Sociology Professor Dreams of Harnessing Human Potential

Students Involved in Local Research

Published: Mar 7, 2011
Associate Sociology Professor Bruce Friesen received a $34,000 grant from the Tampa Bay Hunger Council to assess food insecurity in Hillsborough and Pinellas households.
Associate Sociology Professor Bruce Friesen received a $34,000 grant from the Tampa Bay Hunger Council to assess food insecurity in Hillsborough and Pinellas households.
Associate Sociology Professor Bruce Friesen and eight of his students are going door-to-door in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties with surveys this March and April, trying to get a feel for the level of hunger in the Tampa Bay area.

Friesen recently received a $34,000 grant from the Tampa Bay Hunger Council to assess food insecurity in Hillsborough and Pinellas households. Friesen’s job is to measure the level of hunger by zip code with the data from the surveys. The data will be contrasted against the capacity of area food banks. The idea is to make the distribution of food more efficient.

“I see this as a stop-gap measure. Hunger or the right to food is a human right,” Friesen said. “There are other countries that don’t have much hunger because they have re-organized access to food.”

The eight students he hired to help out with the project will gain more than research experience, he said.

“It will open their eyes to the broader challenges that exist,” he said. “Working on something like this can almost be as impactful as a study abroad program.”

The project is just one way Friesen is working for human rights. As a member of Sociologists Without Borders, he traveled to Washington, D.C., in December to meet with Rep. John Lewis on a bill to get the U.S. to affirm its commitment to human rights. In January, he attended the Human Rights Coalition meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington, D.C.

Founded in the U.S. in 2002, Sociologists Without Borders is committed to seeing human rights protected across the globe. While the U.S. was a catalyst for the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Friesen said the nation’s current record of upholding them is “abysmal.”

“In a country with so many resources, our level of inequality is the worst,” Friesen said, citing infant mortality rates and access to medical care as two measures.

Friesen’s passion boils over into his classrooms, he said, permeating all of his teachings. He has partnered with professors from 15 universities in six different countries for his global sociology class. From Mexico to Italy to Australia and Russia, the students blog together and form international work groups to analyze globalization, social justice and human rights.

“As a sociologist, it fascinates me to think of what our world would look like if we harnessed all of our human potential,” Friesen said.


Jamie Pilarczyk, Web Writer
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