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We know we have a top-notch sociology department, and it’s nice to know that outsiders agree.  This is clear from the awards our faculty and students receive for specific research publications or projects and in recognition of career contributions to teaching, research, and service.  Our faculty and graduate students are regular recipients of internal and external fellowships that give them time and resources to focus on their research, and our faculty have a consistent stream of externally funded grant activity.  A snapshot gives some indication.  Last year, the active external grants in our department totaled approximately $1.6 million—awarded from highly competitive and rigorously reviewed funding sources, including the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Education, and others.  In addition, our faculty repeatedly and regularly receive seed grants from UIC’s OSSR, Great Cities, Institute for the Humanities, and the Institute for Research on Race and Public Policy.


photo of Professor Claire DecoteauThe ‘Western Disease’: The Autism Enigma within the Somali Refugee Population

Associate Professor Claire Decoteau has received a two-year National Science Foundation grant which examines the ways in which individuals and communities come to understand illness and how their explanations impact their health behavior and health care choices.  It contributes to current sociological research which explores how laypeople get involved in and change the course of scientific research and policy.  There is growing statistical evidence that Somali refugee populations have higher prevalence rates of autism spectrum disorder than other ethnic/racial groups.  Somali parents refer to autism as the ‘Western’ disease because they are convinced that autism does not exist in Somalia.  This project examines the ways that groups of Somali parents of children with autism in two national contexts (Minneapolis, MN and Toronto, Canada) have forged movements to understand and address their health experiences.  Groups in each location have developed divergent approaches to treatment and vaccine uptake.  Unlike most analyses of autism, this project analyzes autism from a global perspective and asks about the relevance of race, class, and nationality to peoples’ experiences with and explanations of disability.  Racial minorities have been underrepresented in the research on autism, and this project seeks to address this bias. 


photo of maria krysanThe Housing Search Process of Racial and Ethnic Minorities

Maria Krysan will be PI of a project, flowing through the Urban Institute, but funded by HUD, entitled: "The Housing Search Process of Racial and Ethnic Minorities." The focus of the project is on how whites, African Americans, Asian Americans, and Latinos search for rental housing; HUD's interest in particular is in whether their measures of housing discrimination, which assume a particular housing search process, miss much of the action. One of the larger purpose of the project is to understand how this process contributes to the perpetuation of racially segregated neighborhoods. We know surprisingly little about how this process unfolds, and this exploratory study will involve in-depth interviews, original survey data collection (attempting for the first time to track housing searches 'as they are happening'), and secondary data analysis. Kyle Crowder at the University of Washington is another senior member of the project. The PI's will be working with the team at the Urban Institute.


photo of amy baileyVariations in Vulnerability to Victimization: Identifying Individual and Community Factors 


Principal Investigator: Amy Kate Bailey
Assistant Professor of Sociology, University of Illinois - Chicago

While lynching is largely an historic practice, victimization based on gender, perceived sexual identity, race/ethnicity, religious adherence, and economic status continues to plague societies around the globe.  Intergroup conflict is typically rooted in competition for some sort of socially valued good.  Community-level theories predict increasing levels of conflict when one group threatens the status, authority, or material resources of another group.  That might suggest that the individuals selected as victims would be those whose characteristics pose the greatest threat to prevailing social arrangements – those who are the most successful.  Research on both historical lynching and contemporary bias crimes, however, tells us that it is people who have lower socioeconomic status, fewer apparent social ties, who are chosen as victims.  Existing research also tells us that people victimized by more and less severe attacks often differ from each other.

This project will help reframe our understanding of the dynamics of victimization in multiple ways.  Working in collaboration with both graduate and undergraduate research assistants, Prof. Bailey will use historical census records to locate individuals who were threatened with lynching, but not killed, in ten Southern states across a span of 50 years (1882 – 1930).  Records for these intended victims, and all other people in their households, will be merged with existing data on people who were lynched, as well as on nonvictim members of their communities. Comparing these groups will allow us to identify the characteristics that put individuals at risk of various levels of victimization. Prof. Bailey’s analyses will also incorporate historical social, demographic, economic, and political data for the counties where lynchings took place.  She hopes to determine which community factors placed high and low status people at elevated risk of victimization.  She is also working with a web developer to create a site for online, public distribution of a database and “case files” with research notes and historical documents for each case.


Photo fo Rachel GordonInstitute of Education Sciences Research Grant

Prof Rachel Gordon received a prestigious grant from the Institute of Education Sciences through the U.S. Department of Education to explore how we measure preschool program quality. She received one of only 36 new research grants awarded for 2013 by the Institute of Education Sciences' National Center for Education Research. She will investigate "Measuring Preschool Program Quality: Multiple Aspects of the Validity of Two Widely-USed Measures," in collaboration with Professor Everett Smith of the UIC College of Education and Kerry Hofer and Sandra Wilson of Vanderbilt University. Click here for more details.