SSRC Chronicles: January 2012
On January 5, the Social Science Research Center (SSRC) held its annual retreat at the Burnt Oak Lodge near Starkville. The retreat featured a presentation by Dr. John Edwards on the new SSRC laboratory for social media analyses. Additionally, Dr. Laura R. Walton led a strategic development session on the SSRC communication plan.
In their recent Issue Brief, “Secondhand Smoke: Impact on Health and Economy,” the Center for Mississippi Health Policy featured the research of Dr. Robert McMillen and the Mississippi Tobacco Control Unit. The issue brief examines the effects of secondhand smoke and smoke-free policies. SSRC research on smoke-free communities in Mississippi found reduced admissions for heart attacks in local hospitals and no negative effects on tourism taxes or employment trends in the hospitality industry.
Awards & Recognitions
The Media Collaboration Laboratory (MCL) received three Bulldog PRism Awards from the Public Relations Association of Mississippi (PRAM) Starkville/MSU Chapter on January 18. The Bulldog PRism is the highest honor of the Chapter’s annual awards program. The SSRC brochure “Inquiry Leads to Impact” and the SSRC 2011 Annual Report earned this top honor in the Print Division, while the SSRC Logo Redesign project earned this honor in the Miscellaneous category. Dr. Laura R. Walton and Ms. Jordan Lear, lead designer for the 2011 Annual Report, accepted the awards on behalf of the MCL.
Project Coordinator Ms. Tonya T. Neaves was elected Student Representative to the National Council of the American Society for Public Administration (ASPA). Ms. Neaves joined ASPA as a master’s student in 2005. ASPA is the largest and most prominent professional association for public administration, with over 21 public service issue sections. The society promotes professions involving public service practice, teaching, and research.
Ms. Miranda Means, Head Graphic Designer for Mississippi Tobacco Data, was featured in the November/December 2011 issue of Mississippi Magazine. The online shop for her handmade jewelry and accessory business, The Open Suitcase, was featured as one of the “most unique and successful” Etsy shops in the state of Mississippi in 2011. Etsy is a world-renowned online marketplace where people can buy and sell handmade goods and vintage treasures. Miranda creates unique handmade ceramic jewelry and vintage-inspired brooches and hair accessories that she sells at local festivals, in stores, and on her online Etsy shop. You can visit http://www.etsy.com/shop/mirkatdesign to browse The Open Suitcase.
Mr. John Gavin Buffington, Student Researcher for Dr. Arthur Cosby, placed first in the Starkville High School 2011-2012 Reflections Contest for his original musical composition, “Sovereign.”
Mr. Nathan Rosenberg joined the SSRC as the Mississippi Delta Fellow, a joint MSU and Harvard Law School appointment. In this position, he will serve as Director of the Delta Directions Consortium. The Consortium represents a group of university and foundation leaders focused on improving public health and fostering economic development in the Delta. Mr. Rosenberg’s expertise centers on issues relating to food law and policy and public health. He served as a student attorney for Harvard Law School’s Health Law and Policy Clinic, where he worked on their Food Policy Initiative. He also co-founded and served as president of the Harvard Food Law Society. Mr. Rosenberg holds a J.D. from Harvard Law School and a bachelor’s degree from Pitzer College in Claremont, California.
Ms. Whitney Alford joined the SSRC as a Graduate Research Assistant. She will collaborate with Dr. Ginger Cross in the Family and Children Research Unit of the SSRC; Dr. Chiquita Briley in the Department of Food Science, Nutrition, and Health Promotion; and Dr. Sheri Worthy in the School of Human Sciences. Ms. Alford’s work will contribute to the “Partnerships to Promote Healthy Lifestyles for Children and Communities” project, funded by a Science Education Partnership Award from the National Institutes of Health. Ms. Alford is currently pursuing a master’s in education with a focus on counseling education. She also holds a Bachelor of Science in Human Development and Family Studies with an emphasis in child life from MSU.
Ms. Xuan Zhou joined the SSRC as a Graduate Research Assistant. She will work with Dr. Arthur G. Cosby. Ms. Zhou holds an M.A. in Sociology from Huazhong University of Science and Technology, China, and a B.S. in Public Administration from Wuhan University, China. She is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in the Department of Sociology. Ms. Zhou previously worked at the SSRC as a graduate research assistant with Dr. Guangqing Chi. At that time she examined the demographic and economic impacts of intermodal transportation systems and the effects of gasoline price changes on traffic demand and safety. Ms. Zhou is also a member of the Southern Demographic Association.
Mr. Jake Gaylor joined the SSRC as Technical Coordinator for the new social media metrics laboratory. Mr. Gaylor, an undergraduate student pursuing a bachelor’s degree in computer science, will work with Dr. John Edwards. Mr. Gaylor possesses skills in computer programming and database management that are critical to the ongoing development of a robust social media tracking system.
Ms. Victoria Ritter Hughes joined the SSRC Media Collaboration Laboratory as an Undergraduate Assistant. Ms. Hughes’s work will contribute to the “Partnerships to Promote Healthy Lifestyles for Children and Communities” project. She will collaborate with Dr. Ginger Cross in the Family and Children Research Unit of the SSRC; Dr. Chiquita Briley in the Department of Food Science, Nutrition, and Health Promotion; Dr. Sheri Worthy in the School of Human Sciences; and Dr. Laura Walton of the MCL. Ms. Hughes is currently pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Communication with a public relations emphasis. She also holds an Associates of Arts degree with special honors from Itawamba Community College. Her involvement at MSU includes Lambda Pi Eta, Active Minds, iCaptureMSU, and W5YD Amateur Radio Club.
Ms. Ona Balkus, visiting scholar from the Harvard Law School and Harvard School of Public Health, spent the month of January at the SSRC working with Mississippi Delta Fellow Nathan Rosenberg. Ms. Balkus worked to build support for a farm-to-school bill in the state legislature in Jackson. She spent the remainder of her time speaking with farmers and school nutrition employees to identify the legal barriers hindering farm-to-school initiatives in their communities. Using this research, Ms. Balkus will work with a team of Harvard Law School students to develop a legal guide through the Harvard Health Law and Policy Clinic. The guide will help public schools connect with local small-scale farms so that schools can purchase local, fresh produce for school meals; local farmers can have a new source of income; and students can have the opportunity to learn about agriculture, health, and environmental issues.
Presentations, Panels & Conferences
Cossman, R., Cossman, J., Mason, P., & Harney, K. (2012). “A test of affinity for small towns: the role it plays in rural recruitment and migration.” Presented at the Applied Demography Conference at the University of Texas in San Antonio, Texas. Presenters examined the affinity hypothesis through a survey of 1,008 nursing students in Mississippi. Focal points included the economic development implications for rural recruitment.
Dr. Laura Myers and Ms. Ashley Loftin, Research Associate I, attended the International Disaster Conference & Expo (IDCE) in New Orleans over the week of January 16-19.
Drs. Laura Myers and Ginger Cross presented at the Mississippi Association of Highway Safety Leaders (MAHSL) meeting on January 20. The presentation at the Mississippi State CAVS Center in Canton overviewed the Mississippi eCite program, a collaboration between Mississippi State University, the University of Alabama, and the Mississippi Department of Public Safety. Funded by the Mississippi Office of Highway Safety, the program aims to implement an electronic citation system across the state.
Dr. Robert McMillen of the Mississippi Tobacco Control Unit at the SSRC and Dr. Joyce Yates, Director of Health Education and Wellness for University Health Services, presented to the MSU Student Association Senate. As members of the Tobacco Cessation Task Force, they discussed implementation strategies for a new anti-tobacco campus policy.
Dr. Angela Robertson will work with the SSRC Media Collaboration Laboratory through 2012 to redesign the Mississippi Alcohol Safety Education Program webpage. The updated site will highlight research and development efforts and serve as a resource for research and policy users.
Wolfgang Frese Survey Research Laboratory
The SSRC Wolfgang Frese Survey Research Laboratory (SRL) is conducting the 2012 Client Satisfaction Survey for the Mississippi Department of Rehabilitation Services (MDRS). During each quarter of 2012, the SRL will complete approximately 250 surveys of individuals who received MDRS services in the past year. Under the supervision of Drs. Wolfgang Frese and John Edwards, the SRL has collected MDRS client satisfaction data for over a decade. The Laboratory is honored to have a long-standing partnership with a state agency providing such important services to the people of Mississippi.
Dr. Connie Baird-Thomas will serve as Principal Investigator for the “Evaluation of the Mississippi Affordable Care Act Implementation” project. The Mississippi Health Advocacy Program (MHAP) conducts the Mississippi Affordable Care Act Implementation. The SSRC evaluation will assess MHAP efforts to engage Mississippi citizenry in activities and issues related to the expansion of health care coverage in the State. The evaluation will take place over three years.
Dr. Ronald Cossman will serve as Principal Investigator for the “Mississippi Health Professional Shortage Areas” project, a research agreement between the Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH) and the Mississippi Center for Health Workforce at the SSRC. Investigators will collect current and historical county-level data to identify Mississippi counties with the greatest health care infrastructure needs. The federal Health Professional Shortage Area designation (as defined by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services) will serve as the primary ranking metric.
Research Associate III Rahel Mathews, MPH, was granted a one year award from the Mississippi State Department of Health for the “Evaluation for HIV/STD Planning Part II” project. Ms. Mathews will develop a monitoring and evaluation plan for the MSDH HIV/STD Division. She will also evaluate the impact of legislation requiring sex education, specifically with regards to student knowledge on sexually transmitted diseases.
Dr. Angela Robertson’s HIV Risk Reduction among Drug Court Offenders project has entered Phase 2. The successfully-adapted HIV risk reduction intervention will be implemented in two drug court programs in Mississippi.
Dr. Angela A. Robertson, Dr. R. Greg Dunaway, and Research Associate I Jennifer A. Harrington completed a qualitative study of disproportionate minority contact in the Mississippi Juvenile Justice System. The study was conducted for the Mississippi Department of Public Safety, Office of Justice Programs.
Dr. Linda Southward will serve as Principal Investigator on the “KIDS COUNT 2012” project. Mississippi KIDS COUNT personnel collect, analyze, and maintain a comprehensive database on indicators of child well-being. In pursuit of a solid reputation as a credible and reliable source of information about children and families, Mississippi KIDS COUNT regularly publishes and makes available high-quality data and research reports. The project is sponsored in part by the Annie. E. Casey Foundation. Learn more at http://www.ssrc.msstate.edu/mskidscount/.
Dr. Southward will also serve as Principal Investigator for the fourth year of the “Evaluation of the Impact of the Mississippi Healthy Students Act on Childhood Obesity” project. Contracting for the Center for Mississippi Health Policy, the SSRC conducts an impact evaluation on newly enacted Mississippi healthy school legislation by employing a Social Climate approach. The study gauges social norms among parents of public school children and among local- and state-level policy makers, including legislators, State Board of Health and Board of Education members, superintendents, and school board members. The project is funded by the Center for Mississippi Health Policy and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
On the Horizon
The SSRC Family and Child Research Unit will host the Fifth Annual Mississippi KIDS COUNT Summit on Friday, February 3. Held at the Christ United Methodist Church in Jackson, MS, this year’s conference will focus on child safety with a special emphasis on bullying. Nationally-recognized New York Times bestselling author Rachel Simmons will serve as plenary speaker with the topic of “’No Offense: I was Just Kidding’ Bullying Online, Offline and Everywhere in Between.” Merve Lapus, Educational Program Manager for Common Sense Media, will guide participants through an interactive discussion on digital citizenship, a 21st century skill in which students learn to think critically about how to be safe, responsible, and ethical in a fast-paced digital world. The Summit will also recognize and highlight the work of the 2012 Mississippi KIDS COUNT Success Story recipients and, for the first time, offer Youth Track. In Youth Track, selected Mississippi middle school students will convene to examine issues facing them today and share their stories. Other participants include Nelly Nieblas, Director of Public Policy and External Affairs at Public Allies in Washington, D.C., and singer Jasmine Murray, Mississippi native and former American Idol contestant.
Dr. Kendra Stewart, Associate Professor of Political Science and Director of the Joseph P. Riley, Jr., Center for Livable Communities at the College of Charleston, will visit the SSRC from February 3-4. She will meet with members of the SSRC to examine the Center as one organizational model for university centers. As an expert on American politics, she will also lead a seminar co-sponsored by the Department of Political Science and Public Administration on the 2011-12 Republican primaries.
Dr. Connie Bish will lead a lunch seminar at the SSRC on Monday, February 6. Dr. Bish is the State Maternal and Child Health Epidemiologist at the Mississippi State Department of Health and an epidemiologist for the CDC’s Division of Reproductive Health. Hosted by Dr. Ron Cossman, Dr. Bish will present on the “Lifecourse Network to Improve Maternal and Infant Health Outcomes” and on MSDH progress towards reducing infant mortality in Mississippi.
The Alabama-Mississippi Sociological Association will hold its annual meeting at the MSU Hunter Henry Center from February 16-17. The meeting will focus on “Disparities in the Delta: Demographics, Economics, Literacy, Transportation, and Agriculture.” Dr. Lynne Cossman will serve as the conference organizer.
Research Associate III Rahel Mathews, MPH, will present at the Alabama-Mississippi Sociological Association conference. Her presentation will discuss the prevalence of childhood caries among preschool children in the Mississippi delta region. Her conclusions include recommendations for a coordinated community model of care. She has also submitted an abstract to the National Oral Health Conference in Milwaukee, WI.
Dr. Angela Robertson will attend the 2012 Spring Leadership Conference hosted by Women in Higher Education – Mississippi Network (WHEMN). The conference takes place at Mississippi State University on February 23-24. WHEMN aims to identify, develop, advance, and support women in higher education in Mississippi. To that end, WHEMN promotes and supports women in leadership in higher education, assists in career development and mentoring of women in higher education, and enhances the visibility of women administrators on Mississippi campuses.
The SSRC is currently developing a Wikipedia page to provide an easily accessible overview of the Center. The page will go online in February.
Dr. Kathleen Ragsdale submitted an abstract to present at the Sex: Tech 2012 Annual Conference on New Media, Youth & Sexual Health, from April 1-3, 2012, in San Francisco, California. The presentation is entitled, “Designing a DVD to promote rapid HIV testing & HIV/STI prevention among substance abuse treatment clients in the Mississippi Delta.” Dr. Ragsdale’s co-authors include Drs. Angela Robertson and Connie Baird-Thomas.
Dr. Laura Richardson Walton and Ms. M.B. Humphrey, an undergraduate research assistant in the Media Collaboration Laboratory, will present “The Public Relations Internship Experience: A Qualitative Assessment” to the Southern States Communication Association (SSCA) annual conference. The conference occurs in San Antonio, Texas, from April 11-15. The paper was selected as the “top paper” for the PR Division. Dr. Walton will also organize and participate in a panel presentation entitled, “Developing Consensus: Creating Unity in Defining the Public Relations Process” at the conference.
The MCL will submit its three Bulldog PRism-winning projects and possibly others for consideration in the state-level PRAM PRism competition in April.
Faculty from MSU and from the University of Zagreb will conduct a week-long seminar at the Center for Advanced Academic Studies at the University of Zagreb in Dubrovnik, Croatia, from June 11-15. The seminar, entitled “Explorations in Emerging Data for the Social Sciences,” will introduce participants to analyzing social media data such as Twitter feed and Google Ngram outputs. Instructors will utilize the social media metrics data interface developed at the SSRC to design and access data throughout the course. Research examples will include studies of media elites, event monitoring, social sciences indices development, marketing icons, policy formation, and food culture.
Dr. Angela Robertson, P.I., and Dr. Laura Myers, Co-P.I., submitted a letter of intent to the Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative’s Request for Proposals (RFP-II). The proposed research assesses “The Impact of Oil Spills and Response Efforts on Public Health and Community Well-being.”
February 3, 2012