In addition to alcohol research, since September 1999 Dr. Garcia and his colleagues are teaching ethnographic research methods at the Casa Angel Palerm, a field school in Dallas Texas. In that month, the School of Social Science at the University of Texas at Dallas (UTD) was awarded a grant from the FIPSE Program of the U.S. Department of Education to carry out an ambitious project, “An Ethnographic/Social Science/Community-based Model to Recruit and Retain Hispanics.” This innovative project places into action a strategy for recruiting, retaining, and enabling Latino students to make the transition from two- to four-year programs and attain a BA or BS degree in the social sciences. Instruction in ethnography, using a field school, is at the center of this strategy.
In particular, field training in ethnography is used to interest Latino students in conducting research in their own communities with the expectation that this interest will motivate them to continue their education beyond the junior college level. Tying field research to the study of community serves to show Latino students at community colleges the relevance of social science research to pursuing a B.A. degree and graduate studies. Latino students in two-year schools enroll in an ethnographic field methods course, either at their campus or UTD, and taught at the Casa Angel Palerm. The course and field school are designed to give the students hands-on experience in ethnographic research in a real field setting. Under the close supervision of the instructors, the students apply ethnographic field methods to examine a research problem. Some students reside in the Casa Angel Palerm, while others visit and meet with the instructors at this location and participate in local activities. The field station assists the students to establish rapport and trust with local residents, who may serve as their key informants, and it also provides a convenient and central place where key informants and community residents meet and chat with the students and their instructors.