After more than 20 successful years of hosting an REU Site, this project continues for three more years for the Population Research Center at the University of Texas. The UT program retains the size of eight students per year, which is ideal for teaching and research purposes. Minority Group Demography has been the organizing principle for this REU research program since 1989. The program continues this general theme over the next three years, but this time focusing particularly on the role of social context in producing racial and ethnic differences in criminal offending and criminal sanctioning. This thematic focus reflects the expertise of the two new principal investigators of the UT site, David Kirk and Keith Robinson (both faculty members in the Department of Sociology).
The intellectual merit of the REU Site at UT is the academic and ethical development of junior social science scholars around a topic of immense importance to the United States. The goals are to provide REU students at UT with exposure, experience, and expertise. Precise program objectives have been developed to accomplish these goals. Exposure to social demography and sociology is accomplished via formal coursework and seminars. An undergraduate sociology course, The Demography of Crime and Punishment, comprises the first half of the summer. In addition, a series of professionalization workshops, or seminars are conducted during the summer. In these seminars, REU students discuss issues such as getting into graduate school and the myriad ethical concerns that social scientists confront during research.
REU students in this program gain concrete experience in three ways. First, through formal coursework, they learn about substantive issues concerning racial and ethnic differences in crime and punishment. Second, they are introduced to statistical analysis of social science data in a Stata programming lab and a GIS spatial data analysis workshop. Third, they experience intense mentoring from Population Research Center (PRC) graduate students and faculty affiliates as they work to produce a stand-alone deliverable scholarly paper by the end of the summer program.
Finally, the REU students demonstrate their expertise in two ways. They present their research to a gathering of PRC faculty affiliates, graduate students, and other invited scholars, and with travel support from the Population Research Center they present their REU research papers at the annual meeting of the American Society of Criminology (ASC).
The broader impact of this program is to influence the future of higher education in the social sciences, with special attention to the racial/ethnic and gender diversity of the future academic workforce. The successes of this long-running REU program are already evident, including students who have recently earned their Ph.D.s and have been placed at leading research universities, a number of students who are in leading graduate programs around the country, and others who have recently completed this REU program and will be moving on to graduate school.