrenched colonial divisions: South Africa and India. Using qualitative methodologies, we hope to understand how youth across these two countries constitute identities and citizenship in the everyday work that they do to negotiate citizenship and foster inclusion. Simultaneous, we will explore the potential of transnational and interdisciplinary theorizing of citizenship practices to address current gaps in the field of Psychology. Our research has important implications for developing alternative, more inclusive modes of citizenship and belonging in the contemporary global context.

Misha Rabinovich, Assistant Professor of Interactive Media

Ecology Infographics

“Ecology Infographics” is a project that aims to communicate facts about the environment through infographics that are driven by data collected from the ocean. Even though there are many factors affecting our climate, the specific causes and effects are sometimes hard to grasp due to the abstract systems and long timescales involved. We need to tell specific stories to drive home key facts, and we need the right graphics to support these stories. Rachel Carson’s book The Silent Spring described how the American Bald Eagle was very much in danger of extinction from the DDT pollution, and because folks in the US hold up the bird as the national symbol, the pollution was eventually brought under control and the Bald Eagle is doing well. Could we contextualize other animals/birds/fish as important symbols and bring about the needed awareness to have a meaningful impact on their conservation? The project will use data collected by Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution’s underwater robots and interpret that data into colorful and meaningful infographics that will support relevant and timely stories. We are looking for a student image maker who is also interested in helping to use the software that distills the raw data.

Past Emerging Scholar Projects

To learn more about what the students have done, view their mid-year presentations.

These articles document past Emerging Scholar Projects in action!

The Emerging Scholars Program is administered by the Center for Women & Work, and funded by the Office of the Financial Aid and the College of Fine Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences.

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