Next Generation Initiative helps SRC researcher Noura Insolera to come full circle

January 31, 2024

Contact: Jon Meerdink ([email protected])

ANN ARBOR — Noura Insolera, Ph.D., has achieved a lot at the Institute for Social Research (ISR). An assistant research scientist at the Survey Research Center (SRC), she investigates the effects of income inequality across many different fields, including health, policy , and other social spheres. She leads the Panel Study of Income Dynamics (PSID) Education and Outreach team and she helps teach up-and-coming researchers as they begin to take their first steps into the world of the social sciences.

It’s a destination in her career journey that feels very close to the beginning, though the road that took her there has plenty of twists and turns.

Insolera arrived at ISR in 2007 via an internship program at the Survey Research Center. An economics major at the time, she had taken a class with Frank Stafford, then the director of PSID. After her ten-week internship concluded, she was asked to stay at PSID in a temporary capacity, which ultimately led to a permanent position on the staff side of the organization working under Kate McGonagle.

During her years in a staff position, she pursued a Ph.D. in Sociology, a change that would lead her from the academic side of PSID work. Her move was fueled in part by a grant from the Next Generation Initiative, which helped her fund the nextsteps of her post-graduate research.

“I was able to pay for membership dues for the Population Association of America and the American Sociological Association, as well as some professional travel,” Insolera said. “It allowed me to choose the associations that I wanted to be a part of and travel to their annual meetings to present my work, since those are kind of big milestones.”

That approach has bolstered Insolera’s interdisciplinary research, a key point of value in her long association with ISR.

“Being an econ major in undergrad, I didn’t even know that ISR existed when I was a student until I took that course,” she said. “It kind of opened up the world of social research to me that I hadn’t really known about. The fact that there were so many different types of scholars under one roof was really something that I hadn’t seen before.” 

Since that initial internship, Insolera has continued to work on many different issues that intersect with health and nutrition. Currently, she’s researching different social safety net programs, many of which went through significant changes during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Those changes give us this new, time sensitive piece of information. If you were on those programs and you saw this really big uptick in your benefits, how did that impact you during that time? And then of course, when they take those extra benefits away, what happens?”

She’s also continuing to train new researchers at PSID, a full-circle development that gives her unique insight into the challenges facing the next generation.

“I was the temp. I was a research area specialist. My trajectory has put me in each one of these positions, and I think, hopefully, that gives me a good perspective to be a good supervisor,” she said. “My supervisors are what allowed me to go so much further than I thought, and I think the next generation is key.”

It’s an experience that embodies the purpose of the Next Generation Initiative, which can open doors to build community and long-term growth opportunities at ISR.

“I think it goes beyond the funds to linking people together and looking at people’s interests. That, to me, is more important. It changed my worldview from being a consumer of knowledge to a producer of knowledge. It allowed me to say ‘Yes, I can move to that stage in my career to start to actually produce things on my own that could potentially make a difference.”

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