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Research (and a reunion) 10 years in the making

Dr. Paul Croll brings part of the 'Boundaries in the American Mosaic' project to Augustana

May  07, 2013

It’s a dream 10 years in the making. Even as a graduate student Dr. Paul Croll saw the potential of the American Mosaic Project and the information such a study could provide. The idea of continuing a project of that scale never left his mind. So after years of hard work and effort, Dr. Croll is thrilled to be able to once again work with mentors and a former classmate from graduate school to conduct a second round of this national survey.

This reunion of scholars includes three faculty members who once served as Dr. Croll’s graduate school advisors at the University of Minnesota, and one former classmate who now is a faculty member at the University of Delaware. Together they will lead a new project, “Boundaries in the American Mosaic: Inclusion and Exclusion in the Contemporary United States.”

The research project, funded by a six-figure National Science Foundation (NSF) grant, will provide an understanding of how race and religion, as aspects of social location and identification, shape how Americans make sense of their own lives, understand who is like them and who is different, and think about the broader society and public good. To do this, the team will survey a representative sample of 3,000 American this summer and fall with the assistance of a small team of Augustana students.

An assistant professor of sociology, Dr. Croll joined Augustana in 2008. He credits the original American Mosaic Project for his career path and is thrilled by the connections to the previous study and the people with whom he worked.

The new project, which he will begin on this summer, extends the efforts of the original project by replicating specific items from the earlier study in order to establish trend data for its more innovative and influential findings; this includes items on cultural membership, anti-Semitism, conceptions of diversity, white identity and views of religious minorities.

In addition, the project will include new survey questions to extend research in four interconnected substantive areas: (1) Americans’ understandings of social solidarity and collective identity; (2) Americans’ explanations for inequality, equal opportunity and colorblindness; (3) white privilege and white racial identity; and (4) religious exclusion.

“Collecting new survey data in these areas is important in an era in which understandings of the dynamics of racial and religious inclusion and exclusion within American society are changing rapidly,” Dr. Croll said.

As he looks ahead, Dr. Croll appreciates the role Augustana College had in moving the project forward. “Everyone always loved the idea of doing it again, but we didn’t know when or where,” he said.

He credits research support funding from Augustana. This support got the ball rolling and allowed for a summer 2009 meeting at the University of Minnesota. He said if it weren’t for funds to buy his plane ticket and attend a face-to-face meeting, “We might all still be saying, ‘Gosh, we really should do a follow-up study someday.’”

Augustana students are part of the Mosaic

Dr. Croll sees opportunity in this new project for Augustana students. “They will be research assistants and have the opportunity to do graduate level work,” he said. About 25 sociology and psychology majors have expressed interest in the work. Dr. Croll is interviewing those students, with the intent to hire three to five of them to work with him throughout the 2013-14 academic year on survey construction, pre-testing and developing preliminary analyses and results.

Quick facts

2003 American Mosaic Project Survey

• The original Mosaic Project was the first of its kind to address whiteness and white privilege at a national level.

• The data also led to discoveries about Americans’ perceptions of atheists, diversity, racial attitudes and anti-Semitism.

• The original project was funded by the David Edelstein Family Foundation.

• Survey data was collected by phone.

• 2,000 people were surveyed.

2013 American Mosaic Project Survey 

• The research team submitted proposals to the NSF three years in a row before the project was finally awarded.

• The total project budget is just over $250,000, with Augustana receiving just under $150,000.

• Augustana’s portion of the budget is the largest, because it covers survey costs.

• Survey data will be collected online.

• 3,000 people will be surveyed.

• This national survey will provide data to faculty, students, researchers, and policy makers for years to come.

Keri Rursch
Director of Public Relations
(309) 794-7721
kerirursch@augustana.edu