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2018-2019 Emerging Scholars Projects

Threat, Burdens, Victims, Humans: Gendered Narratives of Refugees in the U.S. Media
Cheryl Llewelyn, Assistant Professor of Sociology
Lauren Reiss, Sociology
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.
Bringing Lowell's Immigrant and Refugee Stories to Life: Building a Digital History
Robert Forrant, Professor of History
Sophie Combs, 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.
Moral Duty and Climate Change
Jill Lohmeir, Associate Professor, Graduate School of Education
Denia Taylor, Political Science
Description will be posted soon.
Estimating the Impact of Sex Offender Residence Restrictions on Sexual Assault across Multiple States
Jason Rydberg, Assistant Professor School of Criminology and Justice Studies
Elliot Botelho, Health Psychology
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?”
Stress, Health, and Aggression
Jill Portnoy, Assistant Professor School of Criminology and Justice Studies
Sorraya Jaiprasert, Economics
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.
Negotiating Youth Belonging and Citizenship in Postcolonial Contexts
Urmitapa Dutta, Assistant Professor Psychology
Halle Young, Sociology and Business Management
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.
Evaluating the Effectiveness of Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Messaging
Ryan Shields, Assistant Professor School of Criminology and Justice Studies
Samar Ramy, Psychology
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.
Outside In: Unaccompanied Minor Refugees' Strain and Risk Pathways
Amber HorningRuf, Assistant Professor School of Criminology and Justice Studies
Nicole Savoie, Psychology
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.