Social Science Applied Research Center

Current Projects

Title: A Cross-Cultural Assessment of Political Science Education and Current Events

Principal Investigators: Drs. Aaron King, Amna Mahmood, J. Benjamin Taylor, Manzoor Ahmad, Sadaf Farooq, and Daniel Masters (professors from UNCW and International Islamic University, Islamabad Pakistan)

Project Summary: Scholars of political science and international relations use the scientific method to evaluate political phenomena in a variety of settings, which cuts across language and cultural barriers. Understanding the complex interactions of political institutions and human behavior is a complicated endeavor in all societies, yet it is even more challenging given the effects of partisanship and ideology that accompany both faculty and students into the classroom. Taking an empirical approach to the study of politics gives us leverage to explain the world around us, and the marketable skills we cultivate in our students are numerous (e.g., critical thinking, applied learning, and problem solving). In this paper, we analyze the results of a unique survey instrument that measures the perceptions of the field of political science and international relations and our own delivery of such a curriculum among students at UNCW and IIUI. In addition, we evaluate students’ awareness and attitudes of current events within the United States and Pakistan. In a world of increased globalization, our research offers suggestions to improve the quality of instruction, increase the substantive knowledge of our students regarding global politics, and encourage cross-cultural dialog built upon the universal language of the scientific study of politics.


Title: Drug Treatment Courts: Breaking the Cycle of Addiction & Criminal Involvement

Partner Agency: New Hanover County (NC) Drug Treatment Court Program

Project Summary: Drug treatment courts (DTC) have been identified as an effective alternative to incarceration for defendants with substance use/abuse issues. DTC programs offer individuals the opportunity to receive the treatment needed to help break the cycle of addiction and criminal involvement. While extant literature has identified various “best practices” for DTCs, it is important for DTC programs to uncover what works for their participants. To this end, the current project involves partnering with the New Hanover Drug Treatment Court to conduct qualitative interviews with past and present participants. Specifically, this project seeks to develop an understanding of participants’ perceptions and attitudes regarding the effectiveness of the NHC DTC. These data will provide the NHC DTC will valuable information that will assist in program modifications and improvements.

Recent Projects

Title: Developing a Case Management Database for the RESET Program

Partner Agency: Coastal Horizons Center, Inc.

Project Summary: Reentry Systems of Effective Treatment (RESET), a criminal justice program for women with co-occurring disorders at Coastal Horizons Center, Inc. (CHC), was implemented within New Hanover County in May 2015 through a grant from the Bureau of Justice Assistance. While the program has seen much success, a major challenge facing RESET, as well as other programs of this type, is the lack of a reliable and useful case management database. To this end, the current project seeks to assist RESET with the development and implementation of a case management database, which will greatly improve the program’s efficiency, functionality and effectiveness. Through an interdisciplinary collaboration, Drs. Lanier and DeVall, and Brandon Harris, a graduate student in computer science, will work with CHC, the community partner, to develop and implement a database for the RESET program.


Title: Using Data to Meet the Needs of the Homeless within the Cape Fear Region

Partner Agency: Continuum of Care Cape Fear Council of Governments

Project Summary: The issue of homelessness within the Cape Fear Region has been identified as a local social problem. According to the 2015 point-in-time count (taken on 1/28/15), a total of 390 individuals in Brunswick, New Hanover, and Pender counties met HUD’s definition of “homeless.” This figure represents an increase from 2014 (count taken on 1/29/14), where 322 individuals were identified as such. The Continuum of Care (COC) is an alliance of service providers, local government agencies, and other public interests whose common goal is the reduction and ultimate elimination of homelessness in the Cape Fear Region. This agency provides administrative support and funding to myriad service provider agencies that serve the homeless population on a daily basis. Given the mission of the COC, it is imperative that the data being collected by COC-funded service provider agencies is analyzed in the aggregate to ensure the services being provided are appropriate given the needs of the target population. Moreover, more detailed analyses can identify met/unmet needs and barriers unique to specific sub-groups. To date, the COC does not have the capacity to undertake such a data analysis effort given limited staffing and other resources.


Title: Brunswick County Housing Affordability Study

Partner Agency:Brunswick Family Assistance

Project Summary: Housing affordability has been identified as a significant social problem across the US, including Southeastern North Carolina. For example, data regarding Brunswick County reveals a significant gap between the average median rent and the maximum rent minimum wage workers can afford. Moreover, a substantial portion of residents in Brunswick are a classified as housing-cost burdened given that they spend more than 30% of their income on housing. Significant impediments to addressing this issue are the myths and misunderstandings associated with housing affordability. Thus, an important first step in identifying solutions to housing affordability is to gather information from community residents regarding their perceptions of this topic so that community leaders have a complete picture when making decisions and developing a course of action. In collaboration with the Brunswick Family Assistance, this project will involve the development and dissemination of a community-based survey examining Brunswick County residents’ perceptions and attitudes regarding housing affordability.