NSF Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU):

The Scope and Consequences of Hate Crime Victimization in the South

The Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) Program offers 10 talented undergraduates a funded opportunity to engage in research to understand the 1) experiences, perceptions, and concerns of Muslims in Arkansas with regard to stigmatization and victimization based on religion, 2) the extent and scope of anti-Muslim hate crimes in Arkansas, 3) policies, procedures, and decision-making processes of the law enforcement who handle hate crime incidents in Arkansas, and 4) perceptions of lawmakers as to the extent of hate crimes against Muslims, as well as the obstacles in passing hate crime legislation in Arkansas. This REU site is funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the primary goal is to provide strong undergraduate students with the opportunity to work with faculty on research projects that can make a meaningful impact in the community and discipline (Award no. 2050161).

Program Objectives

The objectives of this program are to provide in-depth mentorship in theory, skills, and application to cultivate research curiosity, motivate students to conduct independent research, and apply research findings to real-world issues. We accomplish this by:

  • Engaging students in experiential research through faculty mentorship.
  • Providing and cultivating experiences that involve theory, research skills, and application through workshops and interactions with criminal justice professionals and community partners.
  • Increasing knowledge about substantive areas (e.g., hate crimes, Islamophobia, criminal justice responses), methodological techniques (e.g., framing and developing research questions, building sound research design, data collection, coding and analyzing data from the field), and increase participants’ ability to conduct independent research.
  • Strengthening professional skills (academic writing, engaging with community stakeholders, and presenting academic research).
  • Inspiring and motivating students to continue conducting research and attend graduate school.

These goals and objectives are accomplished by a collaboration of five faculty members, who are dedicated to student success and have a track record of conducting meaningful research with undergraduate students.

Benefits to Students

Students who are selected for this program will engage in a number of activities to enhance their research and professional skills.

  • First-Hand Research Experience
  • Faculty Mentor Meetings
  • Research and Professional Development Workshops
  • Professional Talks and Discussions
  • Graduate Student Presentations and Interactions
  • Site Visits and Social Activities

Each student will also receive a $600 stipend per week ($4,800 total), $300 per week for meals ($2,400 total), and free campus housing.  We will also students with an office, computer, and software necessary to work on research projects.

Research Projects

Each summer over three years, a cohort of 10 students will work on one of four projects that focus on Muslim experiences with hate crimes, discrimination, and stigmatization in Arkansas.

Year 1 – Experiences of Hate Crimes, Discrimination, and Stigmatization among Muslims in Arkansas: A Qualitative Analysis

Researchers have documented the difficulty of accurately capturing hate crime incidences and victimization experiences. Based on underreporting concerns of anti-Muslim hate crimes, it is necessary to look beyond official crime statistics to accurately measure anti-Muslim hate crime incidents and experiences in the United States. One approach that has been useful for overcoming the barriers to reporting crime has been through interviewing and surveying victims of crimes. In year one, students and faculty mentors will conduct face-to-face interviews with members of the Muslim community in Arkansas to better understand the context and incidences of anti-Muslim hate crime in the state. Our goal is to interview approximately 15-30 Muslims in the community through a purposive snowball sample. This process will give students a valuable opportunity to actively engage in research with those affected by anti-Muslim sentiments in the community.

Year 2 – Statewide Survey of Muslim Experiences of Hate Crimes, Discrimination, and Stigmatization

In year two, we will use the findings from the qualitative interviews conducted in year one to construct a survey questionnaire that will be distributed to Muslims across the state. By conducting an online survey, our goal is to gauge the scope and extent of anti-Muslim hate crimes and discrimination in the state. In addition, we hope to gather a broader understanding of the context in which hate crimes against Muslims occur and their responses to such victimization.

Year 3 – Qualitative Interviews with Police Officers and Policymakers
Qualitative Interviews with Police Officers

This project will examine the extent of police experiences dealing with hate crimes in Arkansas. Little is known about what happens to hate crime cases after incidents are reported to the police. Police officers have discretion in deciding whether to pursue reported crimes, which can be affected by several factors, including agency, departmental characteristics, the personal attributes of the officer. This project will also examine what influences police officer decisions to pursue crimes against protected groups, how they define hate crimes, and their experiences responding to hate crimes. We will conduct interviews with 15-30 police officers across various levels of law enforcement in Arkansas, including municipal, county, state, and federal law enforcement. Police officers will be recruited using purposive snowball sampling for one-on-one interviews to explore experiences.

Qualitative Interviews with Policymakers

In year three, we will interview policymakers in Arkansas to understand their perceptions of 1) the obstacles in passing hate crime legislation, 2) the extent of hate crimes occurring in the state, specifically against Muslim residents, and 3) their responses to hate crime incidents. In this project, students will learn about the policy process in criminal justice and the perspectives of criminal justice agents and policymakers to state responses to crime. We plan to interview 15-30 state policymakers using a purposive, snowball sample. Policymakers will include members of the Arkansas State Executive Branch, Legislative Branch, and Judicial Branch. We will use semi-structured interviews intended to gather information about experiences and perceptions of hate crimes and anti-Muslim prejudice in the state, along with their knowledge about the policy process and predictions for future hate crime legislation.

Who Should Apply?

Any student who is currently a sophomore, junior, or senior in an undergraduate college/university is eligible to apply.  We strongly encourage students who are interested in graduate education in criminal justice or a related field.  We are also committed to working with students who are in underrepresented groups in criminology and criminal justice.

Applicants must be:

  1. An undergraduate student who is in good standing at their academic institution and currently enrolled in classes.
  2. An undergraduate student who is has a 3.0 and above GPA at their current academic institution.
  3. An undergraduate student who is a U.S. citizen, U.S. nationals, or permanent resident of the United States.
  4. An undergraduate student who is willing to relocate to Little Rock, AR for 8 weeks during the summer.

Application Process

To apply for this program, students will need to:

  1. Submit the application form.
  2. Submit an unofficial college transcript submitted to nsfreu@ualr.edu.
  3. Select and notify two professors of your choosing to write letters of recommendation on your behalf. In the application form, you will be asked to submit their names and contact information. A separate email from our team will be sent directly to the letter writers to submit their recommendations.

The application deadline is March 1st, 2022  Soon thereafter, the selection committee will review the applications and finalists will be contacted for an email, phone, or Zoom interview.  Students selected for the program will be notified by April 1st, 2022.