Renowned Social Scientist
To Head Roper Center
February 21, 2000
Richard C. Rockwell, who previously led two of the largest social science data research institutes in the nation, has been named to lead another of the largest - UConn's Roper Center and the Institute for Social Inquiry.
Rockwell, 57, currently executive director of the University of Michigan's Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research, will start at UConn July 1. And besides bringing a strong background in data retrieval and dispersion to Storrs, Rockwell will bring years of proven successes in winning federal grants and, he says, some of Michigan's collections.
"What's the Connecticut motto? He who transplants sustains? Well, I can help UConn to some degree by transplanting some of the materials from those fine institutions (Michigan and the University of North Carolina, where he directed the Social Science Data Library for seven years) to this fine institution," Rockwell says.
The Roper Center, founded at Williams College in 1947 by Elmo Roper, was relocated to the University of Connecticut in 1977. It has become the premier archive of polling data in the world, with data from more than 14,000 major national and international surveys spanning the last 65 years and the first-ever online information retrieval system for public opinion data from the United States and abroad.
The center's mission continues to focus on the capture and preservation of survey data, the provision of broad access to that information, and the promotion of informed use of public opinion data.
Rockwell says his most important task will be to make all that data more accessible to students, faculty, and researchers world-wide. He plans to embark on this task by improving access to the Roper Center's collection via the web.
"The social sciences are becoming more comparative internationally, and we can expand our holdings and collection world-wide - it shouldn't matter whether a member is sitting in Essex, England; Berlin; or Sao Paolo, they should have access," he says.
Rockwell also wants the archive to be used more often by UConn faculty and students, whether located in Storrs, at the Health Center in Farmington, or at the regional campuses.
"With our holdings, we have an enormous opportunity for teaching. I see us becoming a laboratory of the social sciences. Many faculty teaching social sciences at the undergraduate level talk to students about polling data, but they don't often give the students an opportunity to see, to use, the data themselves," Rockwell says. "The staff, the center's board, the administration all have the same vision - that the Roper Center can be a place not only where you can tell exciting stories, but a place where research and teaching takes place regularly."
Rockwell replaces the late Everett Carll Ladd, who retired last summer after leading the center to national prominence and becoming one of the most widely quoted and respected political analysts in the nation.
Rockwell, who earned his bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees at the University of Texas, has been executive director of the University of Michigan's data archive since 1991. Prior to that, he worked at the Social Sciences Research Council for 12 years, and has taught sociology at Columbia University and the University of North Carolina.
"Richard Rockwell is truly one of the most preeminent social scientists in the world," says Fred Maryanski, interim chancellor. "He has previously led two outstanding data research centers to national prominence, and I'm certain he'll raise the already high profile of the Roper Center to new heights."