Grant Holyoak - Migration into the West

Grant Holyoak at Utah State Capitol

USU Freshman Presents Sociology Research at the Capitol

Immigration was, is, and will likely continue to be a very hot topic. But migration patterns within the United States have a huge effect on the country’s economic and social structure and are important factor for policy makers to understand. That’s where sociologist, even young ones like USU freshman Grant Holyoak, can help.

Holyoak has been collaborating with Christy Glass, a faculty mentor in USU’s Department of Sociology, Social Work and Anthropology, in studying migration into the Intermountain West. Their project was especially interesting to Utah legislators who got a look at it as Holyoak participated in Research on the Hill, an annual event that brings together selected undergraduates from the state’s two research universities-USU and the University of Utah-who present their work at the capitol during the legislative session.

Holyoak’s research has identified a recent trend of citizens leaving the Rust Belt ? parts of the Northeastern, Midwestern and Mid-Atlantic States that have been particularly hard hit by downturns in manufacturing-and settling in the Rocky Mountain region. Holyoak said the current westward migration is largely attributed to the employment practices and opportunities in the Intermountain West, a factor that is driving many migration patterns.

Holyoak’s work has been an important learning experience.

“I was surprised how it all fit together in the environment, how it fits so many people,” said the 2010 USU Presidential Scholarship winner. “It furthered my belief that society is very interconnected.”

Many studies have been done investigating patterns of immigration Grant Holyoak presenting research at the Utah State Capitolinto the United States, particularly from Mexico. Far fewer studies have analyzed the dynamics of an increasing number of U.S. citizens moving their lives and families from the Rust Belt to the rapidly growing Intermountain West. Population in the state of Utah, in fact, is expected to increase by 700,000 by 2030, from 2.8 to 3.5 million people.

The research has been a fantastic team experience for not just Holyoak, but for his mentor as well.

”Grant is the ideal student,” she said. “He is a wonderful undergraduate ambassador for sociology because he can clearly articulate the relevance of his research to a broad range of audiences. When you talk to Grant about his research, you cannot help but be infected by his excitement and engagement.”

Glass also felt that it is critical for students to have practical academic experience because it will only further excite them to share that work with others and enjoy the fruit of their labors.

“I believe that students learn by doing,” she said. “Too often students learn only by reading the work of others. That doesn't fully engage them in the process of generating knowledge. Hands-on research has the potential to inspire students to learn by introducing them to the excitement of discovery.

“Having the opportunity to then present their work to state legislators allows students to articulate to non-academics the importance of the work they are doing and to learn the relevance of their research for social policy,” she added.

Glass and Holyoak expect a great deal of detective work in the coming months, including interviews and surveys, in order to identify the sectors, industries and employers that actively recruit from the Rust Belt.

Grant Holyoak, Research Fellow, Smithfield, UT
Christy Glass, Faculty Mentor, Sociology, Social Work and Anthropology

Writer: Rhett Wilkinson