Vilma Garcia, Chicano/Latino studies and Spanish undergraduate, and Katherine Faust, sociology professor are the School of Social Sciences recipients of the 2011 Chancellor’s Awards for Excellence in Undergraduate Research.  Presented at the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program’s 15th annual symposium, the awards recognize Faust’s efforts to foster research among undergraduates, and Garcia’s excellence in undergraduate research.  Faust was also selected by UROP's Faculty Advisory Board, among all faculty award winners for this year, to receive the Special Recognition Award which provides her funding for a new computer. 

Garcia is currently the recipient of UROP support for her senior honors thesis, supervised by Louis DeSipio, Chicano/Latino studies department chair and political science associate professor, which examines campus-based AB 540/unauthorized immigrant student support organizations at California colleges and universities.  She has identified such campus organizations at UCs and Cal States statewide and community colleges in Los Angeles and Orange Counties.  She is in the process of conducting semi-structured interviews with officers and members at a randomly selected subset of these student organizations to assess the levels of campus and faculty support for AB 540 students, the organizational vitality of these groups, and the strategies used by these organizations to advocate on behalf of AB 540 students.  Garcia’s project will contribute to empirical observations on the state of unauthorized students in higher education in the face of the defeat of the DREAM Act in December. 

For at least the last ten years, Faust has always worked with at least one member of the honors thesis cohort in sociology and her students stand out as some of the best students in that program. She consistently makes herself available for mentoring work with the best undergraduate majors in sociology.  Not only have several won the Robin Williams prize for best undergraduate research paper of the year, but nearly all of the have gone on to first rate graduate programs in sociology, law and business.  Since 2003, Faust has worked with seven UROP students; five of whom have presented at the symposium and two (in 2006 and 2009) had their research selected for publication in the journal.

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