Social Sciences

SS3090: Undergraduate Program for Exploration and Research in Social Sciences (UPERSS)

The UPERSS program provides research opportunities for undergraduate Social Sciences students to work closely faculty (or advanced graduate student) to do research, creative work, or community-based project.

The UPERSS students share an overview of their research experiences at the annual Social Sciences Undergraduate Research Symposium (date TBD). Students have two options for presenting your UPPERS project and fulfilling this requirement, described below. Other options, such as co-authoring an article in a journal, presenting to a class, or presenting at a conference are also an option. All decisions on this requirement should be made with the faculty mentor.

The presentation format:

  1. Either a poster, website, or visual representation of the project.
  2. A 4-5 minute recorded presentation of the project (4 slides maximum)

Interested and Want to Know How to Get Started?

Review the project descriptions and weigh decisions on time commitments. Contact the faculty member to initiate the interview/selection process. Send to the faculty:

  • a short description of your research experiences to date
  • a statement describing your academic, personal, and career interests
  • and a statement on how participation in UPERSS aligns with your interests and goals.

The faculty mentor will review and contact you. After confirmation, your faculty mentor will contact the Social Sciences administrator to sign you up for the course.

The Course You Need

Students sign up for SS 3090 Exploring Undergrad Research in Social Sciences. 1-3 credits; pass/fail. Students earn 1 unit of academic credit for every 3 hours worked per week (limited to a total of 3 credits per semester). UPERSS is open to all Social Sciences undergraduate majors.

SS 3090 - Undergraduate Program for Exploration and Research in Social Sciences (UPERSS)

An undergraduate research experience for students to work with a faculty mentor to undertake research, creative work, or community-based project. The student typically signs up for 1-3 credits per semester. Requires GPA of 2.5 or higher.

  • Credits: variable to 3.0; Repeatable to a Max of 9; Graded Pass/Fail Only
  • Semesters Offered: On Demand
  • Restrictions: Permission of instructor required

Learning Objectives

  • Communicate effectively through writing, speech, and visual information
  • Develop critical thinking skills
  • Develop teamwork and accountability skills
  • Practice presenting results and conclusions of the research

Application Process

Contact the faculty mentor for the project. Provide a short description of your research experiences to date and a short statement describing your interest in the project. If selected, your faculty mentor will contact the Department Administrator to allow you to sign up for credits for SS3090.

Research Project Descriptions

Western UP Food Systems Collaborations: Community Gardens and Strengthening Regional Food Networks (Spring 2021)

Faculty Mentor: Professor Angie Carter

Project Description

The student(s) will gain experience contributing to ongoing and existing participatory and community-based research projects in collaboration with the Western UP Food Systems Collaborative to strengthen our regional food system, including components such as community gardens, food pantries, farmers markets, institutional  procurement, transportation, energy, and cultures. Specific opportunities available, depending upon the student’s interests, include: assisting with planning, building, and assessing the new culinary garden at the Horizons Alternative High School and/or the therapy garden at the Gundlach Women’s Shelter; collaborating with local farms to develop on-farm sustainability field days and demonstrations; assist with planning the upcoming local food summit; assist with the Growing from the Heart food sharing program.

Potential Benefits

  • Gain research experience working in collaboration with community partners.
  • Contribute to food and social justice in our region.

Student Time and Commitment

Depending on interests and availability, students could would have the option to do any of the
following work scheduled around their classes and other commitments:

  • Variable, depending upon student commitment availability.
  • Hourly paid position is also available for Spring 2021.


Angie Carter

  • Assistant Professor, Environmental/Energy Justice
906-487-1431 (leave voicemail)
Academic Office Building 207 (working remotely Spring 2021)

Archaeology of the Quincy National Guard Encampment (Spring 2021)

Faculty Mentor: Professor LouAnn Wurst

Project Description

The UPPERSS student working on this project will be involved in all aspects of historical and archaeological research on the Michigan National Guard encampment located at the Quincy Mining Company, occupied during the 1913-1914 Copper Country Strike. Students will 1) work at the MTU archives to collect and synthesize available historic documents and photos; 2) use these photos to reconstruct the camp’s layout and organization; 3) catalog, analyze and interpret the archaeological data excavated from several features associated with the camp; and 4) produce a draft report summarizing all results as well as a poster presentation that will be used for state and regional Archaeology Day activities.

Potential Benefits

  • Experience in archival research, identifying and analyzing material culture.
  • Professional report writing and practice presenting research to community groups.

Student Time and Commitment

  • 3 credits; 3-9 hours a week.
  • Prerequisite SS2200 Introduction to Archaeology or other archaeological experience.


LouAnn Wurst

  • Professor of Archaeology
Academic Office Building 216

Ethnic Organization and Diaspora Engagement in the Keweenaw (Spring 2021)

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Kathryn Hannum

Project Description

The Upper Peninsula is home to many ethnic organizations with rich and varied histories. Due to patterns of industrial migrants in the United States, ours is not an uncommon ethnic landscape. But do countries of origin continue to impact these communities, and if so, how? This project will assess the vibrancy of remaining ethnic organizations and the extent to which members have connections (political, cultural, social, and/or economic) to the ‘origin’ country. Students will work to assess the histories, current vibrancy, and future goals of currently operating ethnic organizations in the Keweenaw by using interviews and participant observation methods. Students will also research existing diaspora engagement policies of countries of origin and the extent to which such policies are affecting the organization members in the Keweenaw. Qualitative data will be summarized and coded for patterns and themes and used in a larger comparative project on diaspora engagement policies and their effects.

Potential Benefits

  • Learning content analysis, interview skills, participant observation, and thematic coding

  • Included in all publications resulting from research

Student Time and Commitment

  • 3-5 hrs/wk.


Kathryn Hannum

  • Instructor, Social Sciences
Academic Office Building 225

Developing a University Partnership offering Educational / Cultural Outreach to State Prison Inmates housed in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan (Spring 2021) 

Faculty Mentor: Susanna Peters

Project Description

Students will work with Susanna Peters for a one semester project intended to develop a proposal to find ways to create and sustain an educational outreach program between Michigan Tech and detainees currently incarcerated in Upper Peninsula Michigan Prisons (particularly Baraga Max but potentially other institutions if online options are available). The student will find and research other university partnerships offering educational/cultural outreach programs and consider these models to identify viable project options for Michigan Tech to undertake.

The student will draft a preliminary proposal to present to and work with the local prison / and or jail populations in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The proposal will include details such as suggestions for appropriate literature, and writing/creative projects for the inmate population. We undertake this project with the understanding that this may be particularly challenging due to the current COVID lockdown of state correctional institutions, therefore the student involved may also decide survey options for online programs. If the project gets authorized the student may continue to work to implement the project.

Potential Benefits

  • A better understanding of the goals and challenges of the Department of Corrections.
  • A better understanding of the educational goals and challenges for detainees in the DOC.
  • Gain experience researching educational programs throughout the state.
  • Gain experience dealing with State officials and employees to initiate a viable program.
  • Gain experience creating a draft budget of costs for developing a sustainable program.

Student Time and Commitment

  • Varies based on student availability, 4-12 hours per week.
  • Tasks include: Creating Index of similarly situated University/Prison Outreach programs

    Identifying Needs and resources of DOC


Susanna Peters

  • Lecturer in Law and Society
Academic Office Building 219

Historic Cemeteries: Mapping, Management, and Memory (Spring 2021)

Faculty Mentor: Professor Tim Scarlett

Project Description

Help Copper Country community organizations with their legacy cemeteries. Community leaders approached Michigan Tech seeking help with mapping and remote sensing, geospatial visualization, planning for sustainable management, enhanced protection, and potential public interpretation of neglected cemeteries. Using tools like Ground Penetrating Radar and other remote sensing and mapping technologies, in conjunction with archival and oral history research, to help build inventories of burial grounds. Through a review of published literature on cemetery archaeology and management, provide recommendations on best practices for community organizations and municipalities for a problem facing many rural towns in the United States. Help to build connections between the cemetery inventory and online geospatial research tools, like and, with an eye to building a robust management tool, facilitating heritage building/place-making among local and the online communities of the “Copper Country Diaspora,” creating useful interpretive material, and enhancing heritage tourism development in these communities.

Potential Benefits

  • Dovetail with other student classes, individual skill learning choices, and career plans.
  • Place more emphasis on remote sensing and geospatial technologies; community-engaged or collaborative study; development of web resources, tools, or data structures; archival and/or oral history work; or heritage tourism or educational program development.

Student Time and Commitment

May vary based on student commitment ability/availability.


Timothy Scarlett

  • Associate Professor of Archaeology and Anthropology
Academic Office Building 210

Renewable Energy Transitions In Michigan (Spring 2021)

Faculty Mentor: Professor Richelle Winkler

Project Description

Renewable energy transitions in Michigan. As part of a large interdisciplinary and collaborative project, there are student research opportunities to engage in understanding the social, policy, economic, and technical contexts for a renewable energy transition in Michigan. Activities and commitments can vary based on student interest.

Potential Benefits

  • Varies based on student interest

Student Time and Commitment

  • Varies based on student availability
  • Students may also choose to register for directed study credits in association with work and study on this project


Richelle Winkler

  • Professor of Sociology and Demography, Social Sciences
Academic Office Building 217

Michigan Tech Inventory of Historic Scientific Instruments (IHSI) (Spring 2021)

Faculty Mentor(s): Professor Steve Walton and Professor Andrew Fiss

Project Description

Work with history of science faculty who are cataloging the surviving historic scientific instruments on campus. Many departments have legacy equipment, sometimes still in use, that shows the important development of scientific and engineering research and teaching on campus from 1885 to present. In assisting with this project, you will contribute to the growing record of instruments at Inventory of History Scientific Instruments, help explain the importance of these instruments within institutional history, and preserve information about some instruments that may be discarded. With alumni, staff, and faculty, you can help argue that historic instruments should be kept as important reminders of their field.

Potential Benefits

  • Assist in direct catalog, including photography of instruments and historical research on the use of instruments within different fields.
  • Write collaborative essays on a class of instruments.
  • Use cataloged instruments as interpretive objects to investigate historical and philosophical perspectives on the material practice of science.

Student Time and Commitment

  • 1­–3 credits, (1-3 hours of work a week) .
  • Proportional amount of time spent researching or reading independently.
  • Students new to the project will be given an initial training session.
  • May also be funded through summer research.


Steven Walton

  • Associate Professor of History
Academic Office Building 224