Four SIS Faculty Receive College Research Award Fund

December 16th, 2021 (Lexington, Kentucky) The College of Communication Information would like to congratulate four faculty members on their awards received from the College Research Activities award fund. Dr. Fatima Espinoza Vasquez, Dr. Firaz Peer, Dr. Sarah Barriage, and Dr. Shannon Oltmann are faculty members in the School of Information Science and will be receiving a total $5,865 for their research projects.

Espinoza and Oltmann are collaborating on research focused on Louisville Latinx immigrants’ use of social media. This project will employ a case study methodology to investigate how Latinx communities in Louisville, Kentucky use social media features to access or protect their civil liberties like freedom of speech, association, and privacy.

“As a researcher, I'm turning new attention to studying social media use, and I'm really excited to partner with Fatima to learn how Latinx communities in particular use different platforms,” said Oltmann.

The project expands on Espinoza’s and Oltmann’s research, indicating marginalized communities translate online activity to on-the-ground-actions to provoke structural changes in society.

“Oltmann’s led study of the use of Twitter by disgruntled government employees showed they created an online social movement that promoted the free flow of information when the state was controlling information. Espinoza’s work shows how Latinx people navigate structural sociotechnical inequalities by creating their own Alternative Sociotechnical Infrastructure.

This study will provide a nuanced understanding of the dynamics of Latinx people, social structures, civil liberties, and social media by focusing on their agency and self-reliance,” said Espinoza.

Peer’s research project is titled “Exploring the Information Infrastructures of Substance Use and Recovery in Kentucky’s Refugee Communities”. The focus of the project is to understand how substance use is impacting refugee communities in Kentucky.

“Refugees come to Kentucky fleeing the political instability, intense trauma, loss, and violence experienced in their home countries. Along with forced displacement and family separation, refugees must acclimate to new jobs, housing, healthcare, and schooling systems in their new host cities. Such pre and post migration stressors have shown to trigger post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, and depression, which puts refugees at a higher risk for substance use disorders,” said Peer.

This project aims to learn about the state of substance abuse within the refugee community in Kentucky and intervene appropriately where possible.

“Although Kentucky ranks among the top five states in terms of number of refugees resettled, we currently know very little about how refugees in Kentucky are coping with substance use disorders and their ability to access information about substance use recovery,” said Peer.

Barriage’s project will explore if, how, and why public library staff in the United States have incorporated content related to justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion (JEDI) into their children’s storytimes. This project will include a review of the news and professional literature for evidence of such content in library storytimes.

“The Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association, has emphasized the importance of diversity and inclusion across all areas of professional practice for public library staff serving children 0-14 years of age. There has been a lot of attention given to the importance of diversity in the books that make up a library’s collection through things like the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign. It’s important to have diverse books in a library’s collection so that all kids can not only see people like themselves represented in the literature, but also see and learn about people who are different from them,” said Barriage.

Congratulations again to these exceptional faculty members on their achievements. We look forward to seeing your research progress in the future.