Chavez to study migration with award from Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation

Rice University sociologist Sergio Chavez will expand his research on internal and international migration during the next academic year, thanks to a career-enhancement award from the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation.


Chavez, an assistant professor of sociology, will use the award’s stipend to study the transnational mobility of migrant workers between an origin community in Mexico and destination communities in Texas and North Carolina. The project is titled “Social Networks and Transnationalism Study.”

“My goal is to produce a detailed account of the everyday experiences of Mexican migrants who live their lives transnationally, with their hearts and minds in Mexico but their physical bodies and everyday lives in the United States,” Chavez said.

Chavez will collaborate with scholars from the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill to conduct a random survey of 500 households in Guanajuato, Mexico, to look at their connections to other parts of the U.S. The survey will examine the importance of networks, how information flows through these networks that allow migrants to access information on jobs in the U.S. and how immigrants in the U.S. remain connected to their communities by communication (for example, phone, computer and email), visits and remittances. The award will also be used to launch a long-term ethnographic study looking specifically at how Mexican migrant roofers mobilize their network ties to find work and how they construct their identity as workers.

“These individuals use these connections to find work in their community of origin in the U.S., and when work is no longer available, they must be able to jump from network to network to find jobs,” Chavez said. “I am more interested in learning more about their networking process.”

The Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation Junior Faculty Career Enhancement Fellowship is available to junior faculty who have completed their third year of teaching and are preparing for tenure. The competitive program provides participants with a yearlong sabbatical, a senior faculty mentor and a three-day retreat.

Chavez will begin the project next month.

About Amy McCaig

Amy is a senior media relations specialist in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.