CAS Establishes New Center For Social Science Research

Posted: March 30, 2004 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Stephanie Hay

The new Center for Social Science Research (CSSR) has been established in the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) to “provide a platform that brings together social science theories and methods, applying them to some of the most pressing social, behavioral, and political problems facing contemporary U.S. society,” according to the center’s mission statement.

CSSR incorporates faculty in sociology, political science, psychology, and communication to offer interdisciplinary expertise regarding the issues affecting governmental organizations, businesses, nonprofit foundations, and community groups.

“I hope the CSSR fosters faculty collaboration that will lead to several things: sharing of statistical expertise, collaborative grant proposals, enrichment of course offerings, and sharing of course information so that graduate students can have better information on alternative choices. [I hope it also fosters] a general ramping up of collaborative research in the social sciences,” says Bob Smith, chair of the Department of Psychology.

The center is an outgrowth of the Northern Virginia Laboratory for Survey Research (NVLSR), which was established at George Mason by Gregory Guagnano, Sociology and Anthropology, in 1991. Working in conjunction with local municipalities and county governments, Guagnano and his colleagues secured financial support for several dozen projects, including both contract research and externally funded projects. However, the scope of activities was limited and several recent developments caused CAS to revisit the lab’s activities with an eye toward expanding its operation. Some of these include the potential for externally funded social research, growth of graduate enrollment in the social sciences, and establishment of the Center for Social Complexity.

CSSR has just hired a coordinator, Emily Zimmerman, who joins George Mason April 1. Zimmerman previously worked with the University of Chicago’s Chapin Hall Center for Children. She has a strong background in research design and applied sociology, as well as expertise in family policy and the problems of low-income households.

An informal reception honoring the center’s inauguration is being planned. “In the meantime, we will want to get to work on several possibilities for research projects that are currently on the table,” says Steve Vallas, chair of Sociology and Anthropology and acting director of the center.

Current projects are supported by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the Brookings Institution, and the Georgia Governor’s Office.

“I’m sensing an accumulation of momentum, which I find most exciting,” Vallas adds.

For more information, see the web site.

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