PRI affiliate Kathleen Sexsmith, assistant professor of rural sociology in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences, is the recipient of the college's 2017 Roy C. Buck Faculty Award, which recognizes the best article accepted or published by a refereed scholarly journal in the social sciences within the past two years.
Sexsmith will receive the award, which includes a $2,500 stipend and plaque, during the Gamma Sigma Delta Celebration of Excellence to be held on Thursday, March 29, in 112 Forest Resources Building. The celebration begins with a reception in the atrium starting at 4:30 p.m., and the award ceremony begins at 5 p.m.
In her paper, titled "'But We Can't Call 911': Undocumented Immigrant Farmworkers and Access to Social Protection in New York" and published in Oxford Development Studies in June 2016, Sexsmith analyzes access to health care for undocumented Mexican and Central American immigrant farmworkers who live and work on New York dairy farms.
The study assesses the regulatory framework — the conjuncture of immigration, employment and occupational safety and health laws — that results in workers' exposure to workplace safety and health risks. It also analyzes their health care resource environments, meaning whether and how they gain access to medical services in the public, private, third-party and informal sectors.
Based on 43 interviews with undocumented dairy farmworkers and participant observation on farms, Sexsmith found that significant gaps and contingencies exist in undocumented dairy farmworkers' resource environments. The paper suggests that informal networks largely shape their access to the limited available public and third-party health care services.
Gary Thompson, the college's associate dean for research and graduation education, applauded Sexsmith for this important and timely research.
"The health, safety and well-being of all agricultural workers is of great importance to society's future," he said. "To understand any gaps and barriers that exist in these realms is the first step in helping to safeguard the agricultural community."
Sexsmith joined the Department of Agricultural Economics, Sociology, and Education in October 2017. She holds a doctorate in development sociology from Cornell University and a master's degree in development studies from the University of Oxford.
Sexsmith's research focuses on gender and agriculture in both domestic and international contexts. Her current projects explore the social integration of immigrant families working in the Pennsylvania mushroom industry and the impacts of foreign agricultural investments on gender equality in developing countries.
Roy C. Buck, a professor of rural sociology, retired from Penn State in 1981. In 1999, he established the Roy C. Buck Faculty Award because he felt it was important to support nontenured faculty members to encourage their good work.