Atlanta's Immigrant Crossroads: Untapped Potential or Utilized Promise for Newcomer Integration

This project is cross-posted on the Office of Undergraduate Research site.

Project Description

The co-PIs on this project are Dr. Darlene Xiomara Rodriguez (Social Work and Human Services) and Dr. Paul N. McDaniel (Geography and Anthropology). Recently several municipalities in the Atlanta area have declared themselves “welcoming cities” to immigrants and refugees. Atlanta is a new immigrant gateway destination and a region at the crossroads of receptivity (Singer, Hardwick, and Brettel, 2008). The purpose of this study is to examine the barriers to accessing education, citizenship, and employment for the foreign-born population living in Atlanta and identify potential ways to overcome those barriers to maximize the untapped potential—immigrants’ skills and abilities that go uncultivated and unutilized due to systemic barriers—of newcomers in Georgia. The project is designed to incorporate a team of at least four undergraduate researchers (URs) from beginning to end.

Our methodology for this project, which undergraduate researchers will be involved in, is situated within the context of community-based participatory research (CBPR). CBPR involves a partnership approach that equitably includes community members, organizational representatives, and academic researchers in all aspects of the research process. The aim of CBPR is to increase knowledge and understanding of a given phenomenon and integrate the knowledge gained with interventions, policies, and social change to improve the community.

Primary results will inform public, private, and nonprofit sectors’ immigrant integration initiatives on how to better address the needs of several different immigrant population groups related to access to education, citizenship, and employment in areas of expertise. Through this project, we aim to provide research-based information to help organizations create appropriate programs, identify target resources, and inform policy-makers regarding inclusionary practices and investment in civic engagement. As an undergraduate researcher on this project, you will help shape these project outcomes.

Project Departments

Geography & Anthropology 

Social Work and Human Services

Project Status

Ongoing. Seeking researchers to assist with various sub-projects and components of the overall project. 

Researcher Requirements

As an undergraduate researcher on this project, you will be an active research partner helping to shape this applied research project from beginning to end. This project, in partnership with Welcoming America (a national nonprofit organization based in Decatur, GA) and Welcoming Atlanta (an initiative housed in the Atlanta Mayor’s office), will present several significant opportunities for students, including opportunities to help design and shape the focus groups and interviews, including your own questions in the qualitative methodology that will generate data for you to analyze and present findings, contribute to the facilitation of the qualitative methodology, contribute to data analysis, participate in discussions about interpreting the analysis, and present your particular findings from the larger project at the KSU undergraduate research symposium and possibly an external research conference. As part of this project, you may also have the opportunity to earn course credit through a Directed Applied Research (DAR) (i.e., GEOG 4100, ANTH 4100), depending upon your major and degree program requirements.

Learning outcomes for undergraduate researchers on our applied research team are to:

  • Develop and strengthen applied research skills by helping shape a qualitative, community-based research project in the Atlanta metro area.
  • Cultivate a firmer knowledge and experience of the research process from the beginning to the end of a project: formulating research methodology, developing focus group and interview schedule and protocol, working with research partners, carrying out qualitative field work data collection through focus groups/interviews, organizing and analyzing qualitative data, interpreting data, and presenting findings at a research conference.
  • Strengthen communication and teamwork skills by working as an interdisciplinary research team in partnership with two faculty members from different colleges at KSU, and with community-based non-profit partner organizations.
  • Develop research dissemination and presentation skills by presenting findings at the KSU undergraduate research symposium and at an external academic conference.

We are seeking highly motivated students who are both interested in this topic/population but also would like to refine their research, analysis, and writing skills while being mentored by university faculty members. Students who are selected may potentially be eligible for course credit via a directed studies or directed applied research from their department. Additionally, students will be co-presenters at regional and/or national conferences where the findings will be shared.  Students will also present at KSU’s Annual Undergraduate Research Symposium.

If you are interested in applying for this research opportunity, kindly submit your resume, a summary of your research skills and interests, as well as a statement about your long-term goals.  

Project Duration 



Dr. Darlene Xiomara Rodriguez, Department of Social Work and Human Services

Dr. Paul McDaniel, Department of Geography and Anthropology 

Project Results

While this community engaged project is ongoing, results from earlier stages of the project have been presented at conferences and have led to the following publications: