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Current projects

Several projects are in various stages of development.

Science and engineering workforce

Many policymakers are greatly concerned with the numbers and quality of “STEM” workers in the US. They are concerned in part because they–along with many leaders in business and education–believe that STEM workers are keys to innovation and economic growth. Another reason for the concern is that though the number of STEM jobs is projected to grow considerably in the next decade, women and minorities remain greatly underrepresented in STEM, and there are concerns that these populations are missing out. With my colleague Kevin Lewis, and with the support the Sloan Foundation and the National Science Foundation, I am exploring the role of training in the development of the science and engineering/STEM workforce, as well as exploring the differing pathways followed by college graduates and advanced degree holders as they move into–and out of–the STEM workforce. These projects will be brought together in a book project that also explores the meaning and history of the STEM acronym, as well as the politics, economics and culture of workforce development policy.

Research universities, regional tech economies, and skill updating for STEM workers

With my colleague Mary Walshok, and with funding from the Spencer Foundation and others, I am examining how research university extension schools can help workers in regional tech economies keep their skill sets up to date, and also how they can help innovative firms secure the “just-in-time” skill delivery they need to make their companies grow. University extension schools (also called continuing education or adult education schools) are neglected in academic research, but can be crucial players in regional tech skill eco-systems at the highest levels of workforce development. These students already have bachelors, and many have masters and doctorates, but their employment may not be secure if their skills are falling out of date. We are exploring regional variations in how these schools play roles in tech economies in San Diego, Seattle,  Chicago and New York.

International students in American higher education

With doctoral candidate Natalie Novick, I am contributed a chapter to an edited volume that seeks to create new directions for the sociology of education (edited by Scott Davies and Jal Mehta). We explore the varying incentives that create the large presence of international students in American research universities, and the politics that sustain this.  Fully 75 percent to advanced degree students in electrical engineering in the US, for example, are international students, and the US leads the world in attracting international students–but the rest of the world is catching up. This is just the first stage of a much larger project on the movements of highly-skilled immigrants around the world.

Comparative immigration

What is a “region”– and how can comparative analysis of immigration help us understand this concept? With David FitzGerald, Javier Moreno Fuentes and Kristin Surak, I am working to answer this question, which is relevant to a lot of comparative social science.  Our primary cases include family reunification in immigration policy as enacted in East Asia, Europe and North America. We started this project before the current refugee crisis in Europe, but it has clear implications for understanding these important developments.

Migration, cities, and the “battle for the brains”

With Scott Blinder (University of Massachusetts-Amherst and Oxford’s Center on Migration, Policy and Society [COMPAS]), Rob McNeil of COMPAS, and doctoral candidate Natalie Novick, I am developing a survey project to learn how potential migrants with advanced STEM skills think about migration, as well as their values, priorities, and perceptions, and how they think about potential destinations, especially cities. The goal would be to understand how this process varies among different types of migrants, as well as to understand what cities can do to attract these important knowledge workers.

California Immigration Research Initiative

With support from the University of California Multi-Campus Research Programs and Initiatives, I participate on a team of scholars from UC-San Diego, UC-Berkeley, UC-Irvine, UCLA and UC-Riverside on an ongoing project to understand patterns of immigration and integration in the state of California.