Join the Lab

The Civil Grand Jury Lab at Cuyamaca College is an undergraduate student research lab focused on fostering the next generation of leaders and scholars by researching California’s 58 county civil grand juries utilizing formal modeling, qualitative analysis, and quantitative analysis.

Can I join the Lab?

Yes, you can join the Lab if you are a current student at Cuyamaca College, then you can apply to join the Lab.

The Lab is open to receiving applications from students dual or concurrently enrolled at a local high school and Cuyamaca College, enrolled at other 2-year community colleges, community college student transfers now attending a 4-year college or university, and students at 4-year colleges and universities who can work remotely.

Alumni of Cuyamaca College who are looking for experience before applying to graduate/law school or are already attending graduate/law school and want to join the lab are welcomed to apply.

Is the Lab conducted remotely or is it onsite at Cuyamaca College?

The Lab is conducted remotely. There are no required onsite meetings at Cuyamaca College.

By conducting the Lab remotely, we offer Team Members more flexibility.

This flexibility is especially helpful for former Cuyamaca College students who have already transferred to a 4-year university, but want to be apart of the Lab.

What are the benefits of serving in the Lab?

There are several benefits you gain by serving in the Lab. Below is a growing list of benefits.

  1. You can add your service in the Lab to your resume, college applications, transfer applications, and job applications.
  2. You acquire knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) related to Research, Teaching and Learning, and/or Public Policy.
  3. You complete specific Learning Objectives for a given Lab activity. These objectives are connected to specific cognitive functions, like Remembering, Understanding, Applying, Analyzing, Evaluating, and Creating.
  4. You get to be apart of a community of scholars who are learning about and conducting research.
  5. When the time arrives to request a Letter of Recommendation from Dr. Franco, he can include your service in the Lab as an example of your experience and work ethic.
  6. You get to pioneer the founding of an undergraduate research lab at a community college, which is very rare. Our lab is like a Mew Pokémon.
What do I do in the Lab?

As a member of the Lab, there are three activity areas you can engage in: research, teaching and learning, and public policy. Below each activity area is described.

Research Activities

Research activities include data collection, content coding, formal modeling, qualitative analysis, and quantitative analysis. Each of these activities are part of the lifecycle of research.

  • Data collection is the process of visiting public websites, downloading and reading public reports and letters, and manually extracting information from these reports and letters and inputting them in a database.
  • Content coding is closely linked to data collection in that the information you extract from reports and letters needs to be coded using clear definitions.
  • Formal modeling (also known as theoretical modeling) is using mathematics, logic, and non-cooperative game theory to develop models of utility maximization, decision theoretic, and strategic interaction.
  • Qualitative analysis uses case studies, comparative case studies, and process tracing to examine the strategic interaction between civil grand juries, local governments, and voters.
  • Quantitative analysis relies on statistics and econometric models to empirically test hypotheses that are derived from formal models.

Teaching and Learning Activities

Teaching and learning activities include the Civil Grand Jury Simulation, and related assignments, discussions, and quizzes.

The Simulation focuses on introducing students to the external and internal processes of civil grand juries. The base version of Civil Grand Jury Simulation will consist of 7 parts: Status Quo, Service, Investigation, Report, Response, Share, and My Reflection. This simulation will be modeled after other simulations developed by Dr. Josh Franco which centers on the abstractions that underlie an observed reality.

Students will be encouraged to develop new teaching and learning activities that are more hands-on, interactive, and practical to complement the abstract base simulation.

Public Policy activities

Public policy activities include writing blog posts analyzing how a local government has acted, or not acted, in response to a civil grand jury report’s findings and recommendations.

Every year, California’s 58 counties publish an estimated 500 reports that issue findings and recommendations that propose changes to the status quo of local governments. Students will publish their analysis of a county civil grand jury report, the report’s specific findings and recommendations to a local government, the local government’s specific responses, whether the status quo was changed or not, and what keeping or changing the status quo means to the local government and its constituents.

Students will be encouraged to develop new public policy activities that are more in-depth, utilize historical, legal, sociological, psychological, or economic theories and frameworks to explain local government’s responses to civil grand jury reports, and focus on direct lobbying and advocacy.

How many hours per week will I be expected to dedicate to the Lab?

The Lab wants to honor and respect your personal, work, and academic responsibilities, so we expect Lab members to dedicate at least 2 hours and up to 8 hours per week on Lab work.

Does the Lab have unpaid and/or paid opportunities?

At this time, the Lab does not have paid opportunities. At least through fall 2021, there are only unpaid opportunities.

Dr. Franco understands that some students can join the Lab, but only if it is a paid opportunity. That need to provide for yourself and others is understood. He hopes to secure funding by mid-Spring 2022.

However, if you can volunteer at least 2 hours a week, that would be much welcomed and appreciated.

How can I integrate the Lab into my POSC courses with Dr. Franco?

Dr. Franco teaches the following political science (POSC) courses at Cuyamaca College: POSC 120, POSC 121, POSC 124, POSC 130, POSC 140, and POSC 170. He is happy to work with you to integrate your Lab service into a POSC course. For example, students can:

  • Convert their Public Policy Project (PPP) into a lab Public Policy Blog post.
  • Trade 1 to 3 Journal Article Analysis (JAA) assignments for a lab Research activity.
  • Contribute to the lab Database in lieu of the iPoliSci Workshops assignment.
  • Switch their course Simulation (SIM) for the Lab’s Simulation (applies only to POSC 121 or POSC 140).

If you are interested in exercising one of these options, please contact Dr. Franco at

How does the Lab support me?

The Lab’s Founder, Dr. Josh Franco, is welcoming and approachable and committed to supporting you scholastically, socially, and professionally.

He is a first-generation college student who attended Cerritos Community College before transferring to the University of California, Merced. After graduating from the university with a bachelor’s degree in public policy, he worked in the California State Capitol and U.S. House of Representatives for five years. Following these professional experiences, he returned to UC Merced to earn his master’s degree and Ph.D. in Political Science. Now, as a full-time faculty member at Cuyamaca College, he seeks to support students with a challenging and rewarding undergraduate research experience in the Lab.

In addition to Dr. Franco, as the number of Lab student members grows, we expect a nurturing and supportive peer-to-peer network. Each Lab member is expected to focus on their scholastic, social, and professional growth, be open to learning from each other, and be willing to help one another in and out of the Lab.

What are the Goals of the Lab?

The Lab has three goals. The Lab’s first goal is to support you scholastically by carefully introducing you to the activities of Research, Teaching and Learning, and/or Public Policy. We have orientations, training workshops and videos, one-on-one mentoring, team meetings, and peer-to-peer mentoring. You can also integrate your Lab work into Political Science courses taught by Dr. Josh Franco.

The Lab’s second goal is to support you socially by fostering a diverse, inclusive, and equitable community of individuals. As a first-generation college student himself who struggled at times throughout college and university, Dr. Josh Franco believes the Lab should exude a spirit of community to help students succeed in achieving their personal, academic, and professional goals.

The Lab’s third goal is to support you professionally by introducing you to the science of politics and the practice of politics. The Lab bridges these worlds by centering on research, teaching and learning, and public policy. The Lab will have professionalization seminars on topics like networking and applying to graduate school, specialty workshops hosted by the Transfer Center and Career Services, and meetings with researchers, educators, and public policy professionals.

Are topics pre-chosen or it is a collaborative choice?

Selection of area focus (Lab Facilitation, Database, Research, Simulation, or Public Policy) is a collaborative choice between you and Dr. Franco.

After you complete the application to Join the Lab, you meet with Dr. Franco via Zoom to discuss your interests and goals.

For example, if you are interested in becoming a teacher and have 4 hours to commit per week, then you may want to focus on Simulation, since this is focus on teaching students about civil grand juries through simulation. On the hand, you may be interested in local government’s response to civil grand jury reports, so you may want to focus on Research or Public Policy.

I am interested in joining. Who do I contact?

The Lab is led by Dr. Josh Franco, Assistant Professor of Political Science at Cuyamaca College. If you are interested in learning more or joining the team, please contact him at He is welcoming and approachable.

Who is Dr. Josh Franco?

Dr. Franco is a first-generation college graduate who holds A.A. degrees in economics and political science from Cerritos College, and a B.A. in public policy and M.A. and Ph.D. in political science from the University of California, Merced.

His personal mission is to introduce political science to the next generation of leaders and scholars. He teaches introductory courses in Political Science, U.S. Government and Politics, Comparative Politics, International Relations, California Government and Politics, and Research Methods.

In addition to founding the Lab, he co-authored Introduction to Political Science Research Methods (IPSRM), an open education resource (OER) textbook on political science research methods, authored Polimetrics: A Stata Companion to IPSRM, an OER workbook, has a peer-reviewed publication in the Journal of Political Science Education, and has presented at over a dozen academic and professional conferences.

Additionally, his dissertation, Judicial Pork: The Congressional Allocation of Districts, Seats, Meeting Places, and Courthouses to the U.S. District Courts, features an original dataset of all congressional allocations of judicial pork from 1813 to 2014.

How do I apply to join the Lab?

Please complete the Application to Join the Lab.

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