MSU Sociology research team awarded First Generation Student Initiative Award to study racial disparities in PhD completion times

October 1, 2021 - Karessa Weir

A team of MSU Sociology researchers has been awarded $3,000 to study "Invisible Obstacles and Hidden Curriculum: Behind Racial Disparities in Times to Degree Completion in Sociology."

Led by MSU Sociology Associate Professor Dr. Stephanie Nawyn, the team includes MSU alumna Dr. Jennifer Lai and current MSU Sociology PhD students Angélica Ruvalcaba and Katrina Groeller. Jenny Olivarez, Interdisciplinary Studies in Social Science senior, will be the undergraduate researcher. 

For core members of the research team - including Ruvalcaba and Olivarez - the research involves personal stakes. 

"Ms. Olivarez, who is a first-generation student, learning how to build a scientific study and work collaboratively on a research team has imparted a unique opportunity and a safe space for her to explore future academic and career goals," the group wrote in their proposal.

The group will specifically investigate the times to degree completion and rates of attrition of BIPOC students in sociology doctoral degree programs enrolled in higher education institutes in the Big 10. 

The SSC-First Generation Student Initiative award was presented by the College of Social Science Associate Dean Walter Hawthorne. The result of the research will be presented at the annual University Undergraduate Research and Arts Forum (UURAF).

"Student participants have described their research experiences in the program in past years as transformative," Dr. Hawthorne wrote.

The SSC-FGSI provides talented undergraduates, from first-year students to seniors, with an opportunity to work closely with faculty on substantial research projects—usually, but not exclusively, as part of the faculty member’s own scholarly project. The requirement is that the students be first generation to attend college/university and with a preference for sophomores.