Faculty Spotlight: Meredith Kleycamp (written by Meg Austin Smith)

Meredith Kleykamp was looking at pictures of her then-boyfriend’s platoon: all the Black men were standing in the back. “Why are y’all segregated?” she asked, pointing to the photo. “Oh those are all my NCOs” – enlisted leaders, he said.

At that time, Meredith was headed to graduate school with a clear research question: how does the immigrant health paradox operate among Hispanic children?  She was attending a summer math refresher before her first Fall at Princeton when she met an Army officer taking the same course as part of his studies to teach at West Point.  She began to learn about the military.

After writing her comprehensive exams in immigration, stratification, and demography, Meredith’s advisor at Princeton told her about a recent dissertation addressing nearly her very same research question. She was left with a decision about how to change course. Through dialogue with the man who would become her husband new interests had emerged—interests she came to realize could be pursued as research questions. What was it like to serve in the military? How did race shape experiences in the military? Employment opportunities after?

Around the same time, she began to do RA work for Bruce Western who soon became her advisor. Western’s work had to do with mass incarceration and racial inequality, and he was conducting an in-person audit study, sending out resumes and looking at who received call backs for interviews. He was supportive enough, however, to help Meredith pursue her questions about military service and opportunities, for which she felt particularly grateful: “this was before 9-11. You really had to justify why you were studying the military.”

Western’s audit study method proved to be helpful in approaching those questions. Meredith’s dissertation, “Military Service and Minority Opportunity,” used a variety of data including military administrative data and a field experiment to look at men’s experiences in joining the military and the transition to civilian employment. The NSF grant she received during her assistant professorship at the University of Kansas allowed her to replicate the audit study in her dissertation with men and women.

Enfolding work and family life has been “instrumental” for Meredith: she’s deeply appreciated being able to discuss her questions and her observations with her husband. Now there are two main men in her life. But even though one of them is three months into kindergarten, Meredith is pretty sure she won’t be trying out any audit studies with the resumes of kindergarten job-seekers. There are other ways to bring things together: a child-sized Terp t-shirt—heck, Terp t-shirts for the whole family—might not be out of the question.

Meg is a 2nd year PhD student.


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