Blog 2: Environmental Discourse in Urban Settings: Progress and Challenges of doing Ethnographic Research

Environmental Discourse in Urban Settings: Progress and Challenges of doing Ethnographic Research

Our research into environmental discourse in urban settings has been making small yet significant progress. There was a slight delay to the beginning of the research because of technical, not ethical safety concerns of Pace’s Institutional Review Board. After some adjustments to the wording of our proposal it was cleared however, and the research officially began. Up until the IRB was approved, I was unable to do anything other than research and record contact information found on the internet for environmental sites of relevant interest. After the research was approved, I was able to get into the heart of the research, and start contacting people of various organizations about my project.

As of now, I have visited one site, contacted two others, and received a response from one. By visiting sites such as a greenmarket in the city and a community garden, we hope to be exposed to some of the diversity that distinguishes contemporary environmentalism. The head researcher and another student also participating in this project visited the greenmarket and took field notes, images, and recruited two people as participants who agreed to be recorded for an interview. I was unable to join them when they visited, so I went to the greenmarket myself on another day and took field notes. My field notes were very different from theirs, in that mine had a more clinical tone in listing the various types of produce that were being sold by diverse producers, the amount and types of people milling about, and how many people were there for environmental purposes. My co-researcher’s notes were more casual and varied in tone, mentioning how the heat might be affecting the amount of consumers and producers there and the history of the site. The field notes have been valuable in comparing what we’ve found based on our respective observations and interactions with people at the site, but due to the late start we had on reaching out to and visiting the sites much more data will still be collected, with interviews at the sites upcoming.

The ethnographic component of the research is successful, given that I was able to visit and interact with the greenmarket and have a visit to a food and electronic waste recycling center planned. The greenmarket already visited is the one I and other researchers took field notes for, and is involved in environmentalism in multiple ways, primarily through buying and selling produce but also in water saving activism and composting. I visited at lunchtime at the height of the day’s heat, but it was still very crowded with a diverse group of people, admittedly more walking through to get to some other destination than to interact with the site, but enough there for the site itself to constitute a crowd. Free samples of produce being sold were being given out by certain sellers, who attracted more prospective buyers than other stalls. Occasionally, people stopped by activist flyers and stalls to talk with the person in the booth, but a significantly larger amount of them were looking to buy produce. While my co-researchers found two participants from the site who agreed to interviews, I was less successful in that area. Those who I did mention the project to at the site were either unwilling or felt unqualified to be interviewed to discuss their ideas and practices involving environmentalism in depth. Thus, my participant involvement at the site concluded with data on the contents and activity of the place, but no individual ideas and opinions. The two interviews that were scheduled from other researcher’s visit to the site will be conducted later this week. Another interview and site visit with a participant from another organization was arranged for later in August, and I will be going to as a sole researcher and interviewer.

The main challenge I seem to be having with this project which keeps coming up is scheduling issues. It is difficult to find a time and date that all parties can agree on to meet up and collect data. I was unable to do ethnographic research and learn how to do said research in the greenmarket we would be in because of timing conflicts, so I made a separate trip to the site on another day. I was able to contact and arrange a meeting date with a participant from a waste recycling center, but it is later in the summer than I would like, since we had to find a time and date when we would both be in the New York area. I will be going alone to the site, because the professor and other students working on this project will be unavailable that day. Another challenge is my relative inexperience in research. I’ve done research papers and studies before, but they’ve been on a smaller scale than this current research project. While this project involves participant observation and one-on-one interviews, my previous research projects were done with either online or book research, and observation from a distance. I’m still struggling with bringing up this project to people who could possibly be participants, because I’m unsure of how to broach the subject and word it in a way that would make somebody interested. This was very apparent during my site visit last week, and is something I worry about for my upcoming interview and site visit in a couple of weeks. But I am scheduled to go to an interview with my professor soon that will better prepare me and ease my nerves. I’m excited to be doing research that is preparing me for a future in research professionally, but I’m also nervous to begin independently. Will I ask the right questions? Am I taking the right sort of field notes? These are my main questions going into my first interview.

This project has definitely pushed me to be the first person to reach out, and be more proactive in broaching the subject of what I’m asking for in research. I’ve always been a very shy person but when it comes to being the researcher, being the first person to speak up is a must. With this being the first major research project I’ve undertaken, I’m finding out more along the way about how to approach people for research, what to take note of and record in site visits, and how to reach out to possible participants and ask for their involvement in the project. It’s an ongoing process, and one that I’m excited to continue to learn from. This project is on the edge of leaving it’s beginning stage, and I’m still figuring out the impact my involvement with the project so far will have on its future. Every part of it so far has been a learning moment in some way, and with everything I take away from one part of the project I learn from and use it to help me improve in my next involvement within the research. It’s an ongoing and valuable process that I hope to continue on throughout this summer and develop into a cohesive and knowledgeable report after all of the data has been collected and analyzed.

Blog 1: Environmental Discourse Research in Urban Settings : Expectations and Aspirations

This summer, I am participating in a research project titled “Environmental Discourse and Diversity in Urban Settings”. The project is a collaboration between Professor Pajo, myself, and several other students. The objectives of our research are to obtain and analyze a sample of the current methods and thought processes of people working full-time, part-time, or as volunteers in the realm of environmental sustainability. Our goal is to observe and hear from various individuals involved in public or private sustainability efforts on how they think about, negotiate, and execute their environmental efforts in an urban setting, particularly how such efforts are done in conjunction with others working in the same field. What are their different ideas on how to approach environmental sustainability? How much variation is there within organizations and across organizations?

Our research questions revolve around how individuals approach, negotiate, and execute environmental work in an urban setting. Some questions are concerned with the individual environmental effort, other questions with the dynamic between individuals working in the same space of environmentalism. To answer these questions, we will use several methodologies. We will give a brief survey to individuals participating in the project, to get relevant background data. These participants will be interviewed separately, to understand and record how they approach, negotiate, and execute their environmental efforts individually. Aside from formal interviews, the participants will be observed in their worksite, to understand how their environmental work is carried out, to be compared and contrasted with how they described the nature of their work. Observation will also be employed for group settings of participants working at the same site. They will be observed by one or two researchers in a setting of negotiation, such as a meeting meant to discuss a possible adjustment in their work methods. This variety of research methodologies ensures that all areas of our research will be answered and analyzed to look for possible patterns of ideas and behaviors.

For myself, the purpose of this project is to understand how people approach environmental work. It would be great to not only collect data but later on also distribute the data for the education of the public. The myriad reasons and strategies people develop in conducting environmentally enriching work will be distributed to the public for the purpose of enhanced knowledge and avenues for environmental engagement in urban settings. When the results of the project are released to the public, I hope that the easy accessibility of such information will encourage the public to become more directly interested and involved in environmentally enriching activities themselves.

This project will be the first research project I am involved in outside of coursework. The work we have invested in writing and rewriting the grant proposal, learning about ethics in research, applying for IRB approval, and more, are already improving my skills in analysis and interpersonal skills. This project is the first that I am participating in as an interviewer in addition to acting as an observer and data collector and analyzer. In addition to learning and improving vital career skills from this project, I am interested in, but relatively new to environmental sustainability efforts. I’ve recycled since I was about 13, but have not become more aware of the various types of environmental sustainability that people in urban environments such as myself are able to practice. Environmental work such as composting and rooftop gardening are efforts that I will be encountering and hearing about at length during my research. As someone interested in leaving a more positive impact on the environment than I have done previously, I aim to learn about what avenues of environmental sustainability such as these are available for me to integrate into my daily life.

Final Blog Post

Research is not just about writing, there’s so many different properties that go into it in order to complete a thorough research project. This research program has not only informed me about different techniques to complete research, but it also taught me about myself. My topic was Food Insecurity on College Campuses, which is very important in this current society. More attention needs to be brought to college students and their constant battle with food and possible resources that are available to them. We started off this research project wanting to do a focus group of 6 to 10 commuter students to hear what their opinions about the food pantry on campus and their thoughts about food insecurity in their personal life and college life are. However, that plan did not work out for the best, so we had to alter some of the project due to the time crunch. We went from expecting a focus group to expecting 4 to 6 individuals who would do a small interview and answer questions about food insecurity and the mobile food pantry. Luckily, we were able to score a couple of individuals who agreed to participate in the data collection. Since we gathered the amount of data that we wanted, we could now proceed to the transcribing of the interviews and including it in our literature review. Even though we had to change our research project a little, we were still able to gather the amount of information that we wanted but with a smaller number of people. Now we are almost done with the research project and ready to present it soon!

Throughout the entire process, my faculty mentor was there to give support when needed. We stayed in constant communication with one another about the process of recruiting people to engage in the interview stage and the process of getting the IRB approved. We met every week at the same time to discuss plans and actions that needed to take place in order to get things moving. It was a great experience and it was beneficial to have someone to help along with the process.

Blog Post 3: Food Insecurity Progress

We have made great progress since last semester being that our IRB was finally approved. The process of waiting for the IRB approval was dreading but the patience has paid off. We used our time wisely by working on the literature review and finding new information about food insecurity on college campuses. Some of the topics that have been associated with food insecurity in previous articles and studies are: mental health, financial factors, academic performance and more. Each of these topics are effected when a students’ food security level is low. I have learned through some results from the studies in which students with food insecurity were experiencing depression and high levels of anxiety. My faculty advisor and I worked closely together on the literature review to make sure that our argument was strong.

With the IRB being approved, we had to revamp our study a little bit. The study changed from gathering a wide group of students to gathering only about seven to ten students to conduct a small focus group. The questions that was gathered from the previous studies will be used to promote discussion amongst the participants in the focus group. I am currently working with the Student Development and Campus Activities (SDCA) office to find out what’s the best way to market and reach out to the commuters here on the Pleasantville campus.

Blog 2: Mid-Year Report

To start the research, first we needed to find out what other studies have been done. The literature review process has been very helpful in finding out the patterns in what populations have been affected by food insecurity in college students. There are several factors that are important in food insecurity such as demographics, family income, financial aid and more. Our next step was to submit an IRB so we could collecting data on campus from students. Unfortunately, we have not been able to collect data and our projected timeline has been pushed back due to the IRB needing time to be approved. It takes about 8 weeks or so to get the IRB approved, if not expedited.

Nevertheless, the time spent waiting for the IRB to be approved have been used wisely on finding more articles and literature to further strengthen our research paper. What’s great about the literature is that new information is always being put out every couple months. It seems as if more college campuses are becoming aware of the problem of food insecurity and college students. I’ve been working closely with my faculty mentor to gather the most recent studies that were done on other campuses. We found great literature about a college who have brought a food pantry to their campus and the effects it had on food insecurity in students.

Food Insecurity on College Campuses – Blog Post #1

Over the years, there have been various studies of food insecurity on college campuses. Food Insecurity is defined as when an individual does not have access to the foods that benefit their needs and they are eating a poor low-quality diet that will have an effect on their overall health. To be food secure means that an individual has access to food that holds nutritional value. The goal of this project is to examine the relationship between food insecurity and the college students at the Pace University — Pleasantville Campus. The project would bring awareness to the fact that college students are making harsh decisions between eating a nutritional meal and other activities such as paying bills, buying textbooks for class and more. The objective is to acknowledge that there are steps that can be taken in order to decrease food insecurity on college campuses. One of the ways that can be done is to meet with your local food bank and discuss having a mobile food pantry come on campus to distribute fresh food and produce to students. The fresh food and produce that are distributed could promote healthy eating lifestyles as well as time management for cooking meals for the self.

            From this project, I expect to learn about the different techniques to improve food security not only for college students but for other people as well. Food insecurity is a sensitive topic due to having to asking information about their household, eating habits, and other personal things such as job wages. To examine the relationship between food insecurity and college students, I plan to conduct a study. I have created a survey with questions asking about a wide variety of things from demographics to mental health.

Post #2 – Temporal Structures in the Speech of Individuals with Dementia: An Ongoing Study

It has been an amazing experience and opportunity to be a part of an undergraduate research project. I have been assisting Dr. Linda Carozza on a project titled Temporal Structures in the Speech of Individuals with Dementia. As a Communication Sciences & Disorders student, I’ve found this work particularly unique as it focuses on a population which many students do not have exposure to. Older adults who are living with dementia can develop other conditions and disorders that are associated with this disease. As discussed in my previous post, one of these disorders is Dysarthria.

As this research progresses, I look forward to learning the results of the data which we have compiled and analyzed. I was tasked with labeling the vowel duration of various utterances. These utterances were collected by recording the speech of different individuals who have dementia. There has also been data compiled on the overall length of these utterances. The goal is to then analyze and compare this data with that of healthy, adult speech. These findings will be compiled and determined very soon. With these findings, Dr. Carozza has submitted to present at the NYS Speech Convention in Albany.

Temporal Structures in the Speech of Individuals with Dementia: A Continuing Study

My name is Rachel Melamudov. I am a senior student in the CSD (communication sciences and disorders) program. I have the opportunity to be a research assistant for the director of our CSD program, Dr. Linda Carozza. Our project concerns a motor speech disorder called dysarthria. The American Speech and Hearing Association states that “dysarthria happens when you have weak muscles due to brain damage. It can be mild or severe”. Dysarthria is associated with traumatic brain injuries, tumors and various forms of dementia. Dementia is a degenerative disease which encompasses numerous symptoms and affects an individual’s memory and other cognitive functions. There is no known cure for dementia. Individuals who have been given a dementia diagnosis by their physician may wait years until impaired speech function becomes noticeable.
Our project, titled Temporal Structures in the Speech of Individuals with Dementia; A Continuing Study, seeks to discuss and analyze if early markers may be detected in the speech patterns of patients with dementia. We are utilizing various tools and software to study speech patterns of real patients with dementia. Previous publications do exist regarding this topic, by Dr. Carozza and also by renowned researcher, Dr. Bell-Berti. We expect to find indicators which could be extremely significant as quality of life is of the utmost importance for these individuals. Our aim for this summer is to complete these measures and compile a stats table for an article submission. Our research could be instrumental in the diagnosis and treatment of dysarthria.

A Probabilistic Model for the Occupancy-Abundance Relationship of Species Populations using Taylor’s Law #2

We have analyzed 12 different data sets, including intraspecific and interspecific, to compare the fitness of models that can be applied to variance or occupancy prediction. We used 2 methods at two numerical scales to study these six phenomenological models, three for variance prediction and three for the occupancy. Regardless of the significance of the differences, we noticed that various results came out when we applied different methods or scales.

During the research, we tried different approaches and to test the data and we tried different statistics as measurement. Deciding the research approach and statistics was the struggle. So we analyzed the data using every possible approach and then refined the approach again and again.

I have learned a lot from this project, not only the knowledge about both statistics and ecology, but also my software R, skills since R is the software we used to process the research. Moreover, the research teaches me that the more you think and the more you practice, the closer you will get to the truth beneath those data, which means attitude can lead us to the result. I think attitude is as important as the scientific knowledge and technical skills.

This research definitely has a great impact on my future plan. It let me know what I really love, data analysis. I am looking forward future researches that building different models to test the data and find out what the data really tell us.

Blog Post 1 “Transgender/Gender Non-Conforming Students & Retention: A Family Intervention Model”

This summer, I am working on a research project titled “Transgender/Gender Non-Conforming Students & Retention: A Family Intervention Model” which is about retention for transgender and gender non-conforming students with Erin Furey. Erin is the Associate Director of Pace University’s LGBTQA & Social Justice Center, and I Gabe Nichols, am a rising sophomore majoring in Communications. We are doing this research because currently, we as a society are lacking in support and research on transgender students in college, particularly in terms of retention. This lack of research leaves transgender and gender non-conforming students with no strategies to help them continue and succeed in school. Additionally, we hope that this research shines a light on the issues faced by the transgender community regarding their rights–or lack thereof–and how they are treated, and their unique stressors that lead them to possibly struggle more with staying in school than their cisgender counterparts. Since we hope to be able to continue to carry out this project into the fall and spring semesters, our goals for the summer are primarily research based. Examples of our goals are to research articles regarding transgender and gender non-conforming students and retention, to explore, apply and critique LGBTQA+ literature on retention as it applies to transgender and gender non-conforming students, and to develop a hypothesis around the needs of transgender and gender non-conforming students that is linked to retention.

So far we have begun researching the topic, but our exact topic has little to no previous research conducted about it, so instead we are exploring similar topics, such as retention throughout the whole LGBTQA+ community, or the mental health of transgender adults and adolescents. After reading these articles, I have created an annotated bibliography with important information about each of the articles. While reading these articles, we have noted which articles specifically pull the ‘T’ out of the LGBTQA acronym and acknowledge the difference in effect between being a cisgender queer person, and being a transgender person. An article we have read that did this well is “The Path Forward: LGBT Retention and Academic Success” by Shane Windmeyer. In the article he points out that, “LGBT youth, specifically LGB youth of color and transgender youth of all races, are much more likely than other students to struggle academically and personally in college.”

For some next steps throughout the summer, we intend to plan a focus group regarding our topic, and seek approval from the institutional review board (IRB) to publish and circulate a survey for transgender and gender non-conforming students. Looking further into the future, we intend to create a dual intervention program for transgender and gender non-conforming students and their parents with the goal being that we ease tensions at home by answering parents questions that may upset the students, We plan to submit this information in workshop format for educational and LGBTQA conferences and present our research, in the hopes to publish a paper about strategies to increase university retention of transgender students.

So far I have loved working on this research project. It is a topic near to my heart, as a transgender man whose parents don’t always approve or understand. Getting to find the information around the topic as well as eventually work on the intervention program first hand is incredible. I am learning so much and I hope to continue to do that. I also hope to find an intervention model with Erin that works, so I can help others in similar or even worse situations than mine.

 

Glossary:

  • Cisgender: Refers to people whose sex and gender are congruent by predominant cultural standards: women who have female bodies, men who have male bodies.  This term was created to challenge the privileging of such people relative to those who are transgender.
  • Gender Non-Conforming: Someone who does not conform to the ideologies of any one gender. Often considered to be outside the gender binary, or “nonbinary”
  • LGBTQA: acronym standing for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, and Asexual, used to represent that community.
  • Retention: In this research, this word is used to refer to the amount of students who stay in school and graduate.
  • Transgender: Those whose psychological self/gender identity differs from the social expectations for the physical sex with which they were born. Acts as an umbrella term for both those who fit within and outside of the binary.

 

Sources cited:

  • Windmeyer, Shane “The Path Forward: LGBT Retention and Academic Success” INSIGHT into Diversity, 2016
  • Pace University’s LGBTQA & Social Justice Center “All Gender Housing: Terms to Know” http://www.pace.edu/lgbtqa-center/all-gender-housing-overview-instructions