An IDS-Funded Student Researcher Gives Voice to the Unheard—And Finds Her Own in STEM

Student Voices
Episode II
The continued diversification of this country will define the future of our society and politics. Being part of a team researching this issue is like watching history from a front-row seat.
Bel Corder
Bel Corder
Academic Year 2023-24
University of Massachusetts Amherst, Double Major in Political Science & Psychology

At the height of the Black Lives Matter movement in the summer of 2020, Bel Corder saw a side of her community that she had never been attuned to before. As with much of the rest of the country and the world, the people in Bel’s community in rural New Mexico started to talk about race a lot more—often in particularly harmful and hateful ways.

“When these conversations would happen, I would just sit and listen,” Bel says. “It was hard to listen to, but I didn’t know how to fight against it. I didn’t understand how to argue, what facts to bring up, or how to break apart their arguments.”

So, when Bel was selected for the second annual CJLS/SBS RISE Summer Research Assistantship in 2023, she came to UMass Amherst ready to learn. “The conversations that I had in that summer really spurred me towards political science. I wanted to understand these viewpoints [and] why people believe what they believe.”

At the Institute of Diversity Sciences (IDS), Bel found support, receiving a paid research assistantship position to continue her work on a project that was perfectly-suited to her growing interests: Understanding Change in How People of Color Respond to Narratives of Rising Diversity. This project will use surveys and media analysis to understand the perspectives of people of color on the “majority-minority flip” in the United States —the point at which the country’s ethnic and racial minorities are predicted to outnumber its white population.

“Prior research on media narratives around the [majority-minority] flip demonstrate that, especially for white people, when they hear about the flip or about the impending timeline of it, they become more conservative and more Republican in their policy leaning,” Bel says, showing us the Atlantic article about the issue that she’s been studying for the project. “But we don’t know how people of color feel about the issue…[We] want to give them a voice so that we understand how the new majority will feel about their rising presence in the United States.”

The project was funded by an IDS Seed Grant, which provide $15,000 to support multidisciplinary research teams investigating the causes and consequences of, and potential solutions to, social inequities. The seed grant mechanism is a way for IDS to promote the success of diverse students in STEM, and with her curiosity and drive to understand complex social issues, Bel fit the bill.

“I’m getting this opportunity to [do] hands-on-research and participate in a really interesting study because of funding through the IDS,” Bel says. “I feel lucky that I’ve actually had this opportunity. I’m going to continue my research through the Fall, so I get to actually see the fruition of the project, which is really exciting.”