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Faculty Research Awards

The Institute for Advancing American Values invited Boise State faculty to submit research proposals focused on the values of freedom, opportunity, democracy, free expression and/or other enduring political, economic, and social values. In the best tradition of faculty research, projects will investigate multiple viewpoints, provide original insight, advance new knowledge or angles of analysis, and gather relevant data to answer a clear research question. By supporting such projects, the Institute adds energy to Boise State’s mission as a growing research university, an endeavor dedicated to academic freedom, and study of different ideas in service of knowledge and critical thought. The Institute is pleased to announce recent faculty research award recipients:

2024 Faculty Research Awards

Brian Knox, Associate Professor, Department of Accountancy

Corporations are increasingly divided along ideological lines, with businesses catering to a small subset of Americans while repelling others. This leads to an ideologically segregated economy where boycotts and pressure campaigns are commonplace. This division likely compounds existing ideological divides among customers and employees. In a segregated economy, one rarely interacts with customers or employees of a differing ideological persuasion, limiting opportunities to learn that those with different values can coexist peacefully within American society. Some ideological policies even allow corporations to punish ideological foes in ways that the government cannot due to constitutional protections.

This study employs economic modeling and a behavioral experiment to investigate why companies adopt ideological policies. Specifically, examining the incentive for adopting ideological policies related to more profitable employee effort when companies adopt ideological policies.

Brian Stone, Associate Professor, Department of Psychological Science

Research into misinformation has exploded in recent years. However, detecting misinformation and training/inoculating the public to spot it is only part of the battle. While many people highly value truth, the tactics used by platforms and governments to tackle misinformation run up against other important American values.

The project will collect experimental data to better understand the variables at play when the public is presented with this clash of values. For example, does experimentally priming someone to think about a particular value (vs. another) lead to different preferences related to misinformation and content/speech moderation? Does [trait-level or activated state-level] analytical thinking moderate such an effect? Does the topic/medium of misinformation matter? And how do people feel about AI chatbots contributing to the social media conversation? Does ChatGPT deserve free speech?

Soulit Chacko, Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology

What is the relationship between faith and social action and how does it expand our understanding of humanitarianism, especially when it comes to refugee resettlement? The widening funding gap with shrinking financial and political support, in recent years, both at the Federal and State level towards refugee resettlement has meant that churches and faith-based organizations have been on the front line, providing support towards individual resettlement. While the literature describes faith-based efforts supporting refugees, we are still understanding the scale and distinctiveness of faith-based humanitarianism towards refugee resettlement.

This project will explore the changing nature of humanitarian service by understanding the role of the LDS church on refugee resettlement in Idaho. Through semi-structured interviews with staff and leaders from refugee resettlement agencies and members of the LDS church, this project aims to explore the relationship between the Mormon church’s interest in helping refugees and Refugee Resettlement agencies’ responsibility of resettling refugees.

Symposium for Civic and History Education

The Symposium for Civic and History Education (SCHE) will present Understanding Democracy, the 2024 SCHE conference for Idaho’s Social Studies teachers to support them in their professional and intellectual goals, and to facilitate building networks of educators across the state. The conference offers content-rich and pedagogically sound sessions relevant to Idaho social studies curriculum. During concurrent sessions, teachers can choose from an array of topics, focusing on those that best meet their individual needs and interests. Presenters at concurrent sessions will be Boise State faculty, award-winning master teachers in History and Social Studies, and local or regional scholars with expertise on an aspect of the conference theme.

SCHE are a collaborative group comprising faculty from COAS (John Bieter and Lisa Brady), SPS (Isaac Castellano and Stewart Gardner), and CoED (Sara Fry) working with community partners including Russ Heller, retired Social Studies director for Boise School District, as well as the current Social Studies directors in the Treasure Valley, and colleagues at CWI, CSI, ISU, U of I, and LCSC.

2023 Faculty Research Awards

Anne Hamby, Assistant Professor, Department of Marketing

Abundant research examines self-branding, often in the context of celebrities and influencers, who may have professional self-presentation assistance. Little is known about how everyday people approach self-branding and communicate their personal values, particularly in terms of how people develop their personal brand story. The proposed work will examine how people decide what constitutes their personal brand, and what brand stories to tell. Do they originate from broader cultural narratives, and display consistent themes? This work will be conducted with Boise State MBA students, who will identify their personal values and develop a story that illustrates their corresponding personal brand.

Lisa McClain, Professor of History and Gender Studies, Department of History

Gender, sexuality, and religion all shape society, but we often presume them to be in opposition. This research investigates LGBTQ+ history in Idaho, particularly at the intersections of LGBTQ+ experience and Christianity. My expertise in Gender Studies and the history of Christianity allows me to give an expert voice to LGBTQ+ experience and religious debates and issues surrounding LGBTQ+ individuals’ contested presence, silence, activism, marginalization, and opportunities in the heavily Christian intermountain West with sensitivity to all sides. Through oral histories, interviews, and archival research into LGBTQ+ and church archives from throughout Idaho, I’m uncovering the experiences of LGBTQ+ Christians who have shaped Idaho’s growth and development which, heretofore, have remained largely invisible. Considering current national and state debates on LGBTQ+ issues—particularly those centering on religious values—this timely project will contribute to a respectful, evidence-based dialogue, involving multiple points of view to “spur engagement, understanding, and human connection,” in line with the Institute’s values.

Sophia Borgias, Assistant Professor, Interdisciplinary Programs, School of Public Service

The IAAV grant supports Dr. Borgias’ research about how environmental, ranching, and Indigenous communities are finding common ground around pressing water issues in the American West. She has studied these “unlikely alliances” in two cases of rural-urban water conflicts in the Great Basin, conducting more than 60 interviews and several focus groups with communities in eastern California and eastern Nevada. The IAAV grant will support her travel to share the latest findings with participants, present at a regional conference, and work on other products to reach broader audiences.

Symposium for Civic and History Education

Understanding Democracy, the 2023 SCHE conference for Idaho Social Studies Teachers, will offer content-rich and pedagogically sound sessions for Idaho teachers who can then take what they learn back to their classrooms and students. The conference, to be held at the Center for Visual Arts on Boise State’s campus, includes a keynote address by Johann Neem, professor of History at Western Washington University, on August 3, 2023, that will be open to the public. During concurrent sessions on August 4, teachers will choose from an array of topics, focusing on those that best meet their individual needs and interests. Presenters at concurrent sessions will be Boise State faculty, award-winning master teachers in History and Social Studies, and local or regional scholars with expertise on an aspect of the conference theme. This conference represents an opportunity to build relationships with school districts in Boise and beyond; to facilitate networks between secondary and Boise State teachers state-wide; to showcase Boise State faculty as expert researchers and educators; and to enrich the lives of Idaho students through our outreach.

The Symposium for Civic and History Education (SCHE) is a collaborative group comprising faculty from COAS (John Bieter and Lisa Brady), SPS (Issac Castellano and Stewart Gardner), and CoED (Sara Fry), as well as community partners such as Russ Heller (retired Social Studies director for Boise School District), secondary education Social Studies directors for Treasure Valley school districts, and colleagues at CWI, CSI, ISU, UofI, and LCSC. Our mission is to support civic and history education in Idaho at all levels through an annual conference, an Open Educational Resources website, and a speakers bureau.

2022 Faculty Research Awards

Alessandro Meregaglia, Assistant Professor, Albertsons Library

In 1907, James H. Gipson founded Caxton Printers in Caldwell, Idaho, on the principle of “recognizing struggling writers” who deserved to be published—even if his company made little or no profit.

Gipson lived this philosophy by publishing hundreds of books that wouldn’t have otherwise appeared in print: Caxton published the first book by a Japanese American author, Toshio Mori; Gipson defended the freedom of expression of Samuel Steward, a Washington State professor who was fired after Caxton published his “racy” book; and Caxton published the then-famous novelist Vardis Fisher when East Coast firms rejected Fisher’s latest novel for being “too sexual.” Gipson even defended Ezra Pound’s freedom of speech when Pound was incarcerated for treason.

Meregaglia will examine Gipson’s values, how he defined them, and identify the enduring impact Caxton Printers has had on Idaho and the nation.

Dalten Fox, Graduate Student, Public Policy

The Owyhee Initiative is a collective of stakeholders deemed by other scholars as an “unlikely alliance” due to its longstanding ability to work towards mutually beneficial natural resource policy improvements despite the diversity of stakeholders coming from historically opposed factions of people (Hillis et al. 2020). Ranchers, tribal nations, elected officials from all levels, environmentalists, and recreational groups banded together in Owyhee County, Idaho in the 2000s to collaboratively work towards improved policies regarding the thousands of acres of public lands within the region. Past accomplishments include improved planning, regulation, and enforcement of motor recreation in Sagebrush Steppe Ecosystem Areas, implementation of the Conservation and Research Center within Owyhee County, and recognition by Senator Mike Crapo in his passage of the ‘Owyhee Initiative Legislation’ as part of an Omnibus Lands package passed in 2009.

To better understand the variables at-play within the Owyhee Initiative, Fox plans to conduct a qualitative research project utilizing the Advocacy Coalition Framework to better understand the value systems of the stakeholders at individual and group levels.

Professors Ginna Husting and Marty Orr, Department of Sociology

Conspiracy and conspiracy theory are linked to core values and fears in American culture (corruption, democracy, power, inequality). They are lenses through which we give meaning to the world; they are ways of explaining our history, our lives, our communities, and our hopes for a better future.

But few have listened to Americans’ stories and concerns about conspiracy from “the ground up.” Instead, we tend to impose definitions and assumptions on those we study. Qualitative research can help make clearer sense of this highly polarized landscape where conspiracy claims are deeply interwoven with disinformation, economic uncertainty, fears of instability, and loss.

The research project will convene eight focus groups (rural and urban) to explore people’s stories, beliefs, and concerns around conspiracy and collusion. Based on our prior research, the focus will be on both general questions about power, elites, cover-ups, and more specific questions about the label and the activity of conspiracy theorizing.