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WSU receives $3 million for graduate research to improve Columbia River

With a new National Science Foundation grant, Washington State University will prepare graduate students to tackle a difficult problem that is more than 1,200 miles long: the Columbia River.

The five-year, $3 million award will fund a research training program focused on the relationships among rivers, watersheds, and communities. The program is intended to transform graduate science education, creating a diverse workforce that will not just conduct research but also first engage with the many communities that depend on the Columbia for clean water and food.

Dylan Bugden.
Erica Crespi.
Alex Fremier.

The training program will be run by WSU’s Center for Environmental Research, Education and Outreach or CEREO, which brings together hundreds of WSU faculty from multiple disciplines. CEREO’s interim director, Boll is a civil and environmental engineering professor, and his co-principal investigators on this project are Dylan Bugden in sociology, Erica Crespi from the School of Biological Sciences, Alexander Fremier from the School of Environment, and Zoe High Eagle Strong from the Nez Perce Tribe who directs the WSU Center for Native American Research and Collaboration.

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WSU Insider


As the delta variant grips Washington state, Latino population faces steep COVID risk

Teresa Bendito-Zepeda and a few companions went door to door during a summer morning last month, coaxing the farmworkers at this migrant housing complex to a pop-up COVID-19 vaccination clinic in an empty apartment.

Anna Zamora-Kapoor.

Anna Zamora-Kapoor, an assistant professor in sociology and medical education and clinical sciences at Washington State University, said repeated nudges for people to embrace vaccination are important.

Latinos are not generally reluctant to be vaccinated and will do so if access is easy and they can ask questions of a Spanish-speaking provider, Zamora-Kapoor said.

“If I had to run a campaign to promote the COVID-19 vaccine, I would say something along the lines of, ‘the best gift for your family is to get vaccinated,’ ” she said. “The idea is to emphasize that the vaccine is protecting not just you, but also your family and those around you, those you love.”

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The Seattle Times

Professor Julie Kmec to chair sociology

Julie Kmec

An expert in work organizations and workplace diversity, Professor Julie Kmec will serve as chair of the Department of Sociology at Washington State University, effective Aug. 15, 2021.

“Bringing a wealth of skills and experience in teaching, research and leadership to her new post, Dr. Kmec is well equipped to build upon the sociology department’s long history of examining and engaging the challenges of our increasingly diverse and international society,” said Todd Butler, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences.

“Since the pandemic allowed us to reflect on our academic values, work habits and workloads, my vision for the department centers on utilizing these collective reflections to support and advance student engagement, graduate mentoring and faculty life,” Kmec said. She further envisions strengthening and expanding intra-departmental research collaborations and enabling more graduate and undergraduate students to be exposed to a wider range of career options.

Kmec succeeds Monica Johnson, who will return to the sociology faculty after four years as department chair.

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WSU Insider

Plastic waste has some economic benefit for developing countries

For decades, wealthy nations have transported plastic trash, and the environmental problems that go with it, to poorer countries, but researchers have found a potential bright side to this seemingly unequal trade: plastic waste may provide an economic boon for the lower-income countries.

Jennifer Givens.
Yikang Bai.

In a study published in the Journal of World Systems Research, Washington State University sociology PhD alumni Yikang Bai and Jennifer Givens analyzed 11 years of data on the global plastics trade against economic measures for 85 countries. They found that the import of plastic waste was associated with growth in gross domestic product per capita in the lower-income countries.

“Our study offers a nuanced understanding of the global trade in plastic waste,” said Bai, lead author on the study. “Media coverage often has a narrative that developed countries shift environmental harms to less developed countries. There’s another layer of the story: plastic waste could be used as a resource first, even though ultimately it could still add to the environmental burdens of less-developed countries.”

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WSU Insider
Scrap Monster


Looking at the data: Portland crime during the pandemic

Portland, Oregon, saw a 60 percent increase in the number of homicides in 2020 compared to 2019.

The 56 homicides the police bureau reported in 2020 is a massive jump from the 35 reported in 2019 and more than double the numbers reported in 2018 and 2017. However, the sudden spike in homicides isn’t a problem exclusive to Portland.

Clayton Mosher.

Clay Mosher, a sociology professor at Washington State University Vancouver who studies crime trends, said to be cautious when comparing cities directly.

“You’ve heard the term comparing apples to oranges and comparing across cities… might be equivalent to comparing apples to broccoli, or perhaps even comparing apples to steak,” he said.

Mosher said there are a lot of factors to consider including demographic differences across cities, levels of poverty, median income, the number of police officers per capita, and segregation.

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