New and Returning Research Centers

The University of Maryland Sociology department produces some cutting-edge and innovative research, thanks in no small part to the collaborative work of our research groups. Whether these are returning research centers or new additions to our research community, these initiatives are producing a diverse and fascinating body of work for the social sciences here at the University of Maryland and all over the world.

The Culture Lab

The Culture Lab is a research and training lab for the systematic study of culture. Professor Melissa Milkie founded the lab in the fall of 2012 and it has accomplished much since then. Directed by Professor Milkie, graduate students Kathleen Denny and Joanna Pepin, with input from Valerie Chepp, created a website as a resource with relevant tools and information for researchers seeking to theorize, analyze and measure culture. Since the establishment of the Lab and its website, the Culture Lab routinely fields requests for collaboration and technical assistance from scholars from diverse and broad theoretical backgrounds and interests. There is a good deal of interest in the site from international scholars.

With a spotlight on content analysis as a methodological approach for measuring culture, last spring Professor Milkie taught a graduate methods course overviewing the benefits and challenges of conducting content analyses. Students learned specific procedures relevant to carrying out this type of research and undertook their own research projects. They benefited from sharing their approaches to designing research, generating and analyzing data, and presenting results linked to their research questions. They also discussed the multitude of challenges with their samples (including YouTube videos, advertisements in China, and US newspapers, to name a few). Ultimately, these students gained skills to continue their research, with the purpose of turning them into published papers.

The Culture Lab also has an active speaker series. A highlight from last year’s speaker series was a visit from Assistant Professor Neal Caren, from the University of North Carolina, who presented his expertise in the use of “big data.”  This semester Professor Jo Paoletti, from the Department of American Studies joined us to present parts of her forthcoming book Fashion and Feminism: A Tale of Three Authors. Sociology Professor Sonalde Desai shared results from research conducted with graduate student Gheda Temsah on their paper titled Gender Performance and Religious Identity Formation in India. Multiple graduate students who participated in the Content Analysis methods class also shared their findings, including Margaret Austin Smith and Lucia Lykke. New graduate student Shengwei Sun also joined as a lab affiliate and is working with Professor Christine Bachrach at the Pop Center who has begun a Culture and Population Working Group, which is now in conversation with the Culture Lab.

If you are interested in learning more about the Culture Lab, stop by our office in 4127A and/or take a careful look at the website (and please provide feedback!).

Critical Race Initiative

The Critical Race Initiative (CRI) is a group of scholars who center critical race theory (CRT) as an important framework by which to understand inequality in society. CRT addresses the ways that race permeates social institutions to maintain systemic forms of inequality. Under this framework, racism not only operates through social interaction stemming from individual prejudice but also through institutional conditions rooted in the culture of social life. Entrenched in white privilege, these conditions maintain an ideology of inferiority among minorities that dictate status, power, and prestige structures.

In addition to focusing on what race is, CRI more so focuses on what race does, how it is used, and how it operates via individual, social/cultural, and institutional conditions that manufacture and maintain racial inequality within political, social, and economic spheres. Correspondingly, race is treated as a social process rather than simply a variable to control for in a statistical model. In this social process, race operates not only as a point of departure to differentiate individuals and groups but as socially constructed destinations: that is, we all experience an ongoing process of racialization in our daily lives.

Accordingly, CRI has six primary aims:

  • Form a collective wisdom about critical race theory and its analytic focus
  • Shift the discourse past the Black/White narrative to highlight processes and mechanisms of racial inequality that affect all racial/ethnic minorities
  • Focus on race as a set of experiences, racialized identities, and social processes that are mutually facilitated by individual, social/cultural, and institutional conditions
  • Transform victimization into empowerment
  • Foster racial uplift activism through scholarship, teaching, community-based participatory research, and social policy
  • Draw upon core strengths of faculty and students in the Department of Sociology, BSOS, and UMD

The CRI affiliated faculty are Rashawn Ray, Patricia Hill Collins and Kris Marsh. CRI has approximately 50 faculty, students and non-academics who are on the CRI listserve; however the CRI activities, workshops and initiative are carried out by a core group of Sociology faculty and students organized into working groups. Currently CRI has three active working groups: Brownbags (lead by Lucia Lykke), Parren Mitchell Symposium (lead by Rashawn Ray) and the CRI Website (led by Karina Havrilla and Jonathan Cox). Shanna Brewton-Tiayon serves as the CRI administrator. Please reach out to any of the working group leads or the CRI administrator to join or if you have questions.

Maryland Time Use Lab

In the spring of 2013, Liana Sayer founded the University of Maryland Time Use Laboratory (MTUL), building on work done at Maryland by prominent time use scholars such as John Robinson and Suzanne Bianchi.  The lab conducts innovative research on new approaches to collecting time use data and investigates time use across the life course and among under-researched groups. Along with Dr. Sayer, graduate students Mandi Martinez and Ewa Jarosz, a predoctoral Fullbright scholar and PhD student in the program at the Institute of Philosophy and Sociology of Polish Academy of Sciences, are members of the lab. Ewa’s Fulbright-funded research project, titled ‘Temporal Orientations, Time Use Patterns and Social Inequality, combines survey data and Time Use Survey data for Poland to examine perceptions and attitudes towards time and behaviors across social classes. Jarosz also works on leisure complexity in time use in Poland in a cross-sectional perspective, examining how it differs across SES and gender.

The Maryland Time Use Lab seminar series features presentations by leading and emerging time use scholars. In the Fall 2013 series, Ewa Jarosz presented her paper titled Societal Determinants of Temporal Complexity in Personal Leisure: A Comparative Study of Germany and Poland. Dr. Sandra Hofferth, a professor in the Family Science department and affiliate of the MTUL, and graduate student Yoonjoo Lee shared results from their research on, Reliability, validity, and variability of the subjective well-being questions in the 2010 well-being module of the American Time Use Survey, and Liana Sayer shared her research on continuity and change in children’s time use. The series will continue Spring 2014 every other Friday at noon in ASY1101.

The Time Use Lab is currently focusing on three projects. One project under development is a small pilot study to investigate benefits of using personal computing devices to collect time use data in less burdensome ways than current methods. In a second project, the Time Use Lab is comparing time use among immigrants and native citizens that will include some mixed methods to explore how patterns of time use reflect changing family and social dynamics as immigrants adapt to life in their new communities. The third project of the Time Use Lab focuses on how patterns of time use change over time among children and adolescents.

Students interested in exploring using time use data in their research or working on time use lab projects should contact Dr. Sayer for more information.

Program for Society and the Environment (PSE)

The Program for Society and the Environment creates a home at the University of Maryland for research on the study of the society-environment relationship. PSE is grounded in Maryland’s and BSOS’s strategic plan priorities to “be a force in fostering greater understanding of human relations and the natural environment.” The Program serves as a hub for social scientists and students who study all aspects of the society-environment relationship. The PSE is an interdisciplinary program, bringing together University of Maryland scholars from Sociology, Government and Politics, Public Policy, Geographical Sciences, and Anthropology. The Program also engages scholarship from outside of the University, most notably with the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC), in a continuing effort to connect the social sciences to the physical sciences.

The Program for Society and the Environment coordinates socio-environmental research and education in a number of ways. First, the PSE hosts a bi-monthly workshop for social science faculty and graduate students working on environmental issues. Here, presenters and spectators meet to discuss a wide range of social science work, from community-level adaptations to climate change, to international comparative cases of nuclear energy adoption and compliance. These workshops allow interested scholars to network with experts in other fields, connecting their work to larger questions of society and the environment, and produce collaborative and trans-disciplinary work.

The PSE also supports graduate student research on the society-environment relationship through its seed grant program, available to graduate students from any department who are pursuing projects that investigate the relationship between society and the environment.

The Program is currently directed by Professor Dana R. Fisher of Sociology, along with the input of the executive board, including Rashawn Ray and Kurt Finsterbusch of Sociology; Jennifer Hadden of Government and Politics; and Nathan Hultman of the School of Public Policy. Research fellows include Anya Galli, Ann Horowitz, Joseph Waggle, and William Yagatich of Sociology; and Rachel Berndtson of Geographical Sciences. The PSE is also hosting visiting scholar Lorien Jasny.

Center for Innovation

Currently, the Center for Innovation has three members, the co-directors Jerald Hage and Wilbur Hadden, and research assistant Patrick Liu. The objectives of the Center are both to write theories and to test them. The major themes are:

Inequalities of Health Care

Wilbur Hadden

Bill Hadden is working on two projects. One with the School of Public Health at UM on an analysis of the spread of HIV/AIDS in the Washington metropolitan area. The other is a project with the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine to analyze the impact of developments in the health care system of Uganda. Hage will visit Uganda to evaluate local districts’ effectiveness in health care delivery. Together Hadden and Hage are working with a community health center in South Carolina in a field experiment to see if it is possible to increase social capital among African-Americans to change their health behavior.

Effectiveness of Public Research Organizations

Patrick Liu

Patrick Liu

Again, the Center has had two projects, one funded by the STAR division of NOAA over an eight year period and the other by the National Science Foundation. Articles are being written on knowledge exchanges of scientists, the impact of organizational size on effectiveness, the determinants of morale among scientists, organizational change, etc. This work involves Jeff Lucas, Patrick Liu, and Jonathan Mote as well.

Socio-Economic Theory of Social Change    

Jerald Hage

Jerald Hage

Hage is writing a book on evolution with four themes in each chapter:  review of theory, a theory of evolution, a theory of failed evolution, and a theory of agency overcoming failure caused by structure. Chapters examine the evolution of societies, organizations, individual minds, states and social movements, educational systems, economies, and economic performances. The intent is to update the work of Marx, Weber, Durkheim, Mead, Goffman, and Collins, as well as the theories of neo-classical economics.

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