April 07, 2017

Sociology Professor and Students Head to Cambodia for Fieldwork

Assistant Professor of Sociology Maryann Bylander will travel this summer to Cambodia with three Lewis & Clark students to investigate the use of microcredit—a finance model of providing small, affordable loans to new businesses in developing areas. The expedition is being funded by an ASIANetwork Freeman Student-Faculty Fellows grant.

This June, Assistant Professor of Sociology Maryann Bylander will take three of her students—Lacey Jacoby ’17, Andrea Blobel Perez ’19, and Peter Bradley ’19—to Cambodia. The team will work on their project “Loans That Change Lives: Interrogating Microcredit in Cambodia.” The student-faculty project will tackle the practice of providing small loans at low-interest rates to new businesses, predominantly in developing countries.

First, the team will practice their field research skills by interviewing microcredit donors and practitioners in the Portland region. Then, in June, the team will travel to Cambodia, a country with a rapidly developing microfinance sector, to conduct fieldwork assessing how these loans have impacted lives. After the research is complete, the team will present their findings through a photovoice exhibition and oral presentation in Siem Reap, a region that has been heavily impacted by microfinance.

Bylander’s academic career is focused on mobility and migration in the Global South.

The ASIANetwork, a consortium of American colleges working to strengthen the role of Asian studies in a liberal arts education, selected Bylander to be a 2017 ASIANetwork Freeman Student-Faculty Fellow, supported by a grant of $20,000. The program, which typically selects under 15 faculty mentors per year, provides grants for student-faculty developed projects that explore current global issues in East and Southeast Asia.In addition to this project, she has researched Cambodian microfinance, credit, and migration through an American Sociological Association Fund for the Advancement of the Discipline grant.

Sophomore Blobel Perez fell in love with sociology as a first-year student, following an introductory class with Bylander. She is eager to be part of an action-based project that investigates microfinance in the context of development. Both Blobel Perez and Jacoby cite the opportunity to work alongside Bylander as a key motivating factor. Jacoby, who is pursuing a double major in biology and sociology/anthropology, is particularly interested in seeing how Bylander interacts with people and culture as an established sociologist.

“Taking a methods course guided by a professor is different than working alongside a professor,” says Jacoby. “Methodology is something you have to learn through practice. [It’s unusual to] get to see your professor do fieldwork.”

The project was originally designed in collaboration with PEPY Empowering Youth, a Cambodia-based nonprofit organization that Bylander helped found. Once the team returns from Cambodia, they plan to share their work through a published journal article and a variety of local events, including Lewis & Clark’s annual Ray Warren Symposium on Race and Ethnic Studies and Festival of Scholars.

Sponsored research

Sociology and Anthropology (SOAN)

This story was written by Scout Brobst ’20.