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Social sciences offers new STaRT program

Photo courtesy Channing Wang

By Jamal Sayid     10/26/21 11:51pm

Rice University’s School of Social Sciences introduced a new program this year to help students forge connections and learn relevant skills to become better researchers. The program took place from Oct. 8 to 12 and will hold its next event in the fall of 2022.

The Statistical Training and Research Techniques at Rice, otherwise referred to as a “STaRT@Rice,” was designed by Tony Brown and Matthew Hayes with the purpose of introducing students to research techniques used at the School of Social Sciences. 

Matthew Hayes, an assistant professor of political science, said the program is designed to provide opportunities for students from underrepresented backgrounds at the undergraduate and graduate level within the School of Social Science. 

“STaRT@Rice is designed to be an inclusive program, and we welcome any students who hope to make advanced training in the social sciences more accessible and approachable for all students,” Hayes said. 

Members of the program’s advisory board include Elaine Howard Ecklund, Özge Gürcanlı, Eden King and Melissa Marschall.

Brown, a professor of sociology at Rice, said in a Rice News article that STaRT@Rice was inspired by his own experience at the University of Michigan. He was part of a summer training program that introduced students from diverse backgrounds to the school’s academic intensity, in addition to providing opportunities to connect.

Hayes said the goals of STaRT@Rice are twofold. The first is to provide the opportunity to build networks across disciplines in the School of Social Science.

“In 2019, only 7 percent of incoming graduate students across the university identified as Black, and only nine percent identified as Hispanic,” Hayes said. “As a result, it is common for underrepresented minority graduate students to feel isolated within their cohorts and departments. Thus, creating a broader sense of community should reduce feelings of isolation.”

Hayes said the second goal is to improve the career trajectories for undergraduate and graduate students by providing exposure to the research process and providing an overview of various research methods.

“Research skills are in high demand, both within and outside [Rice], and exposing undergraduate and graduate students to advanced skills, such as statistical analysis and programming, should improve their ability to compete in an increasingly tight job market,” Hayes said.

The new “STaRT@Rice” program featured lectures from many Social Sciences faculty members, in addition to 16 workshops by postdoctoral fellows, researchers and faculty members. 

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