From the College of Humanities and Social Sciences
Snapshots in Learning
Luz Maria Carreno

Studying immigration is personal for Luz Maria Carreno.

Finding a Voice

Luz Maria Carreno was born in Utah, the child of Hispanic immigrants. She grew up hearing debates about immigration issues in the United States where often little was resolved, and comments relied more on hardened beliefs rather than facts. Carreno, an honors student and sociology major, studies immigration issues because she wants to provide real substance to the conversation.

“Studying immigration is personal for me. I have grown up talking to many people about the struggles they face as immigrants,” Carreno said. “It is such an important and hot button issue. I don’t think people often know enough about immigrants to make decisions that affect them.”

Last summer, Carreno was one of only eight undergraduates nationwide selected to participate in a prestigious summer research program at the Population Research Center at the University of Texas at Austin. The Research Experience for Undergraduates Summer Institute is funded by the National Science Foundation and provides a mentored research experience for college juniors interested in pursuing graduate work in population studies.

Amy Bailey, an assistant professor of sociology, forwarded an email to her Social Inequality class about the summer research opportunity focusing on race and immigration in the United States. Carreno was quick to apply.

“I had never performed research before, but I want to go to graduate school and this was a good experience gaining the research skills I will need,” she said. “I didn’t really believe I had a chance. Only eight people in the whole country get accepted. I think that because of Professor Bailey I got it. She took the time to help with my personal statement and helped me show that I really wanted this opportunity.”

During the summer, Carreno examined new and old destination states of Hispanic immigrants, searching for patterns and differences in lifestyle. She looked at factors such as home ownership, citizenship, and education to determine if populations shifted to areas with more economic and social opportunity.

States like Texas, California and New York have long been targeted as migration states for Hispanic immigrants. However, Carreno was more interested in learning about social incorporation of Hispanics in states like Georgia, North Carolina, and South Carolina compared to states like Texas, California, and New York.

Back at USU, Carreno is continuing her research through the lens of volunteering with sociology professor Edna Berry. She wants to determine whether religion influences volunteering and the political views among Hispanics.

“Incorporation is about becoming involved in your community. Volunteering gives you skills, often leadership skills,” Carreno said. “It is one way you can also have your voice heard.”