Skip navigation

Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences (AHSS)

contribute

Make a Lasting Impact

 

Our research and community and global partnerships give students and faculty the chance to have positive, lasting impacts around the world.

Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences

Contributing to Knowledge

Faculty & Student Research

Our faculty and students work around the world in labs, studios, archives, and libraries making discoveries that address real-world problems and ambitions.

Sociology professor explains his research and how he integrates it into the classroom:

Faculty Research:

Professor Studies Childhood Immunization Issues

The number of parents who opt out of required vaccinations for their children is growing, and Jennifer Reich, associate professor in the department of sociology and criminology, has been studying this behavior and potential ramifications for children and society.

Reich's research started with a focus on parents who reject vaccines completely or agree to a select few. Over the years she has added perspectives from other stakeholders within the community, such as pediatricians, researchers, policy makers, activists and attorneys in the federal vaccine injury court system.

"By talking to different players in vaccine questions, I hope to trace the different ideologies, values and perspectives of different people who care deeply about vaccine safety, while also identifying some of the points of disconnect among them," said Reich, who has a PhD in Sociology from the University of California, Davis.

Although not many parents reject vaccinations, those who do tend to be white, college-educated and have a family income of over $75,000, according to Reich.

"These families look really different from those whose children are not fully vaccinated because they lack consistent access to a healthcare provider," she said. "In thinking about the social meanings of vaccine resistance, it's important to think about the ways this represents a privileged practice that has potential ramifications for members of the communities in which unvaccinated kids live and travel."

Reich contends that her project is largely about the boundaries between community responsibility and individual choice.

"Parents aim to do what is best for their children with the resources they have. Those who opt out of vaccines really see this as the best way to protect their children's health," Reich said. "Unfortunately, they underestimate the effect infectious disease can have on other children who might be too young to be vaccinated, have a health reason that they cannot be vaccinated, or for whom the vaccine didn't work."

People in the community with cancer, organ transplants, autoimmune diseases or HIV are also placed at risk, she said.

"I hope that in pulling together different perspectives, parents might see the ways their choices are part of a larger question of community health."

Reich's current book project will be published in 2014. She is also the author of Fixing Families: Parents, Power, and the Child Welfare System which explores how social workers, attorneys, and parents whose children have been removed from their homes by the child protective services system negotiate power to determine if and when children can return home.

"I became interested in studying child welfare because I wanted to understand the experiences of parents who have lost their children because the state sees them as failing parents. After finishing Fixing Families, I wanted to continue exploring questions of how parents make decisions about their children, in dialogue with public policy and government regulation," Reich said.

 

Student Research:

Religious Studies Student Investigates International and Interfaith Dialogues

Donny McClellan chose the religious studies master's program at the University of Denver for the international and multicultural studies track.

"The dynamic of how religions relate to one another in small communities or across borders is something of interest to me and something I enjoy researching," says McClellan, who is in his second year of the graduate program.

Last year, McClellan had an internship with Denver Sister Cities International, working on a project called the Sino-African Initiative which is designed to address the manner in which Chinese, African and U.S. cities can collaborate on economic development and urban poverty issues in Africa.

"Most students would not go to school because they were embarrassed to be there. There were no bathrooms or running water," McClellan said. "Nairobi gives funding to their schools depending on enrollment and who shows up. The idea was that if we fix up the school, then they will show up and become educated and the schools will continue to be funded."

"I was given the task of identifying companies that worked in Denver, China and Nairobi that would be good candidates to partner on this project. Once I developed the list, I contacted them to see if they were interested in working with us through donating money or services."

McClellan enjoys participating in interfaith dialogues, and doesn't understand why different religions can't get along. He believes the main reason is misunderstandings from false information being passed along and prejudices formed. Interfaith dialogues, he said, may help reduce some of those misunderstandings.

"I initially wanted to teach to help clear up some of those misunderstandings and show people that there is beauty outside of what they may believe," he said. "I started off wanting to teach, but it has changed as I am now thinking about law school and focusing on first amendment rights."