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

Program Description of the National Science Foundation Summer Research Program

The University of North Texas Summer Research Program is a site for one of the National Science Foundation’s Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU). 2009 marks the 10th year of this opportunity where undergraduates work in close collaboration with faculty mentors and staff to both learn and apply social science research methods, particularly those from a scientifically anthropological point of view. The 10-week long NSF REU program gives students rigorous training in anthropological and social science methods, theories and ethics. Participants complete a closely mentored, independent research project.

The program is designed and administered in two phases. During the first phase, students take classes on cultural anthropological concepts and engage in community involvement exercises. During the second phase of the program, students design and conduct research that pertains to their personal and academic interests while working with a faculty mentor to produce a research report in a format applicable to their project. In addition, program participants review literature and prepare a proposal for submission to the university’s Institutional Review Board.

Methods, Theories, and Ethics

The first week of the program is spent teaching students basic anthropological concepts and theories. As this program emphasizes research experiences, the students begin to learn ethnographic research methodologies from the second week and continue their research training through the first phase of the program. Additionally, lectures on ethics are provided for the duration of this program.

Community Experiences

Community involvement is one of the important aspects of NSF REU at the University of North Texas. Since anthropological data collection methodologies, as well as flexible understandings of cultural differences, require live experiences, students are exposed to different cultural settings. Through these experiences, they are also expected to critically analyze their worldview.

Individual Research

The program gives students and teachers the opportunity to conduct research that has the potential for new discoveries and observations beneficial to society. The students conduct independent research during the latter five weeks of the program. This process is closely monitored y the academic advisors, program directors, and coordinators; students’ use of mentors also improves intradepartmental communication and cooperation.

These individualized research experiences serve to educate and empower the students. Not only do the students learned how to conduct research, they are also empowering themselves by taking the initiative to actively participate in addressing social issues. Students present 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.

Goals and Purpose of UNT NSF REU

A major goal of the program is to encourage more underrepresented students to pursue doctoral degrees in the social sciences. The opportunity for meaningful, in-depth participation in summer research activities can be advantageous to students’ intellectual development, motivation, and personal growth, and, thus, represents a worthwhile endeavor. Students are encouraged to continue their research development on their home campuses through programs such as the Robert E. McNair Post-Baccalaureate Achievement Program and collegiate Honors programs. Students are also encouraged to complete an undergraduate research thesis, as well as present and publish their research in academically professional venues including conferences and journals.

The 2009 Summer Participants

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, helps ensure that the program promotes knowledge and understanding not only of social science, but also of a wide range of topics.

The participants in the 2009 Summer Program included ten students from colleges and universities around the United States. The participants included Darius Bittle-Dockery from Tufts University, Medford, Massachusetts; Lisa Gonzalez from California State University, Fullerton, California; Gibran Lule-Hurtado from University of Texas, Dallas, Texas; DeMarra Massey from Hiram College, Hiram, Ohio; Huyen Tran Pham from Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia; Jacqueline Portillo from Franklin and Marshall College, Lancaster, Pennsylvania; and Ranata Reeder from North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina. There were three participants from our own UNT including: Sarah Gregory, Elisha Oliver and Stephen Roberts.

The research covered a range of topics explored from an anthropological perspective. The students who are presenting their research papers in The Eagle Feather 2009 are discussed further below. Darius Bittle-Dockery researched feedback loops, media panopticism, and the hip-hop disc jockey (DJ). Lisa Gonzalez gathered narratives of Latina auto workers in Michigan. Sarah Gregory analyzed Hurricane Katrina survivors’ perceptions of social disaster. Gibran Lule-Hurtado researched young Bolivians’ perspectives on globalism and the new nationalistic Bolivian Constitution. Elisha Oliver conducted an anthropological study of public characters and South Dallas street vendors. Jacqueline Portillo researched the contextualizing effects of public spheres on community socialization. Ranata Reeder conducted a study of how language affects community formation among Spanish speakers. And finally, Stephen Roberts explored survivalism and the stigma in online communities.