Translational Research in the College of Humanities and Social Sciences

Cultural Engagement: the first in a series of eight articles

by Anne Reynolds

Translational research is a concept originally considered in the context of scientific investigations: studies that had been done in a basic research setting, but were then translated into practical applications. This idea applies as well to the research done by the college’s faculty members, whose work has a significant impact on the world beyond the campus.

This is the first in a series of eight articles designed to introduce the research being done by college faculty and how it translates into solving societal problems. Each article will summarize the college’s translational research in one of these areas: cultural engagement, economy, education, environmental sustainability, health, national security, violence, and work.

This listing is not a complete picture of the translational work being done by the college faculty. Though some of the research performed within the college may have no obvious direct application outside the campus, it serves to produce more knowledgeable and productive citizens, more constructive and creative problem solvers, and more responsible consumers in our local, national, and global communities.

Translational Research on Cultural Engagement

Much of the research done within the college is multidisciplinary, since a narrow focus on only one field is not likely to yield solutions to complicated societal problems. The college faculty as a whole promotes higher levels of literacy, critical thinking, and cross-cultural awareness, with real implications for transforming society at a local, regional, and global scale.

The Department of Communication, through its Center for Health & Risk Communication, works with minority populations in the United States and with health institutions both at home and abroad to identify specific strategies to reduce information gaps and promote informed decision-making in relation to health. The communication department faculty members who work in the field of media literacy training have focused on “hostile media effect,” where bias in the presentation of news is presumed based upon the perceived partisanship of those delivering the news. Working to mute these effects allows for more critical processing of news content and the promotion of civil discourse.

The Department of Criminology, Law and Society works with immigrant communities in the U.S. to learn about their perceptions of law enforcement, with the specific aim of improving cross-cultural communication.

Faculty in the cultural studies program study cultural practices in relation to changing political economies and social inequalities. Their work seeks to understand and remedy the causes and consequences of war, the production of geographic and class inequities under globalization, and the effects of media representations and new technologies on durable social institutions such as gender, sexuality, and race.

The Department of English addresses discrete social problems, such as the innovative work that combines folklore studies and ethnography to examine how new immigrant populations adapt in the U.S. The department’s Speech Accent Archive transforms phonological research into an interactive repository of accented English. Because research shows that people often mistrust people who speak with accents other than their own, the archive helps to promote cross-cultural awareness. Additionally, the site can contribute to accent identification (a particular concern of the defense department) and to the development of speech recognition software.

Much of the translational research in the Department of History and Art History is done by the Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media, which has built widely used tools, like and, that allow for the display and sharing of research materials as well as archive and museum collections. These projects allow for the free sharing of historical information which, in turn, helps solve social problems relating to collective memory and public history.

The New Century College faculty engages in interdisciplinary research on global human rights and social justice issues, conservation and environmental sustainability policies, and teacher education preparedness and effectiveness.

The faculty members of the Department of Economics and the Department of Public and International Affairs, alike, perform research into social and public policy issues that pertain to domestic and global economics, management, law, and human resources.

Translational research in the Department of Psychology develops interventions designed to increase the characteristics associated with success among cultural, ethically, and/or linguistically diverse children.

Global Religion and Civil Society: A Cross Cultural Research Project (GRCS), sponsored by the Department of Religious Studies, will draw from the fields of political philosophy, religious studies, and law in order to analyze the role of faith in different cultures.

Scholars affiliated with the women and gender studies program analyze a wide range of inequalities, particularly those associated with race, class and gender. They also shed light on global issues of human rights, violence and gender.

The faculty that comprises the Department of Modern and Classical Languages promotes cultural literacy, critical thinking, and cross-cultural awareness. Scholars are currently conducting research pertaining to language and ideologies in the U.S., critical pedagogy and community-service learning, second language acquisition theory and praxis. Literary scholars with an interdisciplinary and transnational focus deal with cultural practices in relation to human rights, exile, immigration, and social justice.

The diverse fields of research covered in the college reflect the diversity of the departments housed within the college, and this research has real impact for scholars and for society alike.