Four faculty join Social Science Research Institute

Penn State’s Social Science Research Institute (SSRI) recently announced four new co-funded faculty members who will join the institute in the 2018-19 academic year: Maithreyi Gopalan, Alexis Santos, Kenneth Shores, and Ericka Weathers.

Maithreyi Gopalan, assistant professor of education in the department of education policy studies, conducts research on social and educational policy. Dr. Gopalan's current work is aimed at illuminating the causes and consequences of racial and socioeconomic disparities in students' non-cognitive educational outcomes across the educational spectrum in the U.S. using quasi-experimental and field experimental methods.

Alexis Santos, assistant professor of human development and family studies, is an applied demographer, population health scientist, and quantitative sociologist. Dr. Santos's recent research includes a study of the effects of Hurricane María on Puerto Rican families. His work has been critical in providing an accurate calculation of the death rate attributable to the hurricane.

Kenneth Shores, assistant professor of human development and family studies, focuses on education inequality and policy tools for its remediation, with emphasis on quantitative methodologies. Incorporating both quasi-experimental and descriptive methods using large data sets, he examines policies and contexts that affect student learning, particularly the learning outcomes of disadvantaged students. Currently, Dr. Shores is researching the heterogeneity of effects of school finance reform and the impact of the Great Recession on student achievement.  

Ericka Weathers, assistant professor of education in the department of education policy studies, also focuses on education disparities.  Dr. Weathers is currently studying the relations between patterns of segregation in school districts and school district revenue over time. Her findings have shown that after controlling for poverty and other district characteristics, increases in racial segregation are associated with disparities in school district revenue.

“Our new faculty colleagues will advance SSRI's mission to promote interdisciplinary research that addresses critical human and social problems,” said Susan McHale, director of SSRI and distinguished professor of human development and family studies.  "The focus of their research aligns with SSRI's strategic aim of reducing social disparities and also is consistent with the University's strategic priority of reducing health disparities."

SSRI is one is one of five, cross-university research institutes supported by the Office of the Vice President for Research, bringing together researchers from a range of disciplines around emerging areas of study and by providing consultation, financial support, and shared infrastructure development and services to social and behavioral scientists at Penn State. SSRI provides salary support for 46 faculty members from 12 departments in five colleges.