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Students' Understandings of Race: Interactions Between White Students and Students of Color in Racial Dialogues


Description of the research project:

We are interested in finding students who will assist in identifying and interpreting themes about race and racial interactions (as identities, as sets of social interactions, as social/cultural processes, and as elements of social/educational structures) in student papers and interviews. Students taking LSA academically-credited racial dialogues within the Intergroup Relations reported:

-What they were taught, explicitly and implicitly, about race

-The nature and importance of their racial identity to themselves

-Their experiences with racial discriminations and/or advantages

-The nature of intra- and inter- group processes/interactions in racial dialogues

-The particular impact of being white, or being a person of color, in dialogues

Among the themes and issues that have already emerged in this research are:

- Recognizing and dealing with whiteness as a societal norm

- Perceptions of and interactions with students of other races/ethnicities

- The role of comfort and conflict in dialogic encounters

- Understandings of the nature of racial privilege, power and oppression


Description of work:

Students will be oriented to the data set and the basic principles of qualitative research methods and data analysis. They will read through student papers and transcribed interview material and implement a coding system for identifying and categorizing statements about the above racial issues/dynamics, especially their interactions in racial dialogues. Subsequently, they will conduct preliminary forms of data analysis on these coded materials and help interpret the results. Students will then identify a piece of sociological/social-psychological analysis that interests them and will follow through to create a research-oriented paper. Throughout, they will read and discuss chapters from a research textbook, as well as academic articles on relevant race-related topics. Several students are already involved in this project, so attention will be paid to team interactions and checks of reliability and validity in coding and interpreting material.


Supervising faculty member:

Mark Chesler (Emeritus Professor of Sociology and staff in the Program on Intergroup Relations - Intergroup Dialogues), Kelly Maxwell (Office of the Dean, LSA).


Contact information: Chesler - ‘’, ‘’


Average hours of work per week: 6-8


Range of credit hours student can earn: 2-3


Number of positions available: 2