Social Sciences

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

The Undergraduate Program for Exploration and Research in Social Sciences (UPERSS) program provides research opportunities for undergraduate students to work closely with a faculty mentor (or advanced graduate student) to undertake research, creative work, or a community-based project.  

Students earn 1 unit of academic credit for every 3 hours worked per week (limited to a total of 3 credits). UPERSS is open to all Social Sciences undergraduate majors and are not paid positions. 

The projects listed below will commence in the Spring 2020 semester. Questions can be directed to the Undergraduate Director, Melissa F. Baird.

Application Process

  1. Review the project descriptions and weigh decisions on time commitments.
  2. Select and rank your choices.
  3. Submit the application. The application includes 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. 
  4. The faculty will review the applications, and either the Undergraduate Director or your new faculty mentor will contact you. After confirmation, you will sign up for academic credit. 

Current Projects

Currentlyavailable projects and faculty mentor — scroll down for full descriptions

  1. Western UP Food Systems Collaboration and Regional Food Justice (Carter)
  2. El Salvador Community-Based Research Training Module Development ( Carter and Henquinet)
  3. Incorporating LEED Into Local Green Building Policies (Zhou)
  4. Anishinaabe-Gikendaasowin Integrated Assessment Research in the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community for Stewardship and Governance Partnerships (Gagnon)
  5. Analyzing French-Canadian Immigrant Experiences through the 1887 Lake Linden Fire (S. Scarlett)
  6. Historic Cemeteries: Mapping, Management, and Memory (T. Scarlett and Shannon)
  7. Star Trek, the Other, and the Apocalypse (Rhodes)
  8. Michigan Tech Inventory of Historic Scientific Instruments (IHSI) (Walton and A. Fiss)
  9. Oil Palms in the Anthropocene: Plantation Agriculture and Global Industry (Robins)
  10. Using StoryMap to Visualize and Share Recreational Fishing Trends and Angler Experiences (Burkett)
  11. Safe Routes to School Planning and Grant Writing- Houghton Schools (Winkler)
  12. Public Administration and Public Policy: Missing Out on the 4th Industrial Revolution? (Wellstead)

Internships and Paid Work Positions

  1. FEWconscious (Schelly)
  2. Sustainability at Michigan Tech (Schelly)
  3. Renewable Energy Transitions In Michigan (Schelly)

 

Research Project Descriptions

 

Western UP Food Systems Collaboration and Regional Food Justice

Faculty Mentor: Professor Angie Carter

Project description

The student will work with community partners in Western UP Food Systems Council to assess local food systems at Michigan Tech and throughout the Western UP region, including gardens, pantries, farms, markets, institutional procurement, transportation, energy, and cultures. The Western UP Food Systems Council is currently working projects on a few fronts, and seeking funding to support these long term. Current projects include: assessing local food systems infrastructure; creating communities of practice for school garden/community garden coordinators, small farmers, and home gardeners; informing education and holistic management in small-scale fruit/vegetable production within UP region; informing future of the Wads garden; informing future development of a regional food hub; creating community healing gardens at women's shelter and Horizons school; employing community food nutrition survey. 

Potential Benefits

  • Learn to compile literature reviews and to do community-based research skills.
  • Analyze existing policy, undertake comparative and case studies of existing programs.
  • Collect and analyze qualitative and quantitative data to inform the next steps of community food systems development.

Student Time and Commitment

Depending on interests, on their own, time students could:

  • Compile databases of existing policies.
  • Do literature and/or comparative reviews.
  • Create policy templates.
  • Work with a research team more closely and attend occasional meetings with community partners and/or community events to collect data.

Contact

Angie Carter

  • Assistant Professor, Environmental/Energy Justice
906-487-1431
ancarter@mtu.edu
Academic Office Building 207

El Salvador Community-Based Research Training Module Development

Faculty Mentors: Professor Angie Carter and Professor Kari Henquinet

Project description 

Students will work with Professor Henquinet and Professor Carter on a community-based research training module for summer NSF IRES training to be based in El Salvador. They will help compile literature (plus podcasts, films, etc) related to community-based research, and to climate mitigation among small-shareholder farmers and histories of land tenure/agriculture in El Salvador, in order to create a training module for summer graduate students working with communities in El Salvador. No previous experience with international education/research or Spanish needed- we will provide a starting point of existing research sources and direction to help guide the project.

Potential Benefits

  • Learn to compile literature reviews and to do community-based research skills.
  • Learn more about and create resources for culturally-appropriate research-community partnerships.
  • Create resources for community-based research in general.

Student Time and Commitment

Varies based on student availability

Contact

Angie Carter

  • Assistant Professor, Environmental/Energy Justice
906-487-1431
ancarter@mtu.edu
Academic Office Building 207

Incorporating LEED Into Local Green Building Policies

Faculty Mentor: Professor Shan Zhou

Project description

An increasing number of municipalities in the United States have incorporated Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) into local building regulations. Large variations exist in policy design, ranging from LEED certification mandates, requirements for buildings to be LEED certifiable, to financial and administrative incentives. This article explores how the varied ways of incorporating LEED in public regulation affect the diffusion of green buildings. I hypothesize that mandating LEED certification for certain private buildings dampens the effectiveness of LEED because of reduced brand signaling and reputational benefits. Furthermore, requiring buildings to be LEED certifiable encourages LEED registered buildings but not necessarily LEED-certified buildings, while financial incentives drive LEED-certified building adoption by helping offset certification costs.

Potential Benefits

  • Exposure to empirical policy research focused on local environmental governance
  • Work with the faculty mentor on collecting, cleaning, coding, and analyzing local green buildings in the US

Student Time and Commitment

  • Students who have taken SS3630 or SS3621 will be given priority.
  • Commitment will vary from 3-9 hours per week (depending on students’ schedules and course work) 

Contact

Shan Zhou

  • Assistant Professor, Environmental and Energy Policy
906-487-2864
shanzhou@mtu.edu
Academic Office Building 227

Anishinaabe-Gikendaasowin Integrated Assessment Research in the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community for Stewardship and Governance Partnerships

Faculty Mentor: Professor Valoree Gagnon

Project description

Students will work with Valoree Gagnon and the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community for one-semester on a Michigan Sea Grant (MISG) integrated assessment project (2020-2022) to contribute to Great Lakes environmental literacy and workforce development by compiling and synthesizing Anishinaabe- gikendaasowin (knowledge) within the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community (KBIC), and sharing this knowledge with stewardship and governance partners throughout the region. Current environmental literacy initiatives and workforce development training are rarely inclusive of Indigenous knowledge. The KBIC will compile and synthesize Indigenous knowledge in the Community, develop an integrated Indigenous Knowledge Guidance document for Community planning and governance, and implement an Indigenous Knowledge Symposium for our region’s stewardship and governance stakeholders. The KBIC expects this research to strengthen capacity for resource stewardship, adaptation planning, and community resiliency in the wider Great Lakes Region.

Potential Benefits

  • A better understanding of Anishinaabe perspectives and practices.
  • Knowledge/practice building equitable research relationships with tribal partners.
  • Practice engaging as a social and/or environmental science/policy professional.

Student Time and Commitment

  • 3-9 hours a week.
  • Tasks include: data entry, compilation, and transcription for KBIC, contributing to an annotated bibliography for KBIC stewardship and governance reports/plans/other publications, and assistance in planning/implementing a writing workshop for the MISG project research team.

Contact

Valoree Gagnon

  • Director, University-Indigenous Community Partnerships, Great Lakes Research Center
  • Research Assistant Professor, Social Sciences
  • Instructor, School of Forest Resources and Environmental Science
906-487-2180
vsgagnon@mtu.edu
GLRC 310

Analyzing French-Canadian Immigrant Experiences through the 1887 Lake Linden Fire

Faculty Mentor: Professor Sarah Scarlett

Project description

The UPERSS student working on this project will contribute vital early research to a large 7-year international project about Francophone migration across North America funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. Lake Linden attracted early immigrants from Quebec setting up logging operations and sawmills. In 1887 a fire devastated the town and records from insurance claims give us a rare glimpse into the material lives of the residents — where they lived, what they owned, the tools they used, how they cooked their food, and how they arranged their daily lives. This UPERSS student will delve into the insurance claim records, map and record-link households using the Keweenaw Time Traveler database, and identify patterns in how the quality of life for French-Canadians compared to their neighbors and/or their homes in Quebec. The student will create a Story Map to demonstrate and share the patterns they identify.

Potential Benefits

  • Gain experience working with archival records and gaining an introduction to historical analysis using GIS.
  • Gain an introduction to historical analysis using GIS.
  • Public History interpretation skills.
  • Be introduced by Professors Don Lafreniere and Sarah Scarlett to the larger SSHRC-sponsored project (with 40+ international cross-field researchers) for experience contributing to a larger interdisciplinary effort to analyze migration patterns and cultural patterns over 300 years.

Student Time and Commitment

  • Minimum 1 credit, 3 hrs (could be expanded according to student interest and availability).
  • Prerequisite SS3541 or otherwise knowledgeable in the region.
  • French language knowledge is a plus.

Contact

Sarah Scarlett

  • Assistant Professor of History
906-487-2110
sfscarle@mtu.edu
Academic Office Building 221

Historic Cemeteries: Mapping, Management, and Memory

Faculty Mentor: Professor Tim Scarlett and Jeremy Shannon

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 findagrave.com and ancestry.com, 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.

Contact

Timothy Scarlett

  • Associate Professor of Archaeology and Anthropology
906-487-2359
scarlett@mtu.edu
Academic Office Building 210

Star Trek, the Other, and the Apocalypse

Faculty Mentor: Professor Mark Rhodes

Project description

Indulging in the definition of the Anthropocene, this project explores various forms of apocalypse in the Star Trek universe and the means by which the term ‘first contact’ roots this apocalyptic relationship with the Other. Referring to the first contact between alien species, in Star Trek the first ‘first contact’ initiates a global human unity and eventually a universe (at least working towards) eliminating sexism, racism, and capitalism and protecting the environment. This paper expands on the idea of a geographies of Star Trek to examine how the discourse of Star Trek, with its now ten series and thirteen films, engages with an alternative future of apocalyptic avoidance. Students will create an annotated database of apocalyptic examples in Star Trek. This project argues that through many of the ecological and sociological lessons presented through Star Trek, both prior to and post-apocalypse, we might reconsider our own “first contacts.” As part of an international team of over 30 scholars, this project poses the question: what if we made first contact with the environment, with immigrants, or with those most affected by the forces of capitalism? Students will specifically engage in one of these three specific apocalyptic narratives.

Potential Benefits 

  • Learn basic techniques in content and discourse analyses

  • Co-authorship on a peer-reviewed paper in a leading social sciences academic journal.

  • Participate in a workshop at the University of Oxford’s School of Geography and the Environment

Student Time and Commitment

  • 3-9 hrs/wk.
  • This project will require previous experience in social sciences and/or cultural studies

Contact

Mark Rhodes II

  • Assistant Professor of Geography
906-487-2459
marhodes@mtu.edu
Academic Office Building 211

Michigan Tech Inventory of Historic Scientific Instruments (IHSI)

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.

Contact

Steven Walton

  • Associate Professor of History
906-487-3272
sawalton@mtu.edu
Academic Office Building 224

Oil Palms in the Anthropocene: Plantation Agriculture and Global Industry

Faculty Mentor: Professor Jonathan Robins

Project description

Students will work with Robins to develop interpretive materials about the environmental history of the oil palm industry. Tasks may include archival research in digital collections, historical GIS, and content development (storymaps, etc).

Potential Benefits

  • Training and experience in digital and archival research methods.
  • Learning skills for communicating historical research.
  • In-depth study of African, Asian, and/or Latin American environmental histories.
  • Possible opportunity to work on academic article.

Student Time and Commitment

  • 1 or 2 credits (3 or 6 hours), spring 2020 semester.
  • No experience with archival research required, but familiarity with ArcGIS is a plus.

Contact

Jonathan Robins

  • Associate Professor of History
906-487-3080
jrobins@mtu.edu
Academic Office Building 223

Using StoryMap to Visualize and Share Recreational Fishing Trends and Angler Experiences

Faculty Mentors: Erin Burkett (EEP PhD Candidate)  

Project description

StoryMaps are engaging websites that combine text and visual, multimedia resources with interactive maps to provide an outreach and informational platform for public audiences. The outcome of this project will include a new StoryMap website that highlights recreational fishing participation trends in the Great Lakes region, with an emphasis on women’s fishing experiences.

Potential Benefits

  • Gain experience in website and graphic design including design best practices.
  • Contribute to increasing the visibility of social issues in Great Lakes recreational fisheries.
  • Learn how to create an effective, public-facing StoryMap from start to finish.

Student Time and Commitment

  • Total time commitment expected to be 40-60 hours total, over 3-4 months (estimating 2-4 hours/week). Exact hours/schedule is flexible.
  • Creativity and willingness to collaborate are essential. 
  • Interest in visual arts and/or graphic design helpful.
  • Meet regularly with project supervisor to discuss project progress.
  • Attention to detail and ability to self-motivate/work independently.

Contact

Erin Burkett

Erin Burkett

  • PhD Candidate, Environmental and Energy Policy
emburket@mtu.edu
AOB Annex 203

Safe Routes to School Planning and Grant Writing- Houghton Schools

Faculty Mentor: Professor Richelle Winkler

Project description

Currently, only about 3-6% of Houghton K-8 students walk or bike to school. This is well below the national average, despite the fact that we know there are multiple health, education, social, and environmental benefits of active transport. The student will work with community partners at Houghton Elementary and Middle Schools, City of Houghton, Western Upper Peninsula Planning and Development Region, Western UP Health Department, Bike Initiative Keweenaw, and K-8 students parents and teachers to develop an action plan for a Safe Routes to School project aimed at improving safety and access to walking/biking to and from school. The project extends background research that students in SS 4700 and SS 4050 are currently doing to better understand current conditions around walkability and why participation is so low. This student will use this information to engage in discussions and action planning with decision makers for how conditions can be improved. The team will submit a grant proposal to fund programs and infrastructure improvements in May 2020. Students will participate in meetings with decision-makers, helping to determine what to request in that application and will contribute to the development of the grant application.

Potential Benefits

  • Learn how community decisions are made and watch power dynamics at play when multiple organizations collaborate to make impactful decisions together. 
  • Synthesize data and information from various sources to inform important decisions.
  • Learn about state funding processes, the process of grant writing/applications, and practice skills with grant preparation to the State of Michigan.

Student Time and Commitment

  • Meet bi-weekly for 1 hour with action planning team Jan-April 
  • Contribute to grant preparation
  • Share ideas and feedback

Contact

Richelle Winkler

  • Associate Professor of Sociology and Demography, Social Sciences
906-487-1886
rwinkler@mtu.edu
Academic Office Building 217

Public Administration and Public Policy: Missing Out on the 4th Industrial Revolution? 

Faculty Mentor: Professor Adam Wellstead

Project description

In recent years the terminology of ‘4th industrial revolution technologies’ has begun to emerge and to take hold in policy and practice domains. This concept refers to a range of different technologies that build on the digital revolution that the world has witnessed since the turn of the century (Schwab, 2016). Not all of these technologies are new, but they have been enhanced by the greater availability of mobile data, smaller, cheaper and more powerful sensors and artificial intelligence. World-wide public service organizations have been grappling with how to adapt to the prevalence of this wave of technological innovation both from within (how they function) and responding to new public needs and challenges. In response, governments have prioritized innovation through the establishment of task forces, hosting practitioner workshops, creating new agencies, or funding policy innovation labs. It comes as no surprise that a considerable amount of grey literature has been published addressing how governments, more specifically their agencies, are addressing the 4th industrial revolution. What is unclear is the extent that the public administration and policy academic literature has dedicated to this issue. This project will examine this literature.

Potential Benefits

  • Learn literature review and bibliometric skills (e.g. using VOSViewer program).
  • Potential to use NodeXL social program to examine Twitter networks.
  • Contribute to the larger Tech Forward Initiative via the Institute of Policy, Ethics, and Culture.
  • Work with a faculty member from another university (Dr Helen Dickenson, School of Business, University of South Wales, Canberra, Australia).
  • The opportunity to be a co-author on a peer-reviewed journal.

Student Time and Commitment

Time commitment is flexible based on the number of credits the student seeks

Contact

Adam Wellstead

  • Associate Professor of Public Policy, Social Sciences
906-487-2115
awellste@mtu.edu
Academic Office Building 203

Internships and Paid Work Positions

FEWconscious

Faculty Mentor: Professor Chelsea Schelly 

Project description

FEWconscious is an NSF funded study of food, energy, and water consumption in the home. During the spring semester and the fall semester of 2020, we will be hiring hourly student workers to engage in time-sensitive data management tasks. Homeowners are going to be asked to provide information about their food purchases, and the project involves categorizing those food purchases using a website developed specifically for the project. Human subjects research training certification will be required, this is an easy but essential process for social science researchers. 

Potential Benefits

  • Trained in the data entry process.
  • Provided opportunities to engage in the project in other ways.
  • Survey and interview data, access to writing and project-related travel opportunites, etc.
  • Will be paid for the time.

Student Time and Commitment

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

Contact

Chelsea Schelly

  • Associate Professor of Sociology
  • Graduate Director, IA/H and EEP
906-487-1759
cschelly@mtu.edu
Academic Office Building 226

Sustainability at Michigan Tech

Faculty Mentor: Professor Chelsea Schelly

Project description 

The Tech Forward Initiative on Sustainability and Resilience is looking for student input about how to advance sustainability research and education at tech. Tasks may involve organizing events for students to share their ideas, attending meetings to discuss these ideas, or researching other universities to better understand the best practices for sustainability research, education, and campus engagement. Students who are interested in sustainability in educational institutions will find this opportunity particularly beneficial. 

Potential Benefits

  • Organizing events for students to share their ideas
  • Attending meetings to discuss ideas
  • Researching other universities for sustainability education and campus engagement

Student Time and Commitment

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

Contact

Chelsea Schelly

  • Associate Professor of Sociology
  • Graduate Director, IA/H and EEP
906-487-1759
cschelly@mtu.edu
Academic Office Building 226

Renewable Energy Transitions In Michigan

Faculty Mentor: Professor Chelsea Schelly

Project description

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. 

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.

Contact

Chelsea Schelly

  • Associate Professor of Sociology
  • Graduate Director, IA/H and EEP
906-487-1759
cschelly@mtu.edu
Academic Office Building 226