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UHV assistant professors earn $10,000 summer research grants

June 15, 2013 at 1:15 a.m.


Two University of Houston-Victoria assistant professors will use $10,000 summer grants from the university to advance their research about the use of social media and empathy in moral decision-making.

Rupak Rauniar, assistant professor of management in the UHV School of Business Administration, and Justin Bell, assistant professor of philosophy in the UHV School of Arts & Sciences, are this summer's recipients.

UHV has given the awards the past five summers to junior faculty pursuing promising research projects. Junior faculty members are faculty who are on a tenure track but are not yet tenured. A committee of tenured UHV professors evaluates proposals and then recommends who receives the awards.

"We are proud to continue our support of our junior faculty's summer research endeavors," said Jeffrey Cass, UHV provost and vice president for academic affairs. "Our assistant professors have made good use of this funding in the past, and I'm sure Drs. Bell and Rauniar will continue on with that tradition."

Rauniar's study attempts to explain the attitudes, intentions, beliefs and behaviors of social media users. Analyzing data collected will shed some light on how businesses can engage their stakeholders and customers on online social network sites, such as Facebook.

"It's not enough for a business to just have a Facebook page," Rauniar said. "Businesses are looking to tap into the online community and really want to engage with their consumers on multiple social media sites. They want ideas to build up and promote those connections."

Rauniar began his social media research last year by examining what causes satisfaction in social media exchanges.

Both he and Bell were appreciative of the university providing the grant.

"The way a lot of fields work is you have to be up and running to get access and money," Bell said. "It's often a Catch-22. If you don't have money, you can't get money. This grant provides a great kick start to get around that problem."

Bell will be investigating the role of empathy in the moral philosophy of John Dewey and those who follow his ideas.

The research is a piece of a larger project on how pragmatist philosophers such as Dewey deal with moral imagination, the uniquely human ability to think of others as moral beings, not as objects whose value is only in their usefulness.

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