Preface to the Proceedings of the Department of Anthropology’s National Science Foundation (NSF) Summer Research Methods Program in Anthropology at the University of North Texas

History and Structure of the Summer Research Program

Summer 2008 marks the ninth year that the Summer Research Program in the Social Sciences has been offered by the Department of Anthropology at the University of North Texas. The ten-week intensive summer program provides five weeks of instruction in theory, methodology, data collection and interpretation, research skills, critical thinking, and writing followed by five weeks of focused individual research. The participating students have worked with a faculty mentor to produce a research report in a format applicable to their project. Program participants have also prepared a literature review, designed research, and prepared a proposal for submission to the university’s Institutional Review Board.

The Summer Research Program makes a unique and incredibly important contribution to the promotion of social sciences due in part to its focus on under-represented students, including ethnic minorities and first-generation college students. At the same time, the broad spectrum of available research topics, including specialized cross-disciplinary sub-fields, such as medical, urban, and business anthropology, help ensure that the program promotes knowledge and understanding not only of social science, but also of a wide range of topics. In addition, such flexibility guarantees that there will never be a shortage of opportunities for students to pursue their creative and original ideas.

The main goal of the program is to promote the development of underrepresented and first-generation students as future social scientists, because the opportunity for meaningful, in-depth participation in summer research studies can be an invaluable part of student intellectual development, motivation, and personal growth. Previous graduates have said that it provides them with a valuable chance to obtain practical training and resources to prepare for independent research, graduate school, or a career.

The Summer Research Program gives students and teachers the opportunity to conduct research that has the potential for new discoveries and observations beneficial to society. Students’ use of mentors also improves intradepartmental communication and cooperation. Students presented their projects to the university community in a poster session at the end of their summer program, assuring that scientific data will be shared and enhanced, while encouraging others to pursue social science

The 2008 Summer Participants

The participants in the 2008 Summer Program included ten students from colleges and universities around the United States. Theparticipants included Vadal Bolds from Emory University, Marietta, Georgia; Benjamin Gaspar from Barry University in Stuart, Florida; Aleina LaBrake from Hartwick College, Tupper Lake, New York; Jason Vega from Florida State University, Tallahassee, Florida; Magaly Velazquez from SUNY Purchase College, Purchase, New York; and Sharaya Llanes from University of Hawaii, Manoa, Hawaii.There were four participants from our own UNT including: Joy Straley, Afshan Kamrudin, Andrina Jackson and Alexander Williams.

The research covered a range of topics explored from an anthropological perspective. All of the projects addressed social issues and traditionally underserved communities. The students who are presenting their research papers in The Eagle Feather 2008 are discussed further below. Vadal Bolds used visual anthropological techniques to address the perspectives of New Orleaneans after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. Andrina Jackson focused on the critical experiences of young African American women and the influence their social environment has on the development of their individual identities. Sharaya Llanes interviewed teachers in Texas about their perspectives on No Child Left Behind in an effort to mediate the effects of high stakes testing through the national writing project. Jason Vega surveyed the research literature in an effort to chronicle Cuban migration. Magaly Velazquez surveyed three generations of Puerto Rican women and explored feminist discourse and culture through narratives. Joy Straley conducted a case-control study assessing knowledge on the benefits of the Moringa Tree among cultures of India, Africa and the Pacific Islands. Aleina LaBrake interviewed Indian immigrants and their experiences with healthcare systems in the U.S. and in India. Finally, Alexander Williams analyzed the moral and cultural arguments against illegal immigration with a content analysis of the editorial section in a major Dallas-area newspaper.