Award Winning Database is Revolutionizing the World of Data Access on Social Conflict One Incident at a Time

Data on social conflict now comes in a clean, flat, .csv file with any number of IV/DV combinations ripe for the picking (or analyzing) thanks to Dr. Cullen Hendrix’s  collaborative endeavor with researchers at the University of Denver and from the University of North Texas. Nearly a decade since its inception, the Social Conflict Analysis Database (SCAD) project was given the 2017 J. David Singer Data Innovation Award by American Political Science Association for being this year’s “best data contribution to the study of any and all forms of political conflict” (APSA). Today, researchers have the opportunity to combine, juxtapose, and differentiate information on nearly 20,000 social conflict events in Africa and Latin America with approximately 50 attributes per episode (think of the statistical power!).

Last week I had the opportunity to sit down with one of the co-parents of this brainchild, Dr. Cullen Hendrix, to learn more about this nationally recognized achievement.  Dr. Hendrix is a professor at the Josef Korbel School for International Studies and researcher at the Sié Chéou-Kang Center for International Security and Diplomacy. His current work “focuses on the political and economic consequences of environmental degradation and climate change for peace, security, and stability in the developing world, with a particular emphasis on Africa.” (About). During my conversation with Dr. Hendrix I was specifically excited to learn about the involvement of DU graduate students on this project!

Database Background

The SCAD project was conceptualized in 2008 and officially released in 2011. It serves as a resource for exploring various forms of social and political unrest in Africa and Latin America that are not covered in traditional datasets (think smaller-scale events such as protests, strikes, and riots). Information is aggregated via media reports from LexisNexis and manually coded into the database by a team of researchers. The project provides a robust repository for researchers seeking to explore a variety of different avenues of inquiry surrounding global social conflict. This year new variables were added which include information on women’s participation, gender, and sexual identity. Funding was provided for the first six years by the U.S. Department of Defense and is now being supported by a grant from the Carnegie Corporation.

An Open Environment for the Public Good

In academia, it’s an unfortunate reality that data is often hoarded by researchers in order to avoid getting scooped by competing scholars. In creating SCAD, Dr. Hendrix, Dr. Salehyan, et al. took a risk; they chose to make data available as soon as it was cleaned and ready for analysis. While there was definitely the possibility for researchers to get the jump on Dr. Hendrix with this approach, he stated that it actually turned out to be an effective way to drive interest to the data project and resulted in some really fascinating research. Many of these contributions have moved far beyond the contribution of the SCAD database and demonstrated what can happen when you tear down the firewalls surrounding data and open it for use toward enhancing the public good. SCAD data underpins analysis on topics ranging from the effects of cell phones on violence to the role winning national team football matches has on ethnic self-identification.

DU Student Involvement

One exciting aspect of this project being housed at DU is the fact that Korbel students have the opportunity not just to gain a great education about world affairs, but also attain applied data oriented skills that give them competitive edge when they hit the job market (and including your involvement on a grant funded internationally recognized project on your CV isn’t too shabby either). Skills in data management and content knowledge have provided a springboard for DU students to market themselves after graduation. For example, Richa Bhatia, who is now an analyst with the US Department of Defense, reports that as a DOD Minerva Project funded endeavor, SCAD helped get her foot in the door for interviews with potential federal government employers.

Additionally, one can really gain some intimate knowledge of a region when their combing through media coverage of social conflict events in that area. So as students are analyzing, coding, and managing data, they’re also gaining deep substantive knowledge on a social conflict in a specific geographic location. To enhance the somewhat tedious task of culling and entering information, those involved in the project have the opportunity to bid on countries that they find interesting and/or relevant to their area of research. One of the first coders on the SCAD project, Jennifer Williams, who’s now the Deputy Foreign Editor at Vox, had the chance to code data for Egypt. This comprehensive content culling for SCAD provided fertile ground on which to grow her knowledge for her honors thesis: “External Financing and Extremist Group Viability: A Human Capital Perspective on Egypt’s Al-Gama’a and Islamic Jihad.”

PhD candidate and former Sié Center research fellow, Jonathan Pinckney, worked on SCAD both as a coder – reading newswire articles and transforming the information in them into lines of data – and as a supervisor – managing the work of the student research assistants and troubleshooting day-to-day problems in the coding process. For him the best parts about working on the project was “getting to learn so much about the political dynamics of particular countries and working alongside a world class scholar like Dr. Hendrix, which was both a tremendous privilege and an incredibly rewarding experience.” Jonathan is planning on using his strong data skills in his new role as a postdoctoral research fellow at Norwegian University of Science and Technology. At NTNU he’ll be working on the “Anatomy of Resistance Campaigns” project; an effort to build the scholarly understanding of the organizations and social groups that participate in resistance movements.

Database Challenges

However, involvement on the SCAD project isn’t all publication-induced academic glamour; it takes a lot of time and dedication to code data. The daily grind inherent in data coding and management takes a specific personality type that involves discipline, nuance, and a certain contextual understanding. One of those discerning individuals, Jonathan Pinckney, cited “quantitizing” qualitative information as a challenge that he faced while involved with the project. He states “any data collection effort involves translating the complexities of reality into simple, consistent numerical coding. Dealing with events that are unexpected, or weren’t anticipated in the original coding scheme is thus always one of the most challenging things about working on this kind of project.”

Another challenge involves the complicated nature of creating a database that relies on material that is inherently based on varying perspectives and subjective vantage points. Exemplified by Dr. Hendrix as the Rashomon effect, this challenge involves the many (and often differing) ways in which people experience a certain event. Having to depend on information generated in this murky space that involves the imperfect process of human observation inserts a certain degree of bias to the information that comes across a SCAD coder’s computer screen. That’s why proper discernment and judgment are so important for the grad students who are examining these accounts. This, however, is tempered by a detailed codebook intended to ensure interrater reliability among coders and facilitate consistency with those using and interpreting the data.

Developments on the Horizon

In the coming years SCAD will continue to be maintained and updated. The research team is also working with a librarian who will help get the data hosted on a SQL server. This will serve to enhance the scalability of the project as well as provide an opportunity to generate data visualizations in the future. This year Dr. Hendrix is leveraging SCAD’s bevy of data points to explore more nuanced insights about repression and uncover connections between climactic conditions in Africa and social conflict. Be sure to stay tuned for his upcoming research publications as well as articles using data from SCAD!

 

Image Credit: Takver, Wikimedia Commons

Dr. Yolande Bouka is investigating female freedom fighters in Namibia’s liberation struggle

Meet the Sié Center’s newest postdoc fellow, Dr. Yolande Bouka. Dr. Bouka is a highly accomplished scholar who not only conducted the first systematic investigation of the legal journey and reintegration of former prisoners of the genocide in Rwanda, but had two children during the process! Here at DU she is working on completing her book manuscript on transitional justice in Rwanda and continuing her study on female freedom fighters in Namibia’s liberation struggle. In this study she employs a feminist analytical lens to narratives of military participation to explore women’s agency. Enjoy reading more about her groundbreaking research and the advice she has for DU grad students.

Researcher: I received my PhD in International Relations from the School of International Service at American University. My MA was also in International Relations from Seton Hall University. At the Sié Center I am continuing my work on micro dynamics of violence by looking at women’s agency in non-state armed groups based on field research conducted with former female combatants who fought during Namibia’s war of independence.

Dissertation Research: My dissertation, “In the Shadow of Prison: Power, Identity, and Transitional Justice in Post-Genocide Rwanda,” investigates power relations in Rwanda’s transitional justice program. More specifically, I analyze how the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) manipulates the transitional justice program to legitimize its post-genocide rule. The project explores the legal journey of former prisoners accused of genocide crimes. This exposes the bearings of long years of socialization in post-genocide prisons on ordinary citizens and how one-sided criminal accountability challenges social repair. It also explores how released prisoners remember the multiple episodes of violence in Rwanda that took place during the 1990s. My research finds that incongruences between their memories and the official narrative on violence frame which violent acts the RPF regime chooses to criminalize or normalize for political purposes. My research finds that the legal framework forces Rwandans who journey through the judicial system to take on unitary identities that highlight their assumed criminality but eschew their victimhood at the hand of the state. I argue that the transitional justice program in Rwanda is one of the new battlegrounds of identity politics in a continuation of power struggle between political elites since the colonial era.

In my dissertation, I used a mixed-method approach that involved four months of ethnographic work in Northern Rwanda, where I conducted in depth semi-structured interviews with released prisoners. The project also entailed a critical discourse analysis of the official narrative on the legacy of violence in Rwanda to contextualize my ethnographic and interview data. My research is the first systematic investigation of the legal journey and reintegration of former prisoners of the genocide and offers a new investigative window into the role transitional justice can play in identity politics following mass violence.

Research at the Sié Center: I am working with Marie Berry on a project on women in politics in Kenya and Timothy Sisk on a project on innovations in peace building. During my time as a postdoc fellow I will complete my book manuscript on transitional justice in Rwanda. Aside from that, I will focus the bulk of my time on a new research project  “Gender and Security in African Wars: Learning from Female Combatants in Namibia’s Liberation.” This ongoing study investigates female freedom fighters in Namibia’s liberation struggle. As part of my recent Fulbright Scholar grant in Namibia, I used life history interviews and archival data to investigate the agency of female combatants in the country’s war of liberation. While contemporary analyses often look at women in non-state armed groups as a new and emerging phenomenon, they have in fact always been part of such groups in various capacities. Because scholarly studies of insurgencies in Africa are based primarily on analysis of masculine perspectives, I gender the narrative of the Namibian liberation by looking at women’s agency and how they navigated the rules and norms of the non-state armed group despite the limits to their participation. This ongoing project breaks new ground within the gender and security literature by applying feminist analytical lenses to narratives of military participation in episodes of political violence, which has not been applied to the case of Namibia to date. This research hopes be part of larger project on women’s agency in warfare in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Postdoc Job Search Steps: Because I have spent the past few years working in security policy, away from academia, it was important for me to focus my search on postdocs that would enable me to focus on academic publications. At the end of last summer, I started looking for postdoc through various sites, but my most fruitful finds were through word of mouth. Once I identified the fellowships I wanted to apply for, I familiarized myself with the faculty, the vision and mission of each program to tailor each application.

Biggest Challenge as a Doctoral Student: My biggest challenge was staying focused during the writing process while parenting young children. I had two children during the course of my doctoral studies. Luckily, I had a very supporting chair who encouraged me to stay focused and even came to my house once to discuss one of my chapters.

Advice for DU Doctoral Students: Publish before you finish your doctoral program and apply for research grant, even if you don’t necessarily feel the need for it. It will one of the key things committees will look for on your applications. Also, look for balance in your life. Mental health is a problem in academia.

Sie Center Postdoc, Kelsey Norman, Explores Migrant and Refugee Settlement in the Global South

A photo of Kelsey taken by an interviewee while conducting fieldwork in Alexandria, Egypt in 2015.

Happy day 2 of National Postdoc Appreciation Week! We’re taking this week to acknowledge the wonderful research our DU postdocs are conducting on campus. Today we’re featuring Dr. Kelsey Norman, a postdoctoral fellow at the Josef Korbel School’s Sié Chéou-Kang Center for International Security and Diplomacy. The Sié Center’s many research projects focus on managing violence and maximizing resilience at the local, national, regional, and global levels. In her scholarship, Dr. Norman examines Middle East and North African states as countries of migrant and refugee settlement. Below she explains more about her research, dissertation process, and steps she took in her postdoc job search. Happy reading!

Researcher: Dr. Kelsey Norman: I graduated in June this year from The University of California, Irvine with a Ph.D. in Political Science. I received a Master of Public Policy from the University of Toronto and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

Dissertation Research: My dissertation, “Reluctant Reception: Understanding Host State Migration and Refugee Policies in Egypt, Morocco and Turkey,” explores migrant and refugee settlement in three Middle East and North African host states and asks: What policy options do states in the Global South have for engaging with migrants and refugees, and what factors make a state choose one option over another? To answer this question I conducted extensive fieldwork and 131 interviews in Egypt, Morocco and Turkey with government officials, international organizations, local NGOs, and individual migrants and refugees.  I find that in the 1990s and the first decade of the 2000s, Egypt, Morocco and Turkey were able to mostly ignore the implications of their new inward migration due to three primary factors: migrants and refugees found ways to integrate into large informal economies, international organizations and domestic organizations intervened to provide essential services, and the issue of migration was not so highly politicized that it gained prolonged traction in media or amongst the national population. By allowing migrants and refugees to integrate in a de facto sense through minimal government intervention and by relying on international organizations to provide primary services, host states derive international credibility while only exerting minimal state resources.

I also look at the factors that cause migration and refugee policy to change over time in each host state. I find that geostrategic imperatives and international perceptions drive state engagement decisions more than the capacity of each host state. Capacity is therefore not only an empirical reality but also a perception that can serve strategic purposes, and this influences the choices that host states make regarding migrant and refugee responsibility. Additionally, I find that host states will enact a liberal strategy if (a) doing so allows it to co-opt domestic civil society critics, or (b) doing so will reap economic or diplomatic benefits from either a powerful neighboring state or a geostrategically important sending state. This contravenes the extant neoinstitutionalist and postnationalist explanations for why states in the Global North adopt liberal migration policies.

Research at the Sié Center: My primary project is working on turning my dissertation into a book manuscript, but I’m pursuing an active research agenda that includes: (1) further work on forced migration and host state policies in the Middle East; (2) migrant and refugee activism in semi-authoritarian settings; (3) the rise of global migration deterrence measures; (4) diaspora involvement in home country politics; (5) the role of international organizations like the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) or the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in determining host state migration policy outcomes. I currently work with Dr. Deborah Avant, the Director of the Sié Chéou-Kang for International Security and Diplomacy, but I look forward to working with various members of the center and of the broader Korbel academic community.

Biggest Challenge as a Doctoral Student: Endurance. Working on a project for five+ years is difficult under any circumstances. I began my dissertation project in 2012, just following the Arab Spring and as Syrians were only beginning to seek refuge in neighboring countries. I did not anticipate, as I was finishing fieldwork in the summer of 2015, that the migration and refugee “crises” I had been researching would suddenly become front-page news in Europe, the United States and across the world. What had been a niche topic as I was writing proposals, seeking out contacts and conducting interviews, suddenly became mainstream. Initially this seemed promising: increased attention would mean increased support in terms of international funding and perhaps even refugee resettlement. But the momentary global sympathy after the body of three-year old Aylan Kurdi washed up on a Turkish beach quickly dissipated, and was replaced by xenophobic nationalism, anti-immigration platforms, and calls for reinforced borders. Against this backdrop, the process of writing my dissertation between 2015 and 2017 was difficult. Often I felt that my efforts would have been better directed toward activism or public engagement that attempted to counter some of the racist and exclusionary rhetoric that has become so prominent. But I persisted in finishing my dissertation and the degree, and I’m hopeful that the research I conducted will eventually be available as a book, meaning that the labor and time spent in relative isolation won’t have been in vain!

Postdoc Job Search Steps:  I applied widely for postdocs and jobs. The primary resource I used was APSA ejobs, but because I was also looking at positions in policy schools or affiliated with institutes that aren’t necessarily composed of political scientists, I looked at positions advertised via other websites as well, including jobs.ac.uk and globaljobs.org. As a bit of advice, it’s a good idea to let other academics (in your department or elsewhere) know that you’re on the job market. Sometimes job advertisements aren’t circulated widely enough, but if something crosses your colleague’s desk and they know you’re in the process of looking for a postdoctoral position, they can easily forward the advertisement to you.

Advice for DU Doctoral Students: Various people during the course of my PhD told me, “the best dissertation is a finished dissertation.” Your dissertation won’t be perfect, and if you’re hoping to eventually publish it as a book you’ll have to do substantial rewriting anyway. More generally, I think this mentality applies to publishing and having your writing available for academic or public audiences. Don’t fret too much about perfection, and be brave about getting your ideas out there for peer-review or public critique.

DU IRISE Postdoc Fellow is Exploring Issues of Environmental Justice Between the U.S. and India

Did you know this week is National Postdoc Appreciation Week? Here at DU we are so thankful for the amazing contributions made by our postdoc fellows. They are such an important part of our scholarly mission and we’re excited to take this week and celebrate all their inspiring research. Today we’d like to introduce you to Dr. Pranietha Mudliar, a postdoctoral fellow specializing in Environmental Justice and Sustainability at DU’s Interdisciplinary Research Incubator for the Study of (In)equality (IRISE). IRISE  is designed to support research and creative work dedicated to issues of (in)equality, social justice, and inclusivity. Under this initiative, departments, programs, and units on campus have the opportunity to engage and mentor promising scholars in their field or in an associated field. Below Pranietha shares a little bit about her journey as a doc student and what she’s doing now as a IRISE postdoc fellow:

Researcher: I graduated from Ohio State University in August 2016 with a Ph.D. in Environment and Natural Resources. My interdisciplinary mentorship committee consists of Dr. Sarah Bexell (Graduate School of Social Work), Dr. Chad King (Sustainability Coordinator), Dr. Andy Goetz (Geography), Dr. Karin Wedig (Korbel School of International Studies), Susan Daggett (Sturm College of Law), and Patience Crowder (Sturm College of Law). I works closely with Dr. Wedig on fisheries governance and Dr. Bexell on teaching and additional research.

Dissertation Research: As a doc student I was driven by the question of how social and economic inequalities among resource users affect water management strategies in developed and developing contexts. I synthesized theories from collaborative environmental governance, common-pool resources, and collective action to uncover conditions and institutions that promote collective action in socio-culturally heterogeneous groups in rural West Virginia, U.S. and rural Karnataka, India. I then examined whether these institutions address racial and caste-related inequalities. My findings indicated that institutions that promote collective action are actually repositories of power that merely mute racial and caste differences without challenging existing power asymmetries.

Research at IRISE: I am conducting a cross-national analysis of how adaptive governance can advance fisherfolks’ capacities to participate in and shape the outcomes of fisheries resource management in the Lake Victoria basin in East Africa. Specifically, I am comparing the socio-economic and political conditions in Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania that create opportunities and barriers for the emergence of adaptive governance of fisheries in response to declining stocks of Nile Perch (Oreochromis niloticus) in the Lake Victoria basin. In our research, we found that even in the presence of enabling factors (networks, learning leadership, and trust) that facilitate transition to adaptive governance, widespread poverty among local resource users, relatively low state-institutional capacities, and institutionalized power asymmetries prevent such transitions.

In another research project, I am examining factors that contribute to the sustainability of collaborative watershed partnerships in the U.S. and in India. I am collaborating with Groundwork Denver, a non-profit working on watershed management in the lower Bear Creek in Denver, to undertake this research.

Biggest Challenge as a Doctoral Student: Finding a work-life balance was one of my biggest challenges as a doctoral candidate. Doing a Ph.D. is a full-time job with a myriad of conference and paper deadlines, teaching and grading responsibilities, conducting dissertation research, in addition to taking courses at the same time, which can take a toll on a student who is just starting out. Through the course of my doctoral career, I learned the importance of carving out time for myself and activities outside of school and breaking my work into smaller, manageable chunks.

Advice for DU Doctoral Students: As a graduate student, while finishing up with the dissertation must be a top priority, collaborating with other graduate students and faculty on other projects is a good way to get publications out of the door. Working on projects other than the dissertation gives you opportunities to expand upon the breadth of your experience in conducting research and build valuable and supportive networks with fellow graduate students.

Collaborative Classrooms, or the Art of Letting Go

– By Dr. Julia Roncoroni, Counseling Psychology, Morgridge College of Education

 My first day teaching college was awful. No, no, take note. I mean that. I knew the drill: you stand in front of the classroom, you pull up a digital presentation, you talk, and you command control. Students, well, they just stay quiet and listen. Except for I was bored, really, really bored. And I know students were too. I could not decide if it was my uncharming tone, the lack of animation in my slides, or the classroom lighting… but I was doing what teachers do, and students weren’t buying it.

Paulo Freire suggests that, in the traditional model of teaching, we view students as “empty vessels.” So we teach how we were taught, and we measure success accordingly: the more we fill the receptacles, the better professors we are. And students typically buy into the model. In fact, they are often baffled by the proposal that “this is [their] class and [they] decide what form it takes.” Many students go into courses thinking, “education happens to them.” If they sign up and show up for class, as professors, we will do something that will transform what/how much they know about a topic.

Yet, education is a deeply civic and moral exercise, an inherently political practice that enables students to expand on the possibilities of what it means to be critical citizens of their worlds. Capturing the spirit of Freire, Theodor Adorno claims, “Thinking is not the intellectual reproduction of what already exists anyway. As long as it doesn’t break off, thinking has a secure hold on possibility. Its insatiable aspect, its aversion to being quickly and easily satisfied, refuses the foolish wisdom of resignation… Open thinking points beyond itself.” The cycle of student dependency must be broken, but one of the most difficult steps in our journey as professors is to do away with the way we were taught.

Syllabus Design 

The syllabus is a key communication tool between a professor and his/her students. Many instructional resources will advise professors to ask themselves the following questions as they design the syllabus: (1) Who are the students? (2) What do I want students to be able to do? and (3) How will I measure students’ abilities? Little is said about what students want to learn and how they would like to measure their increased abilities.

Democratic education is emancipatory—students’ understanding of what they should learn and how is just as powerful as the teacher’s. In democratic education, students are empowered to collaboratively (with the professor) design and implement class materials, including the syllabus. The role of the teacher is not to decide what students will learn and how, but instead, facilitate an environment where the students can decide and make meaning of class content.

Classroom Activities

When I surveyed students in my first class at DU, in Fall 2016 (four years after I first taught college), about their class experiences, the response was unanimous: the most liberating aspect of their participation was selecting a topic for a mini-lecture and sharing the results of their research with their peers and the broader DU community. It is easier for students to grasp core psychological concepts and frameworks when they become active collaborators in the investigation of psychological theory, research, and practice. I invite students to participate in projects that allow them to select and present topics that are appealing to them personally. When we design curricula in a way that gives students freedom to decide what (and how) they want to learn, students gain knowledge and skills that go well past the content matter of the course.

Assessment

Faculty member have the “beauty” of getting it both ways—students think we are out to get them; my colleagues think students are out to get us. Whether you are taking or preparing/grading them, exams can be truly tedious.

We frequently play the ‘gotcha’ game: we use exams and other assignments as an instrument to oppress our students, to see how well they can adjust and not how well they can think critically to the service of their own learning.  We want to know, can students regurgitate this motionless, static, compartmentalized, and predictable bits of ‘reality’ that we have narrated to them?

Instead, we should ask, are students moving in the direction of being able to think creatively about their reality and participate in the transformation of their worlds in ways that fit their personal and cultural backgrounds and developmental levels? Assessment needs to be consistent, using multiple methods over time. These methods have to be, in part, determined by the expertise of the professor, but they also have to be defined by the expertise of the student-colleague. Making ourselves vulnerable is pivotal in deciding if learning has happened. As professors, we model this vulnerability and make space for students to engage. Students set their own personal baseline against which to contrast class outcomes and decide if learning has happened.

Conclusion   

Democratic education can take many different forms, but all forms have one common denominator: a commitment to go outside the box of standardized one-size-fits-all education, so that students can feel empowered and engaged as learners. If we wish to train well-informed citizens who are intrinsically motivated and prepared to confront society’s most pressing challenges, we must provide them with the skills and critical thinking opportunities they need to build a more equitable and socially just society.

Dr. Roncoroni is an Assistant Professor in Morgridge College of Education’s Counseling Psychology department. She received her PhD in Counseling Psychology from the University of Florida. She is a member of the American Psychological Association (APA). Dr. Roncoroni’s primary research interests include health disparities, customized culturally sensitive health promotion and health care, and the integration of health promotion in medicine. She is a yoga and Zumba instructor and enjoys traveling, cooking, and spending time with her family.

DU Faculty and Students Working to Change the Inequality Landscape in Higher Education

The Association for the Study of Higher Education (ASHE) will be holding their 40th Annual Conference right here in the mile high city from November 5-7. We are excited to announce that 12 University of Denver faculty and students will be participating and sharing their research on institutional change. These movers and shakers’ research covers a broad range of important issues that are sure to advance the conversation of inequality in Higher Education and stimulate collaboration among researchers and decision makers. We took some time this month to visit with these individuals and discover what their scholarship is all about.

Post Doctoral Fellow

Dian SquireDian Squire, PhD Loyola University, Higher Education: Dian Squire is the postdoctoral fellow in the Interdisciplinary Research Incubator for the Study of (in)Equality. His research examines diversity, equity, and justice in higher education.  His current research focuses on the experiences of graduate students of color.

 

Presentation: 

  • Graduate Student Session: Conversations with Newly Minted PhD’s.  This presentation focuses on how university responses to national racial incidences (e.g., Ferguson) affect why faculty of color recruit and admit students into doctoral programs.  I found that impeding neoliberal logics and shifting notions of community influence institutional norms and values, and thereby affect the praxis of faculty of color related to the admissions process.

Doctoral Students

Meseret HailuMeseret Hailu, PhD student, Higher Education: Meseret’s research interests are grounded in comparative international education, with a special emphasis on gender issues in STEM programs in Ethiopian higher education. Methodologically, she aims to craft a mixed-methods research agenda.

Presentations: I will be discussing factors that lead to increased higher education access for women, and the experiences of women in STEM higher education.

  • Examining the role of Girl Hub in Shaping College-­‐going Culture for Women in Ethiopia.
  • Understanding Diaspora women’s Experiences in Ethiopian STEM Higher Education.

DelmaDelma Ramos, PhD student, Higher Education: Delma’s research interests include access, retention, and graduation from higher education institutions, with an emphasis on underserved populations. Additionally, she focuses on the evaluation and assessment of programs with similar foci and on issues pertaining to educational quality in postsecondary education.

 

Presentations:

  • The Uphill Battle: An Analysis of Race and Gender Struggles in the Academic Pathways of Doctoral Women of Color: This multiple case study examines the experiences of doctoral women of color with emphasis on ways in which they navigated racist and sexist academic spaces. The empowering narratives offered by participants not only disrupt inequitable contexts but also expand our understanding of assets for doctoral women of color academic success.
  • Limiting Levels of Involvement of Low-Income, First-Generation, Families of Color through Controlling Images: This multiple case study examines how higher education personnel utilize controlling images to establish guidelines of family involvement, including that of low-income, first-generation families of color. Family involvement is thus limited to the extent to which it aligns with controlling images that portray these families under deficit filled lights.
  •  Inequity in Workforce Outcomes of College-­educated Immigrants of Color: Human Capital Transferability and Job Mismatch: This scholarly paper explores literature on human capital transferability and job mismatch issues of college educated immigrants of color. Through an exploration of the past 15 years of literature, the paper sheds light on factors that heighten inequality in workforce outcomes of underrepresented immigrants.

MSarubbi headshotMolly Sarubbi, PhD student, Higher Education: Molly has crafted a 3-day, embedded conference experience for local Indigenous practitioners and Tribal College Presidents in which they can participate in various conference presentations, events, and community building sessions. In an effort to further celebrate the Indigenous cultures of expression, she has also scheduled local spirit leaders to lead the group in an opening and closing ceremony. Local artists have also been invited to showcase their cultural works.

Raquel HeadshotRaquel Wright-Mair, PhD student, Higher Education: Raquel’s research is grounded in social justice and focuses on issues of access and equity, as well as the identification of ways to create inclusive campus environments for underrepresented populations. Her research agenda includes looking at the experiences of students, faculty, and administrators of color on college campuses and examining structures, policies, and systems necessary for their growth, development, and success.

Bryan HubainBryan Hubain, PhD candidate, Higher Education: Bryan’s research is multifaceted and mutually informing. He focuses on the intersections of identities and how specific intersections of marginalized identities influence someone’s personal experiences and perceptions. His current dissertation research agenda focuses on a queer and intersectional analysis of the narratives of Black gay international students and racism in LGBTQ communities.

Presentation: The topic was born out of conversations and concerns about racial incidents on college campuses nationally.

  • Dialoguing the improvisation of risk: Critically addressing racial inequality and racial incidents in higher education. Bryan, Raquel, and Dr. Tuitt collaborated  to develop a session that is concerned with the decisions that Chief Diversity Officers (CDOs) in Colorado need to make when addressing very public and visible incidents of racial discrimination and inequalities nationally and on campus. These CDOs are placed in very unique positions when they improvise to address these issues on campus via policy, statements, or programming, when current academic literature, most times, lack the necessary insight to provide recommendations on solutions.

VaraxyVaraxy Yi-Borromeo, PhD student, Higher Education: Varaxy’s research focuses on historically underrepresented and marginalized populations in higher education. Specifically, she is interested in Southeast Asian American college student success. Additionally, she is also interested in graduate student support, especially for graduate students of color.

Presentations: At the Council for Ethnic Participation pre-conference, Delma Ramos and I will be discussing findings from a research project with doctoral women of color and their experiences with racism and sexism; specifically, what coping strategies they utilize to deal with racism and sexism. At the general conference, I will be presenting two papers with my research team, one on the impacts of Culturally Engaging Campus Environments on sense of belonging among White students and Students of Color and another on the barriers and challenges refugee students (and their parents) from Burma and Bhutan face in education.

  • The Uphill Battle: An Analysis of Race and Gender Struggles in the Academic Pathways of Doctoral Women of Color.
  • Understanding the Experiences of Faculty Engaging in Culturally Relevant Pedagogy and Curriculum in the Classroom.
  • The Impact of Culturally Engaging Campus Environments on Sense of
    Belonging among White Students and Students of Color.
  • Navigating Two Worlds: Educational Resilience of Burmese and Bhutanese Refugee Youth.

Master’s Student

Jeffrey MarianoJeffrey Mariano, Master’s student, Higher Education : Jeff’s research uses the Culturally Engaging Campus Environments (CECE) model as a means to explore how faculty members across various disciplines (STEM, professional fields, arts and humanities, and social sciences) incorporate culturally relevant pedagogy and curriculum into their classrooms. Specifically, this study highlights the ways these faculty engage the cultural backgrounds and knowledge of their students and the barriers and challenges they face.

Presentations: 

  • Understanding the Experiences of Faculty Engaging in Culturally Relevant Pedagogy and Curriculum in the Classroom: This presentation will be an update of the research project as we are still in the data collection phase.

Faculty

NickCutforth-150x150-e1425592954469Dr. Nick Cutforth, Research Methods and Statistics: Dr. Cutforth’s research and teaching interests include school health and physical activity environments, qualitative research, physical activity and youth development, university/community partnerships, and community-based research. His current research involves school-based intervention studies related to physical activity and healthy eating among K-12 students in the San Luis Valley in rural Colorado.

Presentations: I’ll be on a panel responding to a paper that advocates for CBR to take a more culturally appropriate approach to addressing Latino/a and Chicano/a issues.

  • The Civic Engagement Movement: A Symposium and Participatory History.
  • Exploring the Power and Potential of Community-Based Research to Address Educational Inequality.

Ryan GildersleeveDr. Ryan Gildersleeve, Higher Education: Dr. Gildersleeve’s research agenda critically investigates the social and political contexts of educational opportunity for historically marginalized communities. He pursues this agenda in three inter-related braided lines of inquiry: critical policy studies, cultural analyses of higher education institutions, and poststructural philosophy/critical qualitative inquiry. Cumulatively, he hopes to contribute new tools for the study of inequality and the role(s) of postsecondary education in affirming social opportunities for non-dominant youth.

Presentations

  • Ritual Culture and Latino Students in American Higher Education: Through this paper I report findings from my recent critical ethnography of Latino graduation ceremonies on public higher education campuses. The project seeks to understand how Latino communities are reconfiguring the purposes and values of higher education, and how such figurings can be produced and reflected through ritual culture like graduation ceremonies. This falls under my “cultural analyses of higher education institutions” line of inquiry.
  • Exploring Posthumanism in Higher Education: Methods, Contexts, and Implications: This is a symposium of five panelists discussing posthumanist philosophy and the study of higher education. In this symposium, I am responsible for outlining the broad array of posthumanist philosophies that have emerged in the past 15 years or so. Posthumanism can be understood as a reconciliation between the humanist approaches to inquiry from the modernist project and its conflicts with the anti-humanist approaches from the postmodern and poststructural projects. Posthumanism takes an affirmative approach to critique and the creation of new concepts/explanations while addressing the pitfalls and problems of humanism. In short – I am presenting a new ontology for doing critical research on postsecondary education – an ontology where human beings are not the center of the universe.

Judy KiyamaDr. Judy Marquez Kiyama, Higher Education: Dr. Kiyama’s research examines the structures that shape educational opportunities for underserved groups through an asset-based lens to better understand the collective knowledge and resources drawn upon to confront, negotiate, and (re)shape such structures. Dr. Kiyama’s current projects focus on the high school to college transition experiences of first-generation, and low-income, and families of color and their role in serving as sources of cultural support for their college-aged students.

Presentations: My presentations will focus on a combination of findings from current research projects, as well as sharing of frameworks and methodologies that inform the culturally-relevant research and practice.

  • Limiting Levels of Involvement of Low-­‐Income, First-­Generation, Families of Color through Controlling Images. Delma Ramos, Casandra, Harper and I will present findings from our “Parents and Families in Transition” study that demonstrate the ways in which institutions negatively shape and restrict engagement for low-income, first-generation, and families of color.

Through two different presidential sessions, I’ll share more about how my research and practice work to address educational inequities in culturally relevant ways. Finally, together with colleagues, we will address how community-based research can be a powerful methodological tool for partnering with diverse communities to address systemic inequities.

  • Presidential Session: Reflections on Connecting Research and Practice in College Access and Success Programs.
  • Presidential Session: Culturally Relevant Research in Higher Education.
  •  Exploring the Power and Potential of Community-Based Research to Address Educational Inequality.

Frank TuittDr. Frank Tuitt, Center for Multicultural Excellence: Dr. Tuitt’s research explores topics related to access and equity in higher education; teaching and learning in racially diverse college classrooms; and diversity and organizational transformation. Dr. Tuitt is a co-editor and contributing author of the books Race and Higher Education: Rethinking Pedagogy in Diverse College Classrooms, and Contesting the myth of a post-racial era: The continued significance of race in U.S. education.

Presentations: Through these presentations we will share findings from a critical discourse analysis on faculty responses to an Inclusive Excellence campus climate survey to illuminate the social political context of institutional climate and its impact on the lives of faculty, in particular those in pursuit of social justice.

  • Dialoguing the improvisation of risk: Critically addressing racial inequality and racial incidents in higher education.
  • The (un)intended consequences of campus racial climate on university faculty.
  •  The Black Womanist Manifesto: Navigating Media Influences in Higher Education.

Do you know of anyone conducting fascinating research? Let us know and we may include them in upcoming blog posts!