The University Record, October 14, 1998

ISR celebrates 50th anniversary with expansion

By Diane Swanbrow
News and Information Services

Concluding its 50th anniversary celebration with a first-ever Alumni Weekend that features a photo display at the Michigan Union, a historical bulletin published by the Bentley Historical Library and a series of public affairs forums on Oct. 17, the Institute for Social Research (ISR) is moving into the next century by expanding its presence on campus and around the world.

The Institute has attracted several new senior researchers, including economist Lee Lillard, who just received funding from the Social Security Administration’s Retirement Research Consortium. Lillard will direct a Retirement Research Center here in collaboration with Cornell University; the University of California, Berkeley; the University of Chicago; and other institutions.

The mission of the consortium is to plan and conduct a broad research program that will develop retirement policy information to help policy-makers, the public and the media understand Social Security issues.

Anthropologist Tom Fricke received funding from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation to establish the pioneering U-M Center on the Ethnography of Everyday Life at ISR. According to Fricke, the new Center will focus on the changing culture of working families in the Midwest, using a new methodology that combines demographic data with detailed life stories. (See story below.)

In July, the Populations Studies Center (PSC) became part of ISR, joining the Survey Research Center, the Research Center for Group Dynamics, and the Center for Political Studies. “ISR and PSC share a history of collaboration that is rooted in shared data as well as people,” says ISR Director David L. Featherman.

The affiliation with ISR provides the PSC with substantial scientific and practical benefits, notes continuing PSC director David Lam. He emphasizes that the resulting synergies will serve to strengthen the University’s “already strong position of leadership in quantitative social science research,” as it capitalizes on the new Center’s reputation as a national laboratory for population studies with an international scope.

ISR also is launching a new initiative to stimulate and facilitate collaboration across the social and behavioral sciences and adjacent fields, including the humanities, area studies and industrial engineering, by inviting proposals from faculty researchers who do not have active ISR appointments. According to Featherman, the new “ISR Initiatives” funding program is designed to enrich the intellectual life of ISR and the campus by providing development or seed monies for “high-risk, high pay-off projects.”

With these and other changes, ISR has outgrown its headquarters on Thompson Street. In November, the Population Studies Center and the Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR) will move into the Borders Books office space on Maynard Street behind the retail store.

For more information on this weekend’s 50th anniversary events, visit the Web at or call Gwen Maes, 764-9262.

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