For two months this summer, you won’t find Gracie Hess poolside or lounging at home with friends and family. You’ll find her in a University of Arkansas at Little Rock classroom, working with professors and seven other students on a high-level, intense research project.
The opportunity is part of the National Science Foundation’s Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program, which brings together research teams of students to work closely with professors at different universities on meaningful projects over the summer. Hess’s team’s project is “The Scope and Consequences of Hate Crime Victimization in the South.”
In the coming weeks, the team will launch a survey to collect data from specific groups of people who have experienced victimization and also law enforcement officers.
“We are focusing on the Muslim experience in Arkansas specifically and the South more broadly,” said Hess ’24. “Of particular interest are day-to-day experiences of stigmatization and victimization based on religion, their trust in police and policies, and what policies and procedures regarding law enforcement impact this population. It’s something I’ve been interested in for a long time and it touches both of my majors, so I am thrilled to have the opportunity to engage in this work.”
I love how [Dr. Pederson] really builds a personal connection with students and finds opportunities like these that are really meaningful to me.Gracie Hess '24 Tweet This
“I’ve had Dr. Pederson for several research courses and worked on an independent research project with her a few semesters ago,” she said. “She has always encouraged me to trust my skills as a researcher and looks for opportunities for me. I love how she really builds a personal connection with students and finds opportunities like these that are really meaningful to me.”
That connection, coupled with this summer’s research, has even led to Hess exploring different options after she graduates next May, namely graduate school and Ph.D. programs that focus on these type of high-level research projects.
“We aren’t treated like students,” said Hess. “We are treated like colleagues. The project leaders trust us with big tasks like leading focus groups, interviewing people, and crafting survey questions that will gather usable data. We aren’t just learning, we’re engaging.”