Since 2002, UNT faculty members have received almost $3 million in external funding to support immigrant-related research. In fall 2009, the university founded the Immigrant Research and Policy Center in an effort to encourage interdisciplinary research in this area.
The center's primary goal is to become a nationally recognized source and repository of immigrant-related research. The center will help UNT researchers synchronize their immigrant-related research efforts, allowing for increased scholarly collaborations and improved competitiveness for external grants. Initially, faculty from five of the UNT colleges will participate: Arts and Sciences, Business, Education, Public Affairs and Community Service and Visual Arts and Design. Eventually, the center will expand to include researchers from UNT Dallas and the UNT Health Sciences Center in Fort Worth.
"This center will be an asset not only to the university and its faculty, but also to the community at large. The center will support interdisciplinary research, encourage a higher level of scholarship and allow our researchers to answer important immigrant-related questions in a comprehensive manner," says Wendy K. Wilkins, UNT provost and vice president for academic affairs.
Todd Jewell, professor of economics at UNT, will serve as director of the IRPC. According to Jewell, the center's research programs will be far-reaching, covering all elements of the immigrant experience. The center's research will not be strictly focused on Hispanic immigration to the U.S., but will instead examine the immigration experiences of populations in many different regions of the world.
"Researchers at UNT have the unique benefit of being located in a diverse region of the country. Texas has the third-highest concentration of immigrants in the nation," Jewell says. "We are not only at the epicenter of the debate over immigration from Mexico to the United States, but we also have large populations of political refugees and immigrants from South America, Central America and Asia. This center will allow us to study all of these populations from a number of different perspectives."
In addition to research, members of the IRPC will conduct outreach activities such as academic conferences, faculty presentations and non-academic lectures. Jewell also hopes to establish and maintain connections with researchers, universities and organizations around the nation and the world that are interested in understanding the immigrant experience.
Alyssa Yancey with UNT News Service can be reached at Alyssa.Yancey@unt.edu.