In addition to serving as leaders in the Department of Applied Social and Cultural Sciences and its related programs, including human sciences and sociology, both Dr. Stephen Blanchard and Dr. Renelinda Arana, perform one-of-a-kind research with potentially far-reaching impacts in areas like healthcare, higher education and immigration.

Read more below about the professors' involvement in research, community studies and other projects:

Dr. Stephen Blanchard, PhD
Professor of Sociology
Chair, Department of Applied Social and Cultural Sciences
Program Director, Human Sciences


RESEARCH: Link between ambient mercury and the risk of autism

Dr. Blanchard's most current research involves the study of ambient
mercury, which has a statistically significant effect on the risk of autism: where ambient mercury is high, the risk of autism is high. His research has included spatial analysis of the relationship using ambient mercury assessments of the Environmental Protection Agency and counts of autism by school district.

In the photo at left, Dr. Blanchard is interviewed by a production crew from CNN which plans to air a special program on autism that will include excerpts from Dr. Blanchard's research.  Click on the links in the table at right to read more about the research project, which he conducted with lead author Raymond F. Palmer, PhD, associate professor of family and community medicine at the UT Health Science Center San Antonio; and Robert Wood of the UT Health Science Center.

COMMUNITY PROJECT: Chair, 2010 Community Health Assessment
In addition, Dr. Blanchard serves the San Antonio area community as a board member of the Health Collaborative, a group of San Antonio's major healthcare organizations, community groups and businesses, whose goal is to improve the community's health status.  This year, Dr. Blanchard is chair of the 2010 Community Health Assessment, which provides a comprehensive report on health issues facing the city, including the prevalence of certain diseases, the shifting patterns on key health issues, and a survey of the community's resources to determine gaps in health service. Read more about the assessment and Dr. Blanchard's involvement on the Health Collaborative website.  A May 4, 2010, San Antonio Express-News article quotes Dr. Blanchard about the 2010 health assessment, which will examine how a neighborhood's social dynamics can affect health-related behaviors. Click to read the article: "Bexar County's health assessment expanded."

Dr. Renelinda Arana
Student Engagement, Hispanic Identity & Retention
The importance of improving college students' student engagement and success remains a central topic among educational leaders and policy makers (Pascarella & Terenzini, 2005). This study aims to collect and examine both quantitative and qualitative information on undergraduate Hispanic students at Our Lady of the Lake University (OLLU). I hope to assess the interconnection of several important factors that might influence students' overall college experience: students’ self-identification and connection to the Hispanic heritage; students’ engagement in various campus activities and programs; student retention.

Immigrant Incorporation
Continue conducting research on immigration patterns and immigrant issues. Particularly, I aim to explore immigrant activities and their educational and civic incorporation in the United States. Performed rigorous statistical analyses of data collected from individuals & groups. Collaboration with Cristina Escobar, Research Fellow at Princeton University, Center for Migration & Development.

Nicaraguan Refugee Case Study
I am in the process of an ongoing documentary film about Sandra Arana and Family in order to explore the social and economic forces influencing the adaptation of this family. This documentary represents an in-depth case study of refugee life and up-rootedness; family history; social structure and factors explaining success/failure, politics in USA; impact of immigration law on immigrants and Nicaragua politics and civil unrest, etc. From this perspective, it will allow me to examine how the individual and social structure give and take and interact with each other in order to produce various outcomes (again, an major theme of sociological and immigrant studies). The story could be told using three questions. What is the source of these obstacles and their effects on this case study? What are the tools used to overcome these obstacles? What are the results?

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