UMass SBS hosts inaugural ISSR event

By Alexandra Graziano

The University of Massachusetts College of Social and Behavioral Sciences hosted the inaugural event for the Institute for Social Science Research (ISSR) Friday held in the Massachusetts Room of the Mullins Center.

The ISSR is an expansion of the Population and Research Institute started in 1962. It provides opportunities for both graduate and undergraduate students looking to pursue their own research. Students receive help with surveying techniques, and various mentoring and consulting services.

Graduate students at any level of their research initiatives can head to the ISSR to receive mentoring or partner with faculty for advising, according to the institute’s website.

The development of the institute, and shift to a college-based program opposed to a department-based program, is spearheaded by associate professor of sociology Jennifer Lundquist. She said the institute was designed with the help of a number of specialists who have created similar research facilities at Duke, the University of North Carolina and other universities.

SBS Dean Robert Feldman said he sees a bright future for the institute as it promotes more and higher quality research that will have a direct effect on society on a number of levels.

“It allows policy recommendations,” Feldman said. “The work that’s being done enhances people’s ability to teach.”

Associate professor Michelle Budig, who spoke at the event on Friday, said she’s doing similar research as to what will be done with the new ISSR. Her current research subjects include pay differences between married men and women, the development of programs for free or subsidized child care and other resources that could help women in the work force.

Lundquist, who is the acting director of the ISSR, said the program is partly designed to get students ready for more competitive research institutes.

“We want to start a research assistant program where undergraduates can be trained at ISSR and then apply for a competitive program after,” she said.

One program that will expand on Lundquist’s ideas is in action now. For the 2012-2013 year there will be two teams of 12-person grant writers with mentors, to prepare the students for how to create a grant proposal and how to go through the entire process, according to a press release on the event.

Lundquist said they hope to have a program where undergraduates can participate in a summer of training and then collaborate with a professor on research.

This certificate would give students experience with both quantitative and qualitative data analysis, giving them a possible advantage with a number of employers.

“We have a methods certificate which makes them immediately employable,” Lundquist said.

In the future the ISSR looks to develop a more extensive research database, advocate social science software licensing and offer mock review panels for research proposals.

Alexandra Graziano can be reached at [email protected]