UA Graduate Students Win Funding to Pursue Overseas Research

Lori Harwood
June 11, 2007

Graduate students in The University of Arizona department of geography and regional development had a strong showing in this spring's competition for funding doctoral research in three separate and very competitive award categories.

Four students - Heidi Hausermann, Katie Meehan, Brian Marks and Sara Smith - received Fulbright-Hays scholarships from the U.S. Department of Education. The grants fund doctoral research for six to 12 months in other countries. The total award to the UA this year for these scholarships is $91,508. (

Meehan and Smith also received the prestigious International Dissertation Research Fellowships (IDRF) from the Social Science Research Councils (SSRC) ( These awards support graduate students in the humanities and social sciences conducting dissertation research outside the United States. Only one other UA student has ever received an SSRC IDRF award.

Meehan and Hausermann also earned Doctoral Dissertation improvement grants from the Geography and Regional Science Program of the National Science Foundation. Both proposals were ranked in the "highest priority" category by the review panel.

"I am pleased for these young scholars and for the department," said John Paul Jones III, head of the department of geography and regional development. "The awards also reflect well on the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences (SBS) and the Graduate College, both of which have done a great deal to help doctoral students reach their full potential."

"This is a remarkable showing for the UA and for SBS, to have such a strong set of students from one department recognized for their advanced scholarship at the national level," said Andrew Comrie, dean of the Graduate College. "Twenty percent of the University's Ph.D. programs have been ranked within the top 20 in their fields. This achievement is a great example of the top-notch quality of graduate education at the UA."

The students and their research areas include:

Heidi Hausermann: "Agro-Ecosystems, Rural Livelihoods and the Politics of Commodity Re-regulation in Veracruz's Coffee Lands."

"I'm interested in understanding how small-scale coffee farmers have organized to secure rights to natural resources and rural livelihoods in the wake of coffee market collapse," says Hausermann. "More specifically, this research will explore how these new social relationships have influenced household livelihood security and land-use change in this shade-grown coffee region. As state agencies have recently emerged to 're-regulate' coffee producers and landscapes, I'm also interested in how these socio-ecological changes are impacting the state's mode of planning in coffee."

Hausermann will conduct interviews, household surveys and participatory workshops with small-scale producers, government officials and other key informants. She also will use community mapping projects and analysis of satellite imagery to assess land-use changes. "I hope the results of this study will be useful for various actors in central Veracruz as they struggle over how to best manage and earn a living from complex social/ecological landscapes," Hausermann said.

Katie Meehan: "Greywater and the Grid: Analyzing Wastewater Reuse in Tijuana."

"Using ethnographic and geospatial techniques, I plan to investigate the socio-ecological impacts of two forms of recycled wastewater (greywater and reclaimed water) in municipal reuse," said Meehan. "I am interested in the alternative economies formed through household water harvesting in Tijuana's low-income colonias. This work looks at the relationship between grid and off-grid water use: how greywater reuse transforms spatial patterns of pollution, infrastructure access, and Tijuana's public-private reclamation efforts."

Brian Marks: "Resilience of Household Commodity Producers Engaged in Export-Oriented Production Against Market Volatility."

Marks will travel to Vietnam to study the role of household economies in export-oriented production, specifically the aquaculture of shrimp in the Mekong Delta. Unlike many examples of export-oriented production, Vietnamese shrimp farming has not undergone consolidation by a few firms, but has maintained a smallholder pattern. This research intends to gauge the household sector's ability to sustain itself or be replaced by other kinds of organization of production.

"I will conduct research with Vietnamese shrimp aquaculturalists on the local consequences of falling international market prices and restrictions on market access for their produce," said Marks. "I have conducted similar research with wild-caught shrimp fishers in Louisiana and this project is in part comparative."

Sara Smith: "Embodied Histories: Women, Ethnicity and Decision-Making in Leh, India."

Smith will explore the ways in which life decisions about marriage and family-rearing are shaped by or themselves shape understandings of community history in Leh, Ladakh - a district of India's Jammu and Kashmir state. With participatory ethnographies, interviews and survey work, she will explore how the past plays into present decision-making at the family level.

"When you ask people in Ladakh about politics and in particular about the connections between religion and politics, they often respond by talking about marriage and birth control," said Smith. " I'm interested in how marriage, birth control and the way these two things are discussed has changed as religious identity has become politicized – and in particular if shared concerns about fertility and marriage can provide a bridge between Buddhist and Muslim women."

For more information, contact Lori Harwood, associate director of external relations in the UA College of Social and Behavioral Sciences, 520-626-3846,, or Georgia Ehlers, coordinator of internships and community engagement, UA Graduate College, 520-621-9103,


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