I joined the Sociology faculty at USU in August 2012, after completing my Ph.D. at the University of Texas, Austin. I came somewhat late to the wonderful world of sociology. I have a bachelor’s degree in International Relations, and a master’s degree in Russian Studies, and worked for three years as an event planner and editor at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, DC. During that time, I became intrigued by the issue of migration in the former Soviet Union. A huge region of the world, undergoing tremendous social change, and experiencing massive international migration for the first time in recent history – what might the consequences of this explosion of migration be, for the migrants themselves, and for the development of the Soviet successor states?
Although my research interests have developed over the years, questions of migration remain central. I still love doing research in and about the former Soviet Union. I’ve studied four different languages of the region (Russian, Georgian, Tajik, and Uzbek), and I find that the region’s dramatic social and institutional change provide a productive but underutilized field for sociological research. In particular, I’ve become interested in the ways that both cultural institutions (like gender norms) and formal institutions (like healthcare systems and visa policies) influence both the process of migration and its consequences for society. I’m starting to apply ideas from my FSU research to issues of migration to the United States as well. After all, Utah is also a place that has recently experienced historically unprecedented levels of international immigration, and is experimenting with institutional change in order to deal with this new reality.
I love working with graduate students who are interested in international research, but I’ve also had good experiences working with graduate students whose interests lie mostly within the U.S. Since research on the U.S. is a new area for me, I’m always looking for research assistants who have experience with immigrant populations in the U.S. or with doing research with U.S. data.
On a personal note, I’m a former Illinois farm girl, turned steadfast urbanite, turning northern Utahn. I’m a convert to hiking and gardening; skiing – not so much. I love exploring the area with my husband (Scott) and son (Joel).
Current research projects
People, Power, and Conflict in the Eurasian Migration System. As part of this NSF/DoD-funded research project (which officially ended in August 2013), I collected survey data (in collaboration with researchers from the University of Texas, the University of Arizona, and Moscow State University) on the experiences of Azerbaijani, Georgian, Tajikistani and Vietnamese labor migrants in three cities in Russia. Although the data collection phase of the project is over, there is still a great deal to be done in terms of analyzing the survey, which includes information on migration histories, migrants’ physical and mental health, integration into the Russian labor market, social networks, and remittance behaviors.
State-level Immigration Management in the United States (with Dr. Christy Glass and Dr. Peggy Petrzelka). In the absence of federal action on immigration reform, many states have taken up the role of legislating and enforcing migration, including Utah, which has developed the first ever state-level guestworker program. Our research explores that factors that explain why different states have taken such different approaches to migration policy, and the consequences of these policies for migration patterns, employer recruitment, and social services access for immigrants.
Gendered Patterns of Immigration to New U.S. Destinations. While migration from the 1960s through the 1980s was directed toward a few “gateway” states, recent migrants are increasingly choosing destinations outside of major metropolitan areas, establishing communities in rural areas of the West, Midwest, and Southeast that had previously seen little migration. In this project, I am working to identify gendered migration patterns across new destination states, and test possible reasons for these patterns, including occupational segregation, gendered migrant networks, destination-state migration policy, migrants’ perceptions of social and cultural conditions at the destination, and lack of social power among women in some sending countries.