Thursday, February 24, 2011

Student Reflection

by Kendra Dickinson

Hello Everyone!

As some of you may remember, I have been working in the Extension Office of Hispanic Outreach as part of an independent study. While I do many different tasks and aid a variety of different initiatives, the focus of my work is Environmental projects that affect Spanish-speaking and Latino communities. I have been working on a Water Quality Survey funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Illinois State Water Survey. Julia Bella Bravo and Francisco J. Seufferheld of the Office of Hispanic Outreach designed the survey. This week’s picture is of Francisco and me after a long afternoon of work. The survey was administered by Francisco in many cities and regions around the Midwest including Chicago and the Chicago suburbs, Indianapolis, St. Louis, Kankakee, Champaign-Urbana and Milwaukee among others. The survey, written in Spanish and administered only to native Spanish speakers, aims at gaining more information about: (i) The perceived and actual household water quality of Spanish-speakers in the Midwest, (ii) The access of the Spanish-speaking communities of the Midwest to information about water quality, (iii) The main sources of water of members of the Spanish-speaking communities of the Midwest, (iv) Preoccupation of Spanish-speaking communities in the Midwest with water contaminants. For example, one of the questions on the survey is:

 ¿Con que frecuencia compra agua embotellada?
a. Nunca
b. Algunas veces
c. Muy a menudo
d. Siempre

How often do you buy bottled water?
            a. Never
            b. Once in while
            c. Sometimes
            d. Always

While the focus of the study is to gain the data necessary to recognize trends in the above-listed areas, I also expect that the survey will reveal other correlations the above listed factors and city of residence, age, place of birth, among others.

For the past few weeks, Francisco and I have been working on compiling the data acquired after administering the 20-question survey to nearly 100 people. First we had to total the responses to all of the questions, and then we had to adapt all of the data into graphs and other visual representations to present to the USDA and Illinois State Water Survey as part of our preliminary analysis. We have not yet interpreted the significance of the data, as this was only the first round of survey that will be conducted. Soon, we will be working on sending out surveys to locations in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Indiana, Wisconsin and Michigan, as well as visiting some locations in these states. I am really looking forward to interacting with people while administering the survey in order to experience not only the data side of the survey but also the inextricably important element of the human experience and interaction.

So many of you might ask "Why does this matter?" At the start of working on this survey I asked Francisco what it was exactly that we aimed at discovering. His response was that he could not really determine one single or underlying goal or hypothesis in obtaining this information, simply that it was information that the USDA and the Illinois State Water Survey were interested in acquiring, and that with time we would begin to see more of a pattern in the data and begin to understand it better. As I thought about this I realized two very important implications of this study aside from the actual data that has been and will be acquired. First, the Spanish-speaking and Latino communities in the U.S. are growing, and represent a significant and important population that help to make up the fabric of our country. Therefore, understanding the factors that affect their daily lives, such as their water quality, water sources and access to information about their water quality are important. Secondly, the fact that the USDA and the Illinois State Water Survey take interest in researching the water quality and access to information about water quality of Spanish-speakers and Latinos in the U.S. represents an increased awareness of the importance of Latinos in the U.S. on a governmental level.

Over time we will interview more people and begin to see more patterns in the data, and at that time we will begin to interpret what they mean. I am looking forward to seeing exactly what this survey has to offer and what it can demonstrate about water quality and Latinos in the U.S. In the mean time, stay tuned for more updates as we continue to gather data!

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