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.

Program Contact

Jonathan Robins

  • Associate Professor of History
  • Social Sciences Undergraduate Studies Director
Academic Office Building 223

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
  • 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

Ethnic Organization and Diaspora Engagement in the Keweenaw (Fall 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
  • Director of Student Programs
Academic Office Building 225

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

Food-Based Plants as Living Heritage (Fall 2021)

Faculty Mentor: Dr. Mark Rhodes

Project Description

Students will work with the Living Memory Lab to explore the history and impact of fruits, vegetables, and grains memorializing individuals. This work can range from historical primary and secondary research, to interviewing and surveying, to participatory action research at the Houghton Downtown Farmers Market. Given the students interests and/or credit level they may choose to be more or less involved in different angles of the project focusing on either a specific method to explore or plant to investigate. Overall, however, this project explores the interconnected nature of life stories – both human and more-than-human – and how the politics, economics, and cultures of our food systems also shape and are shaped by memory. While this work is in its early stages of development, students can find more information at

Potential Benefits

  • Gain experience preparing social science research for specialized and general audiences

  • Gain first-hand experience in utilizing social science methods

Student Time and Commitment

  • Varies based on student commitment and availability


Mark Rhodes II

  • Assistant Professor of Geography
Academic Office Building 211

Michigan Tech Inventory of Historic Scientific Instruments (IHSI) (Fall 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

Historic Cemeteries: Mapping, Management, and Memory (Fall 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

Applying an Indigenous Methodology: Storying a Tribal Landscape System (Fall 2021)

Faculty Mentor: Professor Melissa Baird
Graduate Mentor: Larissa Juip

Project Description

Indigenous storywork, as described by Jo-ann Archibald (2008), combines traditional and life-experience stories to produce a holistic narrative by building “on the storywork teachings of respect, reverence, responsibility, reciprocity, holism, interrelatedness, and synergy” (2). These stories recognize different ways of knowing, such as those present in Indigenous communities and they often reflect a great emphasis on place-based knowledge and relationships.  This storywork project is designed to complement a National Science Foundation research project (Tribal Landscape Systems) being conducted in partnership with the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community (KBIC), Keweenaw Bay Natural Resources, Great Lakes Fish and Wildlife Commission (GLIFWC), and Michigan Technological University researchers. Storywork has great potential to serve as an important method and pedagogy to reflect on responsibilities of Indigenous-University partnerships.

Students will assist a graduate research assistant in producing stories shared by partners in this project that reflect place-based connections and relationships as they form or are strengthened through research.  The collection of stories shared by partners will become an iterative process that sheds light on the importance of place-based knowledge within the research project.  For more information about Indigenous storywork, go to Indigenous Storywork.

Potential Benefits

  • Learn about Indigenous methodologies, focusing on storywork.
  • Learn the protocols for working with Indigenous communities, including relationship building, knowledge exchange, and the “four R’s” of Indigenous research: respect, relevance, reciprocity, and responsibility (Archibald 2008; Kirkness and Barnhardt 1991).
  • Gain experience in a research method: conducting storywork (collection, editing, and production).

  • Gain experience conducting team research: Work with transdisciplinary faculty and local community partners to gain experience conducting community research.

Student Time and Commitment

  • Varies based on student availability.  Some travel will be required (provided by graduate mentor).
  • Research team meetings monthly; faculty advisor meetings; graduate mentor meetings weekly.


Melissa Baird

  • Associate Professor of Anthropology
  • Graduate Director, Social Sciences
Academic Office Building 209A