Research, Outreach, Teaching
Today's big challenges require solutions where disciplines work together to meet human needs. Race relations are in tension. Global economies are changing. Climate change is creating challenges to our way of life. Chronic health problems like diabetes and obesity are nearing epidemic levels.
These challenges require a new way of thinking and a cross-disciplinary perspective. Our seven departments, two interdisciplinary programs, and multiple centers train students to understand that human solutions involve an understanding of the economic, political, and cultural conditions that influence human thought and behavior.
We take an integrated three part approach to these interdisciplinary solutions by:
1) creating cutting edge research that cross-cuts disciplines
2) providing novel teaching and instruction in the classroom that connects these disciplines for students
3) outreaching students to community partners and policy makers that moves this research and knowledge into policies and action.
By bringing a community of faculty scholars, graduate and undergraduate students, community partners and policy makers together, we are producing knowledge and training that will provide lasting solutions to today's challenges.
Research is a large component of social and behavioral science. We are one of only few colleges across the country that facilitates research opportunities at the undergraduate level. Both undergraduate and graduate students can work on collaborative research with one of our faculty mentors or even author their own research.
Through teaching and research, the College of Social and Behavioral Science provides students with the experience necessary to solve real-world problems even before they graduate. They can take what they've learned and apply it to internships, local government and non-profit organizations, active community research projects, and study abroad programs, which then benefit their career placement opportunities upon graduating.
The College of Social and Behavioral Science is home to some of the world's greatest thinkers and academic minds. Our faculty consist of a collection of tireless individuals who excel at both teaching and researching in their respective discipline. They continually receive accolades from students, fellow faculty members, and the university for their dedication and mentoring both in and out of the classroom.
CSBS in Action
GLOBAL CLIMATE CHANGE
UTAH REMOTE SENSING APPLICATIONS LAB
Evaluating CO2 levels globally and in Salt Lake City
Remote sensing is the science of acquiring information about a place or a process without direct physical contact. This information is often gained through reflected or emitted electromagnetic radiation, including the visible, near infrared, thermal infrared, and microwave portions of the spectrum. URSA Lab uses data from multispectral, hyperspectral, lidar, and thermal infrared sensors to measure Earth system processes.
A major uncertainty concerning the 21st century climate is the ice sheet response to global warming. Paleodata indicate rapid ice sheet destabilizations during the last deglaciation, which could lead to an underestimation of sea level rise, as suggested in recent publications.
This course examines both natural and anthropogenic (human) change to the Earth's environments during the Quaternary (the last 2.5-2.6 million years). Questions considered include: 1) what evidence exists that climate has changed? 2) what causes climate change? 3) how have ecosystems responded to these changes in the past? 4) how has past climate change affected human evolution and cultures? 5) is recent climate warming the result of human or natural factors? 6) how would increased temperatures affect Earth's ecosystems?
The MAPS research team surveys residents' perceptions and activities before and after the North Temple construction project. How do these changes alter your neighborhood perceptions, activities, and travel patterns—activities related to cancer prevention? Research is conducted by faculty, students, and employees.
Sponsored by the National Cancer Institute
This project tests the idea that when communities are designed so that it is easy and safe for people to be more physically active in their everyday travel and use of the neighborhood, they will get more moderate intensity physical activity (if you build it, they will come), which will help them maintain a healthier weight. The study examines a road reconstruction that will provide a rich set of alternatives to attract many kinds of users: A light rail line, a bike path, and a multiuse trail. Participants will receive feedback on their objectively measured physical activity.
This class addresses the psychological processes connecting humans to their natural and physical worlds, such as environmental cognition and wayfinding; pro-environmental attitudes; personal space, privacy, territoriality, and place attachment; and nature as a restorative agent. Investigates how psychology can address challenges of climate change and what constitutes more sustainable and healthy communities.
MALIHEH FREE CLINIC PROJECTS
The central goals of the projects include to increase knowledge to improve health education programs and to provide evidence-based health education programs for the underserved population with diverse background, and to offer educational opportunities to graduate and undergraduate students who are interested in community-based research and are future human resources to improve health of the underserved populations in the community and beyond. Research is conducted by community partners, students and faculty.
REFUGEE HEALTH EDUCATION
This project provides and evaluate student-led health education programs for refugees resettled in Salt Lake. Individuals with refugee background attend health education programs on healthy lifestyle, exercise, or oral health offered by students. This project contributes to improving health behaviors of refugees who often suffer from poor health and have limited access to health care and promotion services.
COMMUNITY ENGAGED LEARNING (CEL) COURSES
The CEL courses offer students opportunities to apply what they learned in class to real-world problems (e.g. health disparities). For example, students collect information for community organizations, provide health education classes, and/or develop a research/evaluation proposal that would benefit for the community organizations. In addition, students write a weekly reflection to connect their community experiences to the class context.
The Personal Money Management Center provides a competent and confidential atmosphere where students can have access to accredited counseling services, quality financial education and appropriate tools to achieving lifelong successful financial outcomes.
This class gives students the opportunity of participating in a national program to help individuals and families prepare their income taxes, called Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA). Students devote the first weeks in the semester to gaining knowledge and the skills necessary for IRS certification. Then they are assigned to putting that certification to work by engaging in tax preparation and directing clients to other resources in the community to assist with financial well-being.
COGNITION IN THE WILD
This lab supports students pursuing the Human Factors Certificate, senior thesis projects, and those who are interested in gaining research lab experience. Current research projects focus on autonmous driving, adherence engineering, commuter safety on campus and perceptual judgements.
The Applied Basic Cognition Lab found that those who text while driving are six times more likely to crash. Due to this research, the state of Utah amended its distracted driving law to prohibit texting while driving.
This course explores mental thought in relation to the natural environment. The course draws from literatures in cognitive and social psychology, anthropology, sociobiology, ecology, geology and other selected essays.
Ongoing Interdisciplinary Research
FAMILIES SUPPORTING HEALTHY BEHAVIOR
A Consortium of researchers across the university are identifying how the family can promote health;(e.g., reducing obesity, promoting healthy relationships) and adjust to chronic illnesses across the life span.
Currently consortium members are examining the following research topics:
- Within the Utah Population Database researchers are examining the family risks associated with a range of chronic illnesses (most especially cancer, atrial fibrillation, Crohn's disease, macular degeneration, hypertension, Miller's syndrome, diabetes) and that family members share their risk information with multiple family members, including children.
- Researchers are examining normative family processes that may lead to the development of chronic illnesses such as cardiovascular disease as well as those studying families in the context of chronic illnesses such as diabetes, cancer, asthma, and chronic pain. Findings have revealed ways that couples and parent-child units support as well as derail management chronic illness behaviors.
- Researchers are examining diversity in family structures that may affect the health of families such as diversity related to income inequality, cultural differences, and same-sex families.
- Researchers study how successful interventions for the promotion of health and management of chronic illnesses (e.g., physical exercise, obesity prevention) can incorporate the powerful influence of the family in sustaining effective health behaviors.
Currently, the consortium brings together faculty from 11 departments across 5 colleges, the Huntsman Cancer Institute, and the Utah Population Database. The consortium also connects scholars in the Primary Children's and Families' Research Center in the Huntsman Cancer Institute, the Department of Population Health Sciences in the School of Medicine, the Utah Population Database, the College of Health's Rehabilitation and Wellness Clinic for individuals with multiple chronic conditions, and the Child and Family Development Center in the Department of Family and Consumer Studies.
Treating the Effects of War
The effects of war exposure can last a lifetime. Researchers are examining the experience of military service during war time in survivors of the Vietnam War both in the U.S. and in Vietnam.
The National Center for Veterans Studies is providing cognitive therapy for veterans of the Iraq War which is reducing veterans' suicide attempts for those with PTSD.
Supported by a University of Utah Research Foundation seed grant, sociology associate professor Kim Korinek, together with colleagues in Vietnam and Singapore, organized the 2010 Vietnam Health and Aging Pilot Study (VHAPS). The VHAPS was designed to ascertain the implications of war exposure and military service upon health into the late adult years. The focus on aging Vietnamese broadens scholarly understanding of health-related consequences of war exposure, such as PTSD, which have been heavily focused on American veterans, rather than residents of low income countries that face numerous stressors in addition to wartime stressors that are not addressed by social services or other government programs.
ADAPTING TO ENVIRONMENTS
One-third of the Earth's people rely on wood as a primary fuel source, however, forests are now threatened by droughts, extreme temperatures, and overharvesting.
An interdisciplinary team of anthropologists, biologists, geographers, atmospheric scientists, and engineers are examining the dynamics between people and their local environment to develop a model that can forecast future variation in this coupled natural-human system.
An adult's obesity risk is lower in neighborhoods that have pedestrian-friendly street networks, mixed land use, and at least one healthy grocery store option was the finding from a research team that draws on insights from demography, economics, psychology, and sociology utilizing the Utah Population Database.
Climate Change and Water Scarcity
In many regions of the world, issues centered on climate change and water availability will profoundly shape society in the next century. The Society, Water and Climate research cluster is addressing these issues through a transdisciplinary team with expertise in hydrologic models, air quality, ecological biology, environmental policy.
Sharing Information among Policy Partners benefits Children
The team is studying state policies and practices that support child welfare and child health collaboration in Utah and across the United States. A political scientist, pediatrician, and a state administrator make up the interdisciplinary group that will provide recommendations for supporting child health and welfare through policy.
Supported by a University of Utah Seed Grant, sociology professor Ming Wen has worked with psychologists and sociologists in China to collect data on four groups of children defined by their rural and urban origin and current residence to conduct a more comprehensive analysis of developmental significance of parental rural-to-urban migration in China.
Wen is also collaborating with the same team of developmental psychologists to conduct mixed-method research in Beijing to 1) collect qualitative data on how youth, parents, teachers, and experts understand the construct of positive youth development in the Chinese settings; 2) create a PYD instrument; 3) test the instrument; and 4) use it as an effective marker of overall youth development and use it as both an outcome and a predictor in empirical investigations.
HIDDEN COSTS OF LOW WAGE CONSTRUCTION
Construction using causal, low-skilled employment can foster payroll tax fraud and lower income and property taxes paid by workers. The absence of state wage regulations reduces unemployment and worker compensation tax revenues.