Immigration Researcher Named College of Humanities and Social Sciences Undergraduate Research Mentor of the Year
Whether it be her knowledge of European employment trends, developing new guest worker promotions in Spain, or her expertise in understanding recent migration patterns in the United States, Assistant Professor Christy Glass carries a full load, simultaneously working on an array of research projects, teaching, and mentoring undergraduate researchers in the sociology program.
Glass’ outstanding efforts have earned her recognition as the 2011 College of Humanities and Social Sciences Undergraduate Research Mentor of the Year.
“One of the best parts of my job is working with students on research, so to be recognized is a great deal,” said Glass, who is also a finalist as a top researcher in the Pacific Sociological Association.
Glass described a bit of a role reversal as the determining factor to her being in a position for the honor.
“In order to be nominated, it’s the students, both current and former, who write letters in support of the nomination, so it’s an incredible honor,” she said. “It’s not often that a student writes a letter of recommendation for a professor. This is really one of the biggest honors since coming to Utah State, to read in those letters that my interactions with these projects have had a great impact on the lives of our undergraduate students.”
Such projects have included researching the global finance sector of eastern Europe, regarding hiring and promotion patterns in its most-developed and developing countries, including how employers recruit there and how it affects social inequalities on a large societal scale.
This year, Glass has been mentor to Rachel Jaggi, a valedictorian and this year’s College of Humanities and Social Sciences Undergraduate Researcher of the Year. The duo has researched how individuals have performed traditional gender-oriented roles depending upon various settings.
“What’s brilliant about its thesis is it’s incredibly sophisticated theoretically,” Glass said of the project. “The research is advanced among graduate students, so to see what (Jaggi) is doing at her level is astonishing.”
Other projects with which Glass continues to be involved in include tracking immigrant workers from the Rust Belt—portions of several Northeastern, Midwestern and mid-Atlantic states—to the Mountain West region, and related corporate investment in the West. The project, thus far, has resulted in one of Glass’ students, freshman Grant Holyoak, being selected to join 49 other students from both USU and the University of Utah to present the findings to Utah legislators at the capitol building in Salt Lake City. The presenter himself said he is grateful for tutelage that qualified him to make such a trip.
“She gave me a lot of freedom and independence to do my own thing,” Holyoak said, reflecting his professor’s insistence that much of the project’s success is attributed to the work of her “bright” students. “Her confidence in me led to her giving me a project which is like nothing I’ve done before.”
Glass’ confidence in her students radiates from the assurance she has in herself, the freshman said.
“You can’t write about Dr. Glass without talking about her confidence,” Holyoak said. “She has great knowledge, always databases what she researches very well, and is able to convey those skills to her mentees.”
Networking and connecting her students to a vast web of sociologists is yet another of her skills.
“She knows the best sociologists out there, which is valuable for student researchers looking to be involved in it professionally,” Holyoak said. “She knows the back door to all kinds of research, which means she offers knowledgeable insights.”
Glass’ ability to connect her students in various ways to different resources is a pleasure for her, especially in the face of a society full of questions and uncertainty.
“I think in this time of budget cuts, it’s really easy to cut certain parts of the program that don’t serve a mass audience,” she said. “We cannot provide 300 sociology majors with a great research experience, but we can provide smaller portions with substantial research experiences. Continuing to do that here at USU is going to require a strong commitment from the departments, college and administration. The challenge is providing outstanding opportunities for outstanding students so they can leave Utah State with real hands-on research experience.”
The part-time professor, part-time researcher and full-time student guide welcomes such a task.
“I truly mean it when I say that working with undergraduates in research is the best part of my job,” she said. “I don’t find it a challenge. I’ve been privileged to work with fantastic, bright, talented students who shed new perspectives, insights and have questions that may not have appeared to me. I find working with great undergraduate students a great privilege.”
Writer: Rhett Wilkinson