Undergraduate Research Assistant in Action
Caitlin Divver ’09 (sociology) spent the summer as an undergraduate research assistant with Professor of Sociology Wenona Rymond-Richmond. Her work was supported by a LeBovidge Undergraduate Research Scholarship, funded by Alan LeBovidge ’64 (economics) and his wife Carol through the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences. These scholarships, presented for the first time this year, provided stipends for five research assistants.
For their study that examines the relationship between gentrification and crime, Divver and Rymond-Richmond interviewed residents of a neighborhood in nearby Holyoke. Says Divver, “This opportunity aligns with my interest in qualitative research methods as well as my interest in the issue of poverty. Research projects like this are invaluable in creating more effective policies for the future. I don’t want to work with a broken system; I want to have the tools to do meaningful research that can fix it.”
Divver used the skills she learned and practiced in Rymond-Richmond's Field Research Methods class, including participant observation, interviewing, transcription and coding. "The project also required doing some literature and bibliographic research. And, since a large portion of the population is Puerto Rican, I was able to use the Spanish skills I've gained from my minor," she says.
In addition, Divver worked with Rymond-Richmond on the development of a book based on her prior research in a housing development in Chicago. Says Caitlin, "Her work there showed that it is not always the case that new housing improves living standards—and that it may in fact cause a lot of harm. For the book, I transcribed interviews, coded ethnographic field notes and transcripts, and entered data into both quantitiative and qualitative software programs."
Says Rymond-Richmond, "Caitlin has a real knack and drive for collecting and analyzing qualitative data. She excelled in my qualitative methods class, and it has been really rewarding to teach her methods outside of the classroom and to work with her. Both of these projects have sociological and public policy significance in their assessment of current redevelopment policies affecting poor, urban, minority communities. Further significance stems from empirical research in regards to communities in transition and how communities deal with conflict and change. Since Caitlin is interested in going to graduate school in sociology, I am sure her application will be strengthened because of this research experience."
August 25, 2008