The University of Connecticut Department of Public Policy is proud to present, in partnership with Connecticut’s public sector and nonprofit associations, Correlates, Causes and Solutions for Firearm Violence in America. The goal of the conference is to address three themes:
Community and Social Movement Organizing: How do activists understand the causes of and solutions to gun violence? What are the different approaches that activists take and how does their social location (e.g., urban/suburban; survivors) influence their strategies? What explains the approaches activists take in seeking institutional, cultural, and political change designed to reduce gun violence?
Community-Level Factors in Gun Violence: For example, how does income inequality relate to firearm violence? Do communities with higher gun ownership rates have higher firearm casualties? How do individual-level factors combine with community-level factors to influence gun violence?
Policies and Prevention Strategies: The evaluation of public policies or other prevention strategies aimed at reducing the number of gun injuries in the United States. This might include gun injuries, gun homicides, and/ or gun-related suicides.
For more information regarding the conference please click here for the conference website.
In her new book, sociology and El Instituto professor Daisy Reyes investigates how the particular college that Latino students attend shapes their understanding of themselves and their world views. CLAS majors weigh in about their own experiences at UConn.
Daisy Reyes is a professor of sociology and El Instituto: The Institute of Latina/o, Caribbean, and Latin American Studies. Her current research interests focus on how race and ethnicity are constructed, with particular focus on sites critical for social mobility, like colleges and universities. In her new book Learning to be Latino, professor Daisy Reyes investigates how the particular college the Latino students attend shapes their understanding of themselves and their world views. CLAS majors share their own perspectives and experiences at UConn.
Bandana Purkayastha is a professor of sociology and Asian & Asian American Studies, and former head of the Department of Sociology. She is the American Sociological Association’s national representative to the International Sociological Association. Her current research interests focus on human rights/human security, migration, intersectionality, and transnationalism. She recently published an article in the journal Current Sociology focusing on ‘Migration, Migrants, and Human Security.’ She discussed these issues with UConn Today.
Q. Migration has been in the news with immigration, particularly in the United States, but it has been global as well. Why did you start to look at this issue? A. While I have worked on migrants and migration for many years, I started looking more specifically at this issue of migrants and human security at the end of 2015. The New York Times had a series of stories on refugees including that very iconic picture of the young Syrian boy who had drowned and washed up on the shores of Turkey. That photograph went around the world. It made me think about my own research, and whether it was capturing all these different kinds of migration together. So I began to think about a continuum of migrants who are subject to transnational, national, and local policies and practices, whose position within these structures affects the conditions of insecurity they encounter during and after they move.
Q. Early on, you talk about the structural impediments to migration that are a key to understanding what is going on. What are those impediments? A. The structural impediments to moving are most often political, but they include a mix of political, economic, and social impediments. For instance, what kind of rules and policies exist to sort out who can move and under what conditions? A key issue of migration is: do people have the resources to move? Many people don’t. Some people end up moving close by because that’s how far they can get. People may try to move further away; which, depending on where they were in the first place, could mean crossing an international border. After people have moved, there are a whole lot of impediments to their settling down and accessing resources for living. A number of questions arise when we think about human security. Where and how do migrants get their food? Their shelter? What about their health? Their physical safety from violence? Their ability to exercise rights? Are the people in the area where they settle willing to accept them? These questions apply to all migrants, whether or not they were forced to move.
These forced migrants are put into actual camps, detention centers, or camp-like situations. They live in spaces where nothing in life can be taken for granted.
Q. You outline a number of issues with forced migration. What are they?
A. The conditions that affect the forced migrants are basically the same issues that other types of migrants face, of housing, health, safety, food, water, and safety from violence. Forced migrants are fleeing from something. It could be major environmental-related disasters like a tsunami, severe desertification, or some kind of chemical pollution of a river or the land. Or they could be moving to escape wars and conflicts. Some people – mostly young women, girls, and boys – are trafficked to other countries. When they move, the question is: Are they allowed to move freely? If they are anywhere near international boundaries, the answer is: No. They are often repressed and pushed back. People are not willing to accept them. These forced migrants are put into actual camps, detention centers, or camp-like situations. They live in spaces where nothing in life can be taken for granted. In some extreme cases, you’ve had examples of people trying to leave by boat. We’ve certainly seen this outflow from the Middle East and North Africa towards Europe. According to the 2017 UN reports, many of these forced migrants end up in camps in countries such as Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan. What we’re beginning to see is a pattern of nation states trying to exert their power to repel migrants over the three-mile maritime boundaries that are within the jurisdiction of nation states, as well as the seas beyond that limit.
Q. That is, of course, a political issue too. A. It is a political issue. We’re seeing a lot more assertiveness for repelling people from reaching the actual land shores of countries. There is also an associated issue of bringing the issues of migrants under more broadly defined criminal justice systems. On the one hand, there’s been a real upsurge in crimes such as smuggling, and trafficking of human beings; these have become profitable industries. On the other hand, we are also seeing problematic ways in which nation states are dealing with these migrants. There have been well publicized news articles about Australia paying smugglers – the same smugglers who are bringing people by boats – to take them back. Smuggling and trafficking are also evident on the land routes. Pakistan happens to be one of the top 10 countries that hosts forced migrants, especially from Afghanistan. Bangladesh and India have now gotten forced migrants from Myanmar. In every country around the world, some people are raising questions about national security. At the same time, the questions about ensuring the human security of these migrants often remain unanswered, or partially answered. So migrants struggle to survive.
Q. You describe what you call the ‘glocal’ terrains: globalization and how it affected local concerns, which includes human rights issues. A. The term glocal is used to describe how the local and global forces interact with each other. On the one hand, we have all of these conventions about human rights, which are supposed to ensure that every human being, irrespective of political status, has the right to political, civil, social, and economic rights. On the other hand, the reality is whether or not people can access these rights really gets played out on the ground, through everyday encounters with institutions and people. Human rights don’t have enough political teeth if a country is not willing to comply with them; and many countries, to greater or lesser extents, don’t comply. I’m going to use an analogy because I think it illustrates this phenomenon. Prior to and during the civil rights movement [in the U.S.] when the buses were segregated, there were no lines drawn on the bus that said African Americans had to sit here, or there. But that line was actually imposed very strictly by the people on the bus, and this imposition was supported by the state’s institutions. In exactly the same way, if you have a group of people who might theoretically be due all kinds of rights, including the right to food, shelter, safety from violence, and so on, they will not be able to access these rights as long as other people and institutional arrangements make it impossible for them to do so. When we study human rights and mostly examine the laws at the national level, we do not adequately analyze the migrant’s experience on the ground. I think the struggles of forced migrants, more than anybody else, really show us the limits of these rights, when there are inadequate mechanisms to ensure access to these rights.
Q. Many people who talk about immigration think migrants are coming to the United States. But you are looking a fairly unique situations such as the migration of people of Japanese origin from Brazil, forced migration in Pakistan, and people going to South Africa. What would you say about people changing their thinking that this is a global concern? A. Migration is a global phenomenon. There are many streams of migration going on in different parts of the world. We don’t see it in the local news, so it is not visible to us. According to the most recent UN report, international migration reached 258 million in 2017. Over 60 percent of international migrants, those who are not part of the forced migration stream, live in Asia or Europe. North America is host to the third largest number of international migrants. That said, among the list of countries, the United States is home to the largest number of international migrants. The authors in the special issue of Current Sociology discuss the human security of different types of migrants in a number of countries, including the U.S.
Q. What are your thoughts on how some of these issues can be addressed better? A. In order to improve the situation, we have to consider political solutions. I think the way the situation can be improved is to humanize, and not dehumanize, the people who are on the move. There is always a genuine concern for national security, and I’m not undermining that. However, we’re in this moment where many people are saying, because there’s a concern for national security, we can dehumanize everyone. Right now we are moving increasingly to the situation that immigration and immigrants and criminal justice and criminal activities are becoming part of the same operation. We need to look, through a human rights perspective, at the fact that a large number of immigrants actually are due their human rights. Some have fled horrible conditions; others come here for work. Are they able to access rights substantively? We are not taking a good, hard look at what happens to them after they arrive. Are we meeting our own aspirations to be a place where human rights principles and practices are honored?
Caner Hazar and Jordan Rees, graduate students from Department of Sociology, were each awarded a 2018 Wood/Raith Living Trust summer fellowship!
The Wood/Raith Living Trust is named for Audrey Wood (UCONN class of ‘47) and Edeltraut Raith. Both Wood and Raith earned their Masters in Library Science from the University of Southern California and spent their careers as librarians with the San Francisco Public Library system. They generously gifted the University of Connecticut funds for the study of gender identity under the Wood/Raith Living Trust.
This summer Wood/Raith Living Trust started the initiative with graduate fellowships to support work focused on gender identity. We received 38 submissions across 14 programs/departments. The top 12 candidates across 9 departments/programs were offered awards of $4,000 each. The award winners will appear on the websitehttps://woodraithgender.uconn.edu/.
Roseanne Njiru has been awarded a highly competitive 6 months fellowship to the University of Cambridge, UK. This fellowship allows her time to write up her research. She will be located at the Center for African Studies.
Farhan Navid Yousaf has invited by the UN to share his expertise on trafficking at a conference in South Korea on victim-centered approaches to trafficking.
He has also been contacted by the US Department of State to contribute to the US-Trafficking in Persons report (country report on Pakistan).
Joonghyun Kwak has accepted a two-year postdoctoral position in the Department of Sociology at Ohio State University.
He will be working with Professors Craig Jenkins and Kazimierz Slomczynki on the “Survey Data Recycling” project which builds theory-informed “big data” for the social sciences. The project involves harmonizing survey and non-survey data sources used in comparative cross-national research and devising methodological tools for analyzing multi-dimensional data structures. The SDR project is funded by the National Science Foundation in collaboration with Ohio State University and the Polish Academy of Sciences.
Todd Vachon has accepted a two-year postdoctoral fellowship at Rutgers University in the School of Management and Labor Relations, Department of Labor Studies and Employment Relations. Rutgers’ SMLR is a national and international leader in the study of the world of work, building effective and sustainable organizations, and the changing employment relationship.
In recognition of the pivotal role that mentors play in supporting undergraduate research and creative activity, the Office of Undergraduate Research is pleased to announce the recipents of the 2018 Mentorship Excellence Awards. These awards recognize two faculty members – one in a STEM field, and one in a non-STEM field – and one graduate student who exemplify the ways in which outstanding mentors challenge and support their students, enabling them to take intellectual risks and achieve milestones they might not have initially envisioned being able to reach.
The 2018 Mentorship Excellence Awards were presented to Andrea Voyer, Nicholas Eddy, and Laura Mickelsen during the Frontiers in Undergraduate Research Poster Exhibition on Friday, April 13, 2018.
Andrea Voyer, Assistant Professor, Sociology
Professor Voyer’s award was presented by Savannah-Nicole Villalba ’18 (CLAS). The following text is excerpted from Savannah-Nicole’s presentation remarks.
I had Dr. Voyer for one of the required classes for our major, social theory. Dr. Voyer gracefully worked us through the dense theories of 19th century sociologists. It was my first time engaging with sociological theory, and many of us were struggling to understand the concepts. Dr. Voyer was patient with us as we tried to make connections to the material. She was encouraging so that we weren’t afraid of being wrong, and was personable in a way that encouraged students to work harder.
This mentality was one that she brought with her when we began the IDEA Grant application process. When we started discussing the possibility of applying, she did not bring me in to work on something she was interested in. In our first meeting, she asked me what I was passionate about and I could tell she genuinely cared. Dr. Voyer was the first person to believe in my passions and to tell me that my research questions were valid. We spent months working on the application process, and when the grant was approved, I knew it would not have been possible without her guidance.
With her own incredible research and personal life, she has always been accessible to discuss the newest challenge I faced. Instead of just providing answers, she would offer suggestions on ways to problem solve to reach reasonable solutions. Even though Dr. Voyer has been away this school year, she has helped me apply (and be accepted) to graduate school, supported (and protected) me at my first research conference, and has shown me what an academic mentor should be.
Akshayaa Chittibabu ’19 (CLAS), a biological sciences and sociology major, has been named a 2018 Truman Scholar by The Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation. The competitive national award, given to 59 students across the U.S., selects and supports the next generation of public service leaders.
Chittibabu, a junior, is a STEM scholar who has worked on implementing better health education for rural women in South India as a Holster Scholar; assessed barriers in American healthcare as a 2017 Newman Civic Fellow; and studied Korean in Gwangju, South Korea through the U.S. Department of State.
Currently, Akshayaa serves as the vice chair of the Academic Affairs Committee and Senator for Multiculturalism and Diversity in UConn’s Undergraduate Student Government. She is an editorial assistant at the peer-reviewed journal Social Science & Medicine and is conducting her thesis research with Professor Audrey Chapman at the UConn School of Medicine’s Department of Community Medicine and Healthcare.
In Storrs, she serves on the UConn Hindu Students Council and volunteers as a community health educator through the Collegiate Health Service Corps. Her investment in global health has led her to chairing Connecticut’s first student-run global health conference, serving on medical development trips to Panama and Ecuador, and advocating for global malaria and polio programs as a UN Foundation Global Health Fellow.
“All my life I’ve wanted to enter public service, and this feels like an incredible affirmation of that goal,” Chittibabu says of the award. “It feels like there are endless possibilities, and that I’m really working toward making America a better place.”
For her graduate work, Chittibabu would like to pursue an MD/MPP degree, and in the future, she aims to build and promote innovative health policies as a physician.
“As Dean of the College, it is enormously gratifying to watch our students achieve the national recognition they deserve,” said Davita Silfen Glasberg, interim dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. “And as a sociologist, I am especially proud of Akshayaa’s work in global health, which will undoubtedly produce innovative health policies for future generations.”
“Akshayaa is one of the most delightful and talented young scholars I have had the pleasure of knowing,” said Vincent Moscardelli, director of the UConn Office of National Scholarships and Fellowships. “She’s not only a double major, but a published poet, an accomplished artist, a speaker of five languages, and an aspiring physician. I simply cannot wait to see what she does next.”
“Akshayaa’s selection as UConn’s sixth Truman Scholar is evidence of her academic potential, her demonstrated record of leadership, and her extraordinary commitment to public service at every level,” added Provost Craig Kennedy. “She represents everything we at the University of Connecticut challenge our students to be.”
The Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation was created by Congress in 1975 to be the nation’s living memorial to President Harry S. Truman. Recipients of the Truman Scholarship receive a $30,000 scholarship toward graduate school and the opportunity to participate in professional development programming to help prepare them for careers in public service leadership. They will receive their awards in a ceremony at the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum on Sunday, May 27, 2018.
By: Christine Buckley, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
The following students in Sociology have been elected to Phi Beta Kappa this year. Phi Beta Kappa is the nation’s oldest and most widely recognized honors society, celebrating achievement in the liberal arts and sciences.
Joseline Tlacomulco (middle), from Ruth Hernandez’s class (right) on “Introduction to Latin America and the Caribbean,” was awarded the 2018 “Undergraduate Social Action Award” by Sociologists for Women in Society (SWS), a national nonprofit professional organization dedicated to efforts related to feminist action, including promoting social justice through local, national, and international activism. This recognition is awarded to a student making a substantial contribution to improving the lives of women in society through their activism. At the award reception held in Atlanta, Georgia, Joseline gave a moving speech that was met with a standing ovation and her recognition was referred to as the “highlight of the event.”
Joseline’s personal experience as a baby carried across borders and deserts inspired her to become involved in immigration issues which affect her livelihood as an undocumented woman of color. In her personal essay Joseline wrote, “many times I felt I was the only undocumented student on campus. I didn’t know anyone at UConn who was undocumented, making it hard for me to trust those in my social environment. It was through this difficult experience that my own identity as an undocumented student pushed me to realize the lack of resources for undocumented students. Then, there were no scholarships offered by the university for undocumented students, the schools website did not include any information about matriculating as an undocumented student, and finally, there were no steps or an action plan to fix these institutional issues. I asked myself, how could a leading institution and New England’s ‘flagship university’ have zero resources to help their undocumented students?”
To address these and other issues Joseline became a community organizer for Connecticut Students for a Dream (C4D) and her work has significantly improved the lives of undocumented students at UConn. To enact social change Joseline leads workshops for faculty and staff concerning undocumented student populations, works with administration on various protocols, and facilitates legal aid services for undocumented students. Her efforts have amounted to protocols and transparent resources for undocumented students such as a web page on the financial aid website. The testimonial from Eleanor JB Daugherty, Associate Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students stated, “Joseline’s work for CT Students for A Dream is deeply compelling and has motivated University leaders such as myself to come forward and seek changes that would enable undocumented students to have a safe, accessible, and affordable college experience.”
Following the presidential inauguration of 2016, Joseline spearheaded efforts that facilitated open and much needed discussions about how immigration reform and other laws would affect UConn students. Following a campus-wide march, Joseline attended meetings to ensure that undocumented students would be safe at UConn. These efforts resulted in UConn examining its policies and protocols for the protection of undocumented students.
In addition to her grassroots work, Joseline is committed to student growth and is a frequent guest lecturer for many departments. Joseline’s lectures are complex and critical, and she offers students the opportunity to think through issues of diversity, as well as access to resources. Through her work, Joseline has become a mentor to many undergraduate students, such as Malachi Bridges who wrote the following testimony: “Joseline is an activist that is always willing to learn, work, help and teach. Among all these roles, she allocates the same 110% effort.” Another student, Laura Bedoya stated, “I admire Joseline’s fearlessness and ability to advocate for herself and many others. She inspires me stand firm in my beliefs.” It is clear that Joseline is a gifted speaker and is able to use her lived experiences to communicate issues often left out of curriculum about the diverse problems students of color at our university face today.
UConn Sociology students, Savannah-Nicole Villalba (left) and Caroline Brooks (right) presented their research at the 2018 Eastern Sociological Society’s Annual Conference in Baltimore. Savannah-Nicole Villalba’s research, titled “A Healthy Food Inventory of Waterbury, CT” received the Best Undergraduate Poster Award. This distinction was given to seven out of 170 posters. Savannah-Nicole’s project was funded by the UConn IDEA Grant and the UConn Co-op Legacy Fellowship Program. The title of Caroline Brooks’ project is “A Cross Sectional Time Series Analysis on the Impacts of Race on Homeownership.”