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Sociology professor awarded national grant

PULLMAN – A WSU researcher will receive a $190,560 grant from the Corporation for National and Community Service to expand scholarly and policy research and deepen understanding about volunteering, national and community service, and civic engagement in America.
Associate Professor of Sociology Thomas Rotolo, in conjunction with Duke University Sociology Professor John Wilson, will examine how social contexts influence individual decisions to volunteer. Rotolo and his colleague will build on existing research to explain the variation in volunteering rates and intensity based on geographical differences.
Rotolo said he and Wilson “were among the first sociologists to begin actively publishing research with data from the Current Population Survey Volunteer Supplement,” a special set of questions dedicated to examining individuals’ participation in volunteering activities. “We have used the data to explore a number of issues…that influence individual volunteering levels along with the types of volunteer work they perform.”
Rotolo described an example of the type of research he will be doing during the two-year study, “Consider a ‘social context’ measure like income inequality. Income inequality is something that is measured on larger geographical units such as a city or state. We will compare volunteering levels of individuals living in cities with high levels of income inequality with volunteering levels of individuals living in cities with low levels of income inequality. There are a variety of state and city characteristics that we hope to consider.”
The federal agency awarded nearly $1 million to five institutions of higher education to conduct research on volunteering and civic engagement; the impact of national service on service participants; and trends in the nonprofit sector that either impact or are created by national service.
“These grants give us a unique opportunity to strengthen our understanding about volunteering and national service, as well as deepen our knowledge about the nonprofit climate,” said Robert Grimm, the corporation’s director of research and policy development. “With this information, we will be better prepared to engage more people in volunteering and service at levels never seen before, and make more significant impacts to individuals and communities across the country.”
Other recipients of the first “Expanding Research on Volunteerism and National Service” grants are Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, the Johns Hopkins University Institute for Policy Studies, Pennsylvania State University and Tufts University/CIRCLE/ Jonathan M. Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service.
The prestigious list of universities that also received the grant is “one of many signs that WSU is a world-class research university,” Rotolo said.  “Our research findings will allow us to further enhance the reputation of WSU and Duke University.” 
The Corporation for National and Community Service is a federal agency that improves lives, strengthens communities, and fosters civic engagement through service and volunteering. For more information, visit

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