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Meet our Outstanding Spring 2020 PhD and Masters Graduates

We would like to congratulate our Anthropology MA and Sociology MS graduates as well as our Sociology  PhD Spring 2020 graduates. We wish them the best of luck as they venture into their next endeavors.  

Sociology PhD graduates

Jen Gathings’s dissertation “Justice, Equity, and Raising the Age of Juvenile Jurisdiction: A North Carolina Case Study of Race, Ethnicity, and Youthful Defendants in Criminal Courts,” weds the focal concerns perspective in criminology with research on racial and ethnic stereotyping to propose that keeping older youthful offenders (16- and 17-year olds) out of the criminal courts has the potential to help address racial and ethnic disparities in criminal court punishments that have disadvantaging consequences for opportunities over the life course. As a whole, Jen’s dissertation speaks to ideals of supporting and protecting youths through the development of a separate juvenile justice system. Jen now works as a Senior Research Assistant at ETR Services. 

Tessa Permut’s dissertation “Urban Planning, Revitalization, and the Reproduction of Inequality,” focuses on urban planners and the attitudes, processes, and ideologies that underlie their revitalization practices in low-income neighborhoods. By bringing sociological theory to bear on the field of urban planning, this project challenges the assumed impartial and constrained practices of urban planning professionals. As a whole, Tessa’s dissertation demonstrates the relevance of race, class, and the political economy to urban planning in the new era of urban housing demand. Doing so, it provides opportunities for a more efficacious, inclusive approach to urban planning. Tessa will be participating in a clinical internship working as a therapist at a facility for those experiencing severe mental health issues – the final requirement for her other degree in clinical mental health counseling. After that, Tessa plans to take the licensing exam and practice independently with men struggling with trauma, addiction, violence, and sexual compulsion issues. 

Virginia Riel’s dissertation “When Charters are the Choosers: A Supply-Side Analysis of Charter School Choice,” examines the recruitment of prospective families to three different charter schools with varied organizational structures. Her research contributes to the literature on charter school choice by analyzing school personnel decisions as well as their interactions with prospective and current families, understanding these as the supply-side of school choice. She found that the ways in which personnel locate charter schools and draw from surrounding areas, market charter schools, and build expectations for parents shape how families gain access to charter schools.

Karen Wirth’s dissertation “The Career Cost of Children: A Life Course Perspective of the Gender Gap in Occupational Status,” analyzes the effects of parenthood on occupational status. By highlighting and identifying variation in the effects of children on occupational status and occupational trajectories by gender and occupational category, her findings further add to the understanding of the costs of children to parents careers, provides valuable insights into the ways children shape parents’ careers, and reveals inequalities embedded in workplace practices. She plans to teach locally as well as explore additional academic and non-traditional opportunities.

Sociology MS graduates

Alex Bailey’s thesis, “Fatherhood Under Fire: How Men of the Father’s Rights Movement Establish Themselves as Creditable Men and Victims” analyzes how the Fathers’ Rights Movement (FRM) capitalizes on modern models of fatherhood that conceptualize fathers as active participants in their children’s lives. The men of this social movement believe that mothers are unfairly awarded child custody in the majority of family court cases, and the courts, along with ex-partners, consistently devalue the role of men and fathers in larger society. It also examines the rhetorics the men use in these forums and how the men rely on the ideology of the Men’s Rights Movement to claim identities as good men and good fathers, and as genuine
victims, without discrediting themselves as weak men or whiners. 

Taurean Brown’s thesis “Adopting The Black Radical Perspective: An Analysis of Autobiographical Accounts” examines the autobiographical accounts of Black radical activists who ascribe to a worldview that Black inequality, injustice, and discrimination is a product of the very structure of U.S. society, particularly capitalism. Taurean corroborates current theory and findings on how people use accounts to shift the meaning attached to things, and how cultural environments shape these accounts. He plans to continue his research as a Ph.D. candidate within our department.

Alivia Canter’s thesis “Shame and Obedience: Religion and the Management of Unruly Emotions” investigates how the Christian denomination shapes members’ emotional and social behavior.
Drawing on in-depth interviews and sermon transcripts from a southeastern church, Alivia found that the learned practice of appropriately feeling shame caused Christian women to navigate life without challenging gender inequality. Her findings highlight shame’s status as a “master” emotion that moderates one’s social behavior in relation to the collective and more importantly, demonstrates how emotion-management maintains oppressive social dynamics while simultaneously helping people cope
with the inequalities they encounter.

Brooke Graham’s thesis, “Queer-ly Unequal: LGBT+ Students’ Experiences with Social Support and Resiliency in Education” contributes to the current lack of research surrounding queer students’ experiences with social support and resiliency in regard to education. Brooke found that being openly queer posed an identity based risk, which decreased their access to social support, paradoxically this risk increased their perception of resiliency and prosocial behavior. Brooke plans to continue doing research as a Ph.D. candidate within our department.

Grace Wickham’s thesis “Emerging Contaminants, Environmental Health and Activism: The Case of PFAS Contamination in NC” explores PFAS water contamination in eastern North Carolina. Over the past several years there has been increasing environmental and health concerns related to an emerging class of compounds known as PFAS [Poly- and per-fluorinated alkyl substances]. Grace’s research focuses on how toxic uncertainty has influenced the case and shaped both official and community responses. This research has important implications for understanding environmental health activism related to PFAS contamination in various sites around the country.

Anthropology MA graduates

Danielle Airola’s master’s project focused on folklore associated with individuals who were suspected of being vampires in the past. She gathered together historical accounts from all over the world of the treatment of suspected vampires in burial, as well as folk tales describing vampires, their motivations, their behaviors, and their origins. She created a guide to the types of burial treatments an archaeologist might expect to find in different parts of the world in societies where vampires were feared and local communities sometimes took action to ensure that vampires did not prey on the living.

Joel King’s thesis “Consuming or Consumed at the Fred Graves Site, 31AM448: Economic Strategies and Consumption Behaviors on a 19th Century Farmstead and Community Hub”  investigate consumption behavior changes at three rural, non-plantation based southern farmstead households in the Carolina backcountry. He used archaeological data, combined with historical documents and oral histories from the descendant community to help further the creation of a regional synthesis of rural farmsteads to compare to global trends and assist in revealing the disparate effects consumer culture has had on past populations. Joel will continue his studies in the Anthropology Ph.D. program at UNC Chapel Hill.

Megan Schwalenberg’s thesis “Frailty in the Lower Illinois River Valley: An Analysis of Periosteal New Bone Formation during the Transition to Agriculture” investigates the health of the people of the lower Illinois River valley during the transition to agriculture by analyzing interactions between age-at-death and the activity and severity of periosteal new bone formation. Her research suggests that prehistoric Native American populations with both active and healed periosteal lesions on their tibiae, had higher survivorship, and were less frail than individuals that did not have any lesions on their tibiae. Megan is currently employed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, St. Louis District as an archaeologist.