American Sociological Association

ASA Footnotes

A publication of the American Sociological AssociationASA News & Events
November/December 2019

ASA Awards Three New Community Action Research Initiative Grants

ASA is pleased to announce the recipients of the 2019 Community Action Research Initiative (CARI) grant awards. These sociologists bring social science knowledge, methods, and expertise to address community-identified issues and concerns. Each CARI recipient is doing pro bono work partnering with a community organization. The principal investigators are listed below, along with brief descriptions of their funded proposals.

Molly Clark-Barol, University of Wisconsin-Madison, for From Research to Action: Housing-Related Challenges for Women Impacted by the Criminal Justice System in Wisconsin.

The goal of this project is to help identify failures in the policies, systems, and environments that structure formerly incarcerated women’s access to housing in Wisconsin, as well as organize for changes that are both evidence-based and responsive to women’s local experiences and priorities. The FREE campaign is led by women members of Ex-Incarcerated People Organizing (EXPO), an organization created in 2014 by and for people who have lived experience with the justice system. Clark-Barol is partnering with EXPO to investigate two major social trends: continued housing shortfalls despite an economic recovery and the continued growth of the population of incarcerated women, at nearly twice the rate of men. Clark-Barol and EXPO will identify the ways in which these trends are intersecting in diverse localities across Wisconsin, which may help to develop and refine related research agendas at the national level. Resources from the CARI grant will help deepen the relationship between academic partners and directly impacted women, strategically and non-hierarchically weaving together expertise derived from institutional research and that of lived experience. “Through this grant, directly impacted people will drive social change that is most critical to them as citizen sociologists engaged in community organizing,” said Clark-Barol.

Megan Holland and Shelley Kimelberg, University at Buffalo, for Learning the Lay of the Land: Transition Experiences at High and Low Selectivity Colleges Among Disadvantaged Students.

Students from traditionally underrepresented groups—including racial minorities, students from low-income families, and first-generation students—face many challenges in transitioning to and persisting in higher education, such as lack of academic preparation, difficulty with social integration, and financial constraints. However, one important finding in the research that seeks to address these challenges is that some pre-college experiences may smooth the transition for such students. In their project, Holland and Kimelberg are partnering with a pipeline program that provides academic enrichment as well as social and cultural supports to assist high-achieving, low-income students of color prepare for college preparatory high schools. Through in-depth interviews with the program’s alumni, the project aims to better understand students’ experiences transitioning to different types of postsecondary institutions, from Ivy League universities to community colleges, in order to inform the development of a new piece of the pipeline program that will serve students as they make the high school-to-college transition. This increased understanding will help the pipeline program target resources to better support students in the transition to college. “The CARI funds will enable us to expand the sample of students we interview and our research team of graduate students,” Holland noted. 

Cameron T. Whitley, Western Washington University and Ashley Colby, Rizoma Field School, for Biotecture for Sustainable Futures: The Importance of Off-Grid Architecture in the Face of Extreme Climate Change Risk in Colonia, Uruguay.

The goal of this project is to see how sustainable development is created and supported by individuals as well as social and political organizations in rural and developing areas. It looks at the use and impact of Earthship Biotecture (an off-grid architectural phenomenon developed in the 1970s) as a sustainable practice that is being integrated in high-risk climate change areas. Whitley and Colby will conduct interviews with key informants concerning their interest in the Earthship Biotecture movement, how best to engage community partners, and how to promote policies that support sustainable off-grid development. They will create a report that the Rizoma Field School (RFS), a community organization in Uruguay, will share with local community members and government officials. Their goal is to document the importance of this movement for other scholars. According to Whitley, "what we are doing with this is more than research, it is about creating networks of knowledge that can be used to benefit individuals across nations in the face of grave environmental problems." Colby adds that “the CARI grant will help RFS to advance a research agenda that is focused on sustainability in the region, with the ultimate goal of providing usable information to support similar initiatives.”