Grant supports community research

A two-tiered effort to increase the diversity of students in graduate programs and raise the awareness of environmental problems in communities where residents are poor or disadvantaged is currently underway at UT Austin.

Funded through a $50,000 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency grant administered by the Southwest Voter Research Institute, the project involves LBJ School Professors Jorge Chapa and David Eaton as well as UT Austin Vice Provost Ricardo Romo and Gilberto Cardenas, an associate professor in sociology who is also the director of the UT Austin Interuniversity Program for Latino Research.

Chapa, who directs the university's Graduate Outreach Program, said ethnic minorities are traditionally underrepresented in graduate programs. One reason may be that they have trouble making a connection between their lives and graduate research, he said.

Eaton, an expert in the area of environmental policy, believes that students can be inspired to study community-based environmental problems if they are made aware that these problems are not distributed randomly and that there is a direct connection between risk and where people live.

The environmental equity project, as it is called, will draw on the basic concern for human health to spark more student interest. Interdisciplinary in nature, students would take courses in public policy, environmental science, economics, engineering, geography, and sociology. Students could focus their research on particular communities, like the colonias in the Rio Grande Valley or small neighborhoods near petrochemical refineries in Houston.

To help motivate more students to study the environment, the group has established an information site on the World Wide Web that is being used by university recruiters during their visits to schools.

The Environmental Equity home page provides general information about the university and its graduate programs. It also outlines the federal government's goals for environmental equity and provides links to sites that contain additional details about career possibilities, funding resources, and research opportunities.

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1 May 97

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