Using Analytics to Help the Vulnerable: Assistant Professor Kezban Yagci Sokat
The recent transportation of nearly 50 asylum seekers, mostly from Venezuela, from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard has sparked intense debate about the prevalence of human trafficking — the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of people for personal or financial gain — in our country. Assistant Professor Kezban Yagci Sokat is working to change that.
A business analytics instructor for the Lucas College and Graduate School of Business and research associate at the Mineta Transportation Institute (MTI), she is leading various multi-disciplinary projects to fight the atrocities of human trafficking.
Her recent publication “Understanding the Role of Transportation in Combating Human Trafficking in California” was supported by a grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT) and administered through MTI’s Mineta Consortium for Transportation Mobility. The research explores how transportation and supply-chain management policies, trainings, initiatives and partnerships in the state are known and effective among anti-trafficking practitioners. It also locates gaps and opportunities to expand and identify new counter-trafficking strategies and practices, data collection and information sharing, and legislative and administrative changes in the future.
Yagci Sokat is passionate about regularly incorporating both undergraduate and graduate students into her research and assisting with related projects. At a previous institution, her students were awarded grants and had their work published in undergraduate research journals under her tutelage.
Pursuing this work is not easy, but through her use of mathematical modeling and decision analytics, Yagci Sokat supports broader efforts at state and national levels to alleviate human suffering in human trafficking, humanitarian/non-profit logistics and public health. She is the chair of Forced Labor Working Group and a member of the Analytics Working Group for the National Outreach Survey for Transportation under the U.S. DOT Combating Human Trafficking in Transportation Impact Award.
She has also served on the Cook County Human Trafficking Task Force Labor Trafficking Subcommittee and the Los Angeles Labor Trafficking Subcommittee, where her research was acknowledged as one of its accomplishments in the past 10 years.
“Men, women and children of all ages and from all backgrounds can become a victim of human trafficking, which occurs in every region of the world,” says Yagci Sokat. “It does not need to have international transport. It can happen in every state, including California. It can very much happen in your local neighborhood.”
Since 2020, she has been co-principal investigator of the “Not on Transit” project to help combat human trafficking here in Santa Clara County. The project is a result of federal funding from the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) Transportation Leaders Against Human Trafficking initiative and is being implemented through a partnership between the MTI, the Santa Clara County Office of Women’s Policy, and the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA).
Fortunately, there are things that all of us can do to support anti-human trafficking efforts, Yagci Sokat says. “Educate yourself on the signs of human trafficking. If you do suspect it, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or text 233733 (BEFREE).”